A sparkling bathroom sink.

Toxic cleaners can seem tempting during cold and flu season. But disinfecting to keep germs at bay doesn’t have to be toxic! Assuming you’re in good health, alternative cleaning agents will usually do the trick. (If you have a chronic health problem or are unsure, consult a health-care professional.)

The two most effective natural disinfectants are vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

White vinegar found on most store shelves is a five per cent concentration of acetic acid. It kills about 80 per cent of germs. Look for vinegar with higher acetic acid concentration to up its germ-killing power.

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is water with an extra oxygen molecule. Unlike chlorine bleach, it breaks down into oxygen and water and is kind to the environment. For most applications, hydrogen peroxide should be diluted to a three per cent concentration — how it’s usually sold. Store it in a dark bottle out of direct sunlight.

On their own, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are strong germ killers. They’re even better as a one-two combo.

NOTE: Mixing vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together cuts their germ-killing power. Using them one after the other is more effective than either substance alone — even better than bleach!

Try this:

1. Wash hard surfaces with vinegar.

2. Spray the same surfaces with a three per cent hydrogen peroxide.

It doesn’t actually matter which disinfectant you use first. For best results, apply one immediately after the other and let the surface air dry — don’t wipe them away.