You Can Use Salt as a Disinfectant 

You Can Use Salt as a Disinfectant 

Reading Time: 5 minutes


Using salt as a disinfectant is an easy, effective, inexpensive way to kill and prevent bacteria.  

For millennia, the use of salt as a disinfectant has been part of everyday use. There are records of salt being used to kill bacteria, fight infections, and clean and treat wounds as far back as Hippocrates. Ancient cultures like the Egyptians, Romans, and the Greeks used salt to treat various things from mouth ulcers to wounds incurred in battle.     

Which salt is used as a disinfectant?  

Of course, when we say salt, we do not mean the common table salt used in most of the U.S. today. Over 90% of common table salt is extracted from brine (salty water) or from byproducts of petroleum production.   

The salt is processed at extremely high temperatures which strips all the vital minerals. Then additives are bound with the salt to keep it from clumping and to make it white. Some of the most common additives are chlorine bleach, Ferrocyanide, talc, and silica aluminate.   

The salt used as a disinfectant is dug from the earth, true salt. It’s important to know this before attempting to use salt as a disinfectant in your home or for your family. You may use common table salt for all cleaning applications, but I would not use it internally.  

Salt as a Disinfectant in History  

Salt has been used to preserve meat for millennia as it draws out liquid creating a dry environment prohibiting and killing bacteria. This process is called salt-curing or corning. Brining is another method of using salt to preserve meat by killing the bacteria in a saltwater solution.    

Throughout history, salt was used to scrub tables after butchering, as part of the sanitizing of the cooking area, all dairy tables and equipment, and even pots and pans. Scrubbing these bacteria-prone areas with salt is proven to kill bacteria and prevent further growth.   

Because we are so used to chemical cleaners and sanitizers, it’s hard to imagine a time when salt combined with water was used to disinfect everything from fruits to baby bottles. Using salt is an easy, safe, effective, and inexpensive way to clean and sanitize.  

Salt Healing  

The antibacterial and antiseptic properties of salt help many skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Hot saltwater baths increase blood flow and draw out infections, soreness, and impurities through the skin.   

If you soak in a tub of saltwater, your skin will not wrinkle. Try it, I did. The saltwater bath density is similar to the saline in your blood, so your skin can hold its hydration instead of dehydrating it.      

There are said to be over one trillion (yes, trillion!) microscopic organisms in the world. Bacteria make up most of these. Don’t get alarmed, less than 1% of them are known to cause disease.   

Almost all of them are destroyed by proper hygiene and can be easily killed with salt. Yep, they were right when they told you to wash your hands.   

The process of salt-killing bacteria is called osmosis. A simple explanation is: sodium chloride is in a higher concentration outside bacteria’s cell walls than inside the cell.

In the old days, large jars of salt were kept around the home and yard. There was a jar in the area where food was prepared. One in the dairy room to use salt as a disinfectant for equipment and in butter and cheese making. There was one in the barn for cleaning udders, one in the outhouse so a handful could be thrown in after use. Also, one in the laundry area, one for bathing, and other areas.  

How Salt Kills Bacteria  

The process of salt-killing bacteria is called osmosis. A simple explanation is: sodium chloride is in a higher concentration outside bacteria’s cell walls than inside the cell. To be in equilibrium, water is drawn out of the cell into the salt area in effect dehydrating the cell.    

Dehydration causes the cell to lose its composition causing protein and enzyme collapse within the cell leading to the rapid death of the cell.  

Salt as a Disinfectant in Wound Care  

The use of saltwater to cleanse wounds and promote healing works by the same process of osmosis. As the bacteria cells die, they are “washed out” with the liquid drawn from them and the surrounding tissues.   

If you’ve had a saline IV treatment, then you received a saltwater infusion. Saltwater as a gargling solution for sore throats, mouth ulcers, and bacteria in the mouth and gums also works by the process of osmosis. It is a double-action as it also increases the pH of your mouth killing bacteria and stopping future growth.   

How to Use Salt as a Disinfectant  

There are as many ways to use salt as a disinfectant as there are uses. Use it as a dry scrub on surfaces. A poultice can be used for wounds or skin conditions. A saltwater solution makes a gargle, a bath, foot soak, or solution to be applied with cotton balls.  

To make a saltwater solution:  

  • Mix one teaspoon of salt for every eight ounces (250ml) of water.   
  • To use as a gargle, a minimum of 30 seconds is recommended and repeat as often as needed.   
  • For use on a wound, gently pour over the affected area until clean and cover with a sterile bandage. Rinse again whenever you feel like it or when you remove the bandage.  
  • To use salt as a disinfectant in laundry, mix one tablespoon of salt to every 34 ounces (one liter) of water. It makes an effective wash for face masks.    

Disinfectant Wipes

It’s easy to make saltwater disinfectant wipes. Simply tear strips of cloth or sturdy paper towels into the size of wipe you want. Some people pour the solution over a whole roll of paper towels. I find reusable paper towels made from bamboo work well.   

To make the solution, combine two teaspoons of salt with 18 ounces (a half-liter) of water.  

Then add your pieces to the jar or canister you’re using to store them or pour the solution over the entire roll of paper towels.   

Let the paper towels soak until the liquid is absorbed.  

Then store in an airtight container for use as needed.  

For an extra measure, add a few drops of any essential oils known for healing and disinfecting properties. My favorite is rosemary.   

Using salt as a disinfectant is not new. It’s an easy, effective, safe, inexpensive alternative to modern chemicals. Happy, healthy healing to you!  

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