Not to be confused with Cleaning or Sterilizing.

Disinfecting is using a chemical or other substance to kill microorganisms on a surface. It does not kill ALL organisms but it reduces the number a great amount. As they teach in vet school, and probably other schools as well:

Dilution is the Solution to Pollution

Disinfection is used to reduce the number of bacteria in our environment so that our immune systems can take care of business without being overwhelmed. This is extremely useful in a hospital that is barraged with germs and pathogens on a daily basis, but also something we do in our homes now and then to stay healthy.

When your pet contracts something more contagious, like giardia. It’s time to get serious.

Giardia and other parasites love to be shared around and is great at jumping species. Disinfecting will keep your pet from becoming reinfected and will help keep your family from contracting the parasite.

There are many disinfectants around. The EPA has a whole chart to compare disinfectants on their website here, if you want an in depth breakdown.

For a quick overview, here are some of the main ones you can use but remember you must clean first. Bacteria and parasites love to hide under dirt and debris. If you disinfect the dirt and debris, the bacteria and parasites will still be safe and very much alive underneath. You must get rid of this debris before disinfecting will be effective.


Clorox really has a corner on disinfection in the home and have many products instructions on their site for proper household disinfecting. Always dilute bleach before use. To dilute bleach, just add one tablespoon, no more than ½ cup, bleach to a gallon of water. To disinfect with it, just apply the bleach solution to surface, let stand 5 minutes, rinse thoroughly and air dry. Any hard, non-porous surface like counters and floors is the best surface to use bleach on.

My favorite is to put bleach into a spray bottle. You can add 3/4th tsp bleach to a clean 32oz spray bottle almost full with room temperature water. This way you can easily spray it over a clean surface to disinfect it but bleach has a nasty habit of gumming up spray bottles and getting in the plastic so once the spray bottle is used for bleach, you really can’t use the bottle for anything else. To disinfect the area, spray to coat and then let sit for 5 minutes. Wipe off with a clean damp cloth and make sure it is dry and the bleach smell has dissipated before allowing pets on it.

**Use gloves when using bleach and have good air circulation in the room. Bleach can be harmful if not used carefully. For this reason, always make sure your pets and children are not in the in the area when you use bleach or where bleach is soaking.

**Do not mix bleach with any other cleaners. Do not put bleach in a container that once had other cleaners in it.

**Follow all rules on the bleach bottle.


Windex Disinfectant:

Use as directed to kill Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), Salmonella enterica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep), Rhinovirus Type 37 (common cold), Influenza A2/Hong Kong (H3N2) (flu) (virus), Rhinovirus Type 37 (common cold),, Influenza B, Enterobacter aerogenes (Enterobacter), Escherichia coli (E. coli), Campylobacter jejuni, and Listeria monocytogenes.



It’s much more eco-friendly than bleach, but not as effective. Staphylococcus laughs at ammonia, but it is effective against salmonella and E. coli so be sure to know what beast you are after before you choose your disinfectant.

If you want to use ammonia to good effect, look for disinfectants with quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATS) in them. We used Paraquat and Foam Quat in the hospital. I loved both of them but the respiratory sensitive techs always fled the area when I started cleaning. It is not for the faint of breath and the Paraquat was rough on the hands. Use gloves and a mask if you want to use quats and use only in ventilated areas. The smell is very strong and may put off your pets if not rinsed well after soaking on the surface for ten minutes.


Can work in a pinch, but is not as affective as products actually listed as disinfectants by the EPA. Need to kill the flu? Vinegar will help. It even killed tuberculosis after sitting on it for thirty minutes, so it should kill bacteria, but I’d use in conjunction with every day cleaning and use stronger guns to disinfect after a sick pet.

Hand Sanitizers:

When possible, just wash your hands. This is much more effective and better for you. Use hand sanitizers only when you can not get to a sink.


Tea Tree Oils:

This seems to be the catch word these days. Safe and perfect for the environment but not for you or your pets at full strength. Dilution is very important if you choose to use this. Keep it and all other disinfectants away from your pets. When things are natural we are sometimes less cautions around them than we should be. Treat this like bleach. Keep it secure and far away from pets and kids. Dilute before use.

Please read the PetMD and ASPCA articles on tea tree oil before you choose to use this oil in your house. Do not use around birds.