Best Grow Room Cleaners for Healthy, Happy Plants

Staff Writer Sanitation

Greenhouse worker disinfecting plants with a spray.

Grow room cleaning has a wide range of practices. Whether you are diligently following a schedule or only attending to your room after a powdery mildew infection, how can you know which method is the best or even which are the best grow room cleaners to use? 

We got down to the nitty-gritty to figure out the safest and most effective cleaner. You see, when it comes to cleaning, we would rather not burn out our nose hairs. Or, even worse, jeopardize our plant's health. We want to use the purest, most stable, and safest option on the market. 

From burning and toxic labor-intensive (yet insanely effective) bleach to safer, water-soluble, and non-toxic options, we wanted to figure out the most effective, safe, and affordable cleaner. We only want to use the best when we clean our grow room. 

There are a lot of products available, so what do you need to know? 

The Importance of a Clean Grow Environment or Grow Room

Bacteria, fungus, viruses, and other pathogens can rapidly populate in enclosed spaces. Why is that? These indoor spaces do not have an influx of natural oxidation from the environment that usually helps plants survive and function. 

That means the most dangerous microbes that cause plant diseases can end up growing in your grow room. These fungal spores, mold, and mildew multiply quickly. That means cleaning thoroughly to ensure all your surfaces are clean is imperative.

We’re sure you don’t want the plants you’ve been diligently caring for to become infected by dangerous pathogens. That’s why it’s necessary to turn to the strength of oxidizing treatments. Oxidation breaks down the proteins in harmful microbes, causing them to lose their structure and function. It’s the only way not just to battle those dangerous microbes, but annihilate them.

Common oxidizers include hydrogen peroxide, bleach, and, as of late, chlorine dioxide. With several brand names and product types, it’s hard to know which to use. For that reason, we wanted to look into the top options and round up this list of effective oxidizers often used for grow room sanitation

The Products To Know to Achieve a Clean Grow Room

I think we are all pretty well versed in the importance of using disinfectants to kill harmful bacteria and viruses. At least we know more than we did before the global pandemic took us by surprise. So, we have heard the standard rules of thumb like time and strength of various solutions will determine the efficacy of defeating dangerous microbes.
When it comes to our plants' health, especially plants living indoors in grow rooms, we have to do more than just clean or vacuum up dead matter off the grow room floor. We have to make sure to remove any unseen microbial species that may be lurking around.
Using effective products that can do the job is your best bet. Here are the top products on the market, known as the best grow room cleaners.  

Gard’nClean - Gard’nClean

Active Ingredient: chlorine dioxide

The team at Gard’nClean has tapped into the incredible science of 99.9% ultra-pure chlorine dioxide. Though one of the smallest oxidizing structures we’ve come across, its small molecules make it exceptionally powerful. The tiny structures destroy pathogens in the smallest of spaces. Their size helps them employ and circulate in the air, landing on surfaces you might have otherwise missed, including lightbulbs and undersides of plants.  

Chlorine Dioxide is highly soluble in water, especially cold water. So, Gard’nClean's patented membrane ensures the safest access to the ClO2's incredible oxidizing effects. When you add water to create the solution, it initiates a reaction allowing the chlorine dioxide to enter the water. The dissolved gas remains intact suspended in this uniquely safe water solution. 

It is one of the most efficient and safest ways to take apart toxic compounds and defeat pathogens without posing a threat to your plants. It’s available to be used even on your plants to treat things like powdery mildew. 

Safety: One of the fantastic things about chlorine dioxide is that it has minimal toxicity when used correctly. Adding water induces a process releasing the 99.9% chlorine dioxide. This resulting solution is ultra-pure, environmentally safe, and can be used on food and in water. Plus, 99.9% chlorine dioxide is the only thing we’ve found that is not highly corrosive. 

Works for both disinfecting and deodorizing.

Note: Effective against coronavirus.

Sanidate 5.0 - BioSafe

Active Ingredients: hydrogen peroxide & peracetic acid

Some people opt to use hydrogen peroxide directly (you can buy it in most stores). However, Sanidate adds the power of peracetic acid. Described as a super stable hydrogen peroxide much more powerful than hydrogen peroxide alone, it claims to effectively kill bacteria and fungi on contact. Once it’s dry, the particles disperse. So there is no remaining toxic film and no need to rinse after use. 

The application options include adding to water, fogging, foaming, and mold and mildew control. Plus, SaniDate 5.0 is EPA certified for use in hospitals, pharmaceutical-processing facilities, and even approved for organic production. 

