To kill germs but be kinder to the environment try any of these “green” disinfectants at home:

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide: Sumner was experimenting with organic acids in the mid-1990s when she discovered that this non-toxic combination could effectively disinfect household surfaces, including cutting boards. To try it, get two clean spray bottles. Fill one with white vinegar (cider vinegar, which is brown, may stain countertops, she warns). Fill the other with three percent hydrogen peroxide solution, which is readily available in drug and grocery stores. 

Spray the vinegar on the surface first; then the hydrogen peroxide. The two combine to make peracetic acid, a potent germ killer that can wipe out Salmonella and E. coli. This method is safe enough, Sumner says, to even clean fruits and vegetables. Just rinse them under running water before eating. Be careful not to combine the two chemicals in one sprayer. The combination can produce peracetic acid at a dangerous concentration.

Benefect: Benefect is a non-toxic household and industrial disinfectant that uses antimicrobial agents extracted from the herb thyme. It is registered with the EPA to kill staph, strep, E. coli, Salmonella and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Its manufacturers say it is safe for most surfaces and requires no wiping, mixing or rinsing – “just spray and walk away.” One downside: It is a bit pricier than some other disinfectants. 

PureGreen 24: PureGreen is another non-toxic, EPA-registered disinfectant that uses a combination of silver ions and citric acids to kill many kinds of viruses, fungi and bacteria, including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). In many cases, it’s fast, too, killing organisms within 30 seconds. Like Benefect, however, it’s more expensive than bleach and other disinfectants.