Natural...but effective?: Thieves Household Cleaner v. Fantastik

I've been loving my Thieves Household Cleaner (THC) for years now, but I've often wondered does it REALLY get surfaces clean?  As clean as competitors advertising 99.9% of germ busting prowess?  

There are a lot of home experiments I've stumbled across. has the best ones, but still didn't simulate how I actually use the product (She used "germ water" made from mud in her yard and old agar plate colonies.  I wanted to test the germs that were naturally in my home.  She also sprayed the germy surface with the cleaner but didn't wipe it.  This is also not how I clean) Despite the fact that it didn't answer my specific questions, I still think her site is worth a look!

I've also seen loads of home testing and science fair type stuff, but again, not the way I clean!  I've seen oodles of moldy bread, and not-moldy bread (sprayed with THC).  That's cool... but I don't use it on bread!  I've also seen lots of agar plates that have either a drop of the cleaner added, or a saturated square of paper towel.  Again... not how I clean!  These are interesting, but for me to extrapolate these tests to my real life, I'd prefer to actually simulate my real life.

To summarize the methods and findings, this is how it went down:

- For both tests my kitchen sink was the test subject. It was rinsed with hot water and wiped lightly with a used sponge to get off any debris. During spraying the section of the sink being tested was separated with cookie sheets to avoid over-spray. The control was swabbed over all parts of the sink. The tests were taken about a week apart.
- the test cleaners were Fantastik spray, THC diluted 1:15 in tap water, and THC diluted 1:15 in hydrogen peroxide (HP)

- All swabbing was done with sterile cotton swabs pre-moistened with distilled water
- pre-filled agar Petri dishes were used and stored upside down to prevent condensation contamination
- during the incubation period they were kept in a closed cardboard box and either left on the cable box or put outside to maintain warm temps, and the order of the dishes stacked inside were rotated at regular intervals for even heating

For the first round of testing it was 5 sprays of each cleaner, wipe with a paper towel for 20 seconds, done twice (to simulate my cleaning habits where I notice I miss a crumb and respray/wipe)

For the second round it was 5 sprays of each cleaner, leave undisturbed for 3 minutes (this was chosen as it was the advertised kill time for the Fantastik), spray once more to re-moisten at the end of the 3 minutes, and wipe with a paper towel for 20 seconds.

The first test had the following results:
Fantastik: 3 growths
THC and HP: 8 growths
THC and H20: 15 growths

I was pretty pleased with this - as expected HP had more germ-busting power than water alone, and although none were total kills, for everyday cleaning I'm ok with that. I don't like a sterile home! And compared with the control, they all did darn well.

The second test rocked my socks off:
Fantastik: 0 growths
THC and HP: 0 growths
THC and H20: 2 growths

So for times when you really want a complete kill, someone has a stomach bug in your home, or you've spilled raw chicken juice all over, THC in HP left for 3 minutes is just as good as the store bought toxic stuff, and the THC in water is only a smidge behind!

Limitations of the experiment are of course my lack of consistent incubation temps (though they were all equally inconsistent!), and results may differ on the germs in question. I felt the sink represented typical household germs and I'm reluctant to grow stuff that came out of a toilet without proper isolation.

So there you have it! You can bust germs without gassing your family out with bleach fumes!  Knowing my house is clean AND smells like Christmas? You betcha! And knowing one bottle of the THC lasts me nearly 2 years? Ummmm YES.