Safety: However, it is highly toxic to bees, fish, and birds. Plus, incredibly harmful if inhaled. And you have to wear goggles or face shields, protective gloves, and protective clothing when you use it.

Note: Effective against coronavirus

ZeroTol 2.0 or Oxidate 2.0 - BioSafe

Active Ingredients: hydrogen peroxide & peracetic acid

Another powerhouse from BioSafe is available as a fungicide, bactericide, and algaecide. A safe preventative treatment for ornamental plants and turf, it's also an active destroyer of pathogens on your plants, in your grow rooms, and even in water systems. It is safe for use as a foliar spray and direct seed treatment (inoculations). 

It uses a lower concentration of peroxyacetic acid that still effectively and instantly kills pathogens and spores. Like SaniDate 5.0 in the formulation; however, its lighter intensity claims to make it safer for using directly on plants.  

Safety: There are several warnings about how to use this product properly to ensure your plants stay safe. It is not tested on all plants, so be sure to research properly to determine whether your plant is hardy enough to withstand direct application. 

Other environmental factors or products you use can also impact how it reacts with your plants. With more or less the same hazard warnings as Sanidate, we advise that you practice caution when handling, especially during harvest. 

Since we are speaking about grow room cleans, it’s important to note that ZeroTol 2.0 or Oxidate 2.0 are designed for using directly on plants. While it is undoubtedly an excellent way to suppress bacteria, fungi, and slime in general, its formulation is not specifically for clean rooms. 

Note: Effective against coronavirus

ProKure - ProKure Solutions

Active Ingredient: chlorine dioxide

The team at ProKure Solutions has tapped into the incredible science of chlorine dioxide. There’s a lot of misinformation existing about this powerhouse, and the good news is that it’s a super effective option for cleaning grow rooms.

It is highly soluble in water, especially cold water. So, when it enters the water it remains intact as a dissolved gas suspended in a water solution. Plus its tiny structure makes it a powerful oxidizer that can slip into the tiniest of spaces and break down nasty pathogens. 

Safety: One of the amazing things about chlorine dioxide, is that when used properly it has practically minimal toxicity. Although, as with most things, prolonged exposure may cause irritation for skin or eyes. Even though significant hazards are minimal, it is still recommended to wear protective clothing, gloves, and goggles

Works for both disinfecting and deodorizing.

Note: Effective against coronavirus

Household Bleach - Chlorine Bleach

Active Ingredient: Sodium Hypochlorite

We all are familiar with the efficacy of bleach. Whether using it to get our dirty white laundry more vibrant to dousing our bathrooms in the stuff, it’s a regular household standby. 

On the science side: bleach is typically a mixture of sodium hypochlorite mixed with sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide, and calcium hypochlorite: a feisty mix. The most common products contain 5.25%–6.15% sodium hypochlorite.

Sodium hypochlorite is highly reactive and unstable. Compounds that are unstable fall apart easily and interact with other compounds nearby. Many use it to remove color but is also an excellent detoxifying tool often used in grow rooms. If left exposed, it will simply evaporate into the air and break down into benign particles. 

Safety: However, the dangers that improper handling of bleach can cause are tragic. It can be a severe lung irritant, cause skin burns, and be hazardous when mixed with other household chemicals. Proper ventilation is imperative when using it in your grow room. It is not recommended for use on walls and flooring. It may also be harmful to plastics or metals. 

It’s important to reiterate that bleach can react particularly violently when combined with certain products like hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol. If using any combination of these in your grow room, take extra precautions to use them separately!

Note: Effective against coronavirus.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Active Ingredient: hydrogen peroxide

Commonly used in grow rooms for cleaning, hydrogen peroxide is known as an effective cleaner. When using it alone, it is necessary to use higher concentrations. Plus, it can be highly reactive with other cleaning solutions like bleach. 

Since it is reactive with other substances, it is necessary to dilute it. However, the dilution inhibits its ability to be an effective disinfectant. 

Safety: More and more studies indicate hydrogen peroxide correlates with damage to local lung tissue when inhaled. In a study of nurses, the use of disinfectants and exposure to certain products such as hydrogen peroxide increased COPD diagnosis risk. COPD is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Note: Solutions of at least 3% effective against coronavirus.

Rubbing Alcohol or  Ethanol (Alcohol) 

Can be used in conjunction with some of these other formulas, but it isn’t the optimal option and doesn’t destroy bacterial spores.

Often it is used to disinfect tools. 

Note: Solutions with 60-70% alcohol are most effective against coronavirus on nonporous surfaces.

Planning for and Setting Up a Clean Grow Room Environment

Indoor growing can be a bit tricky if you don’t know how to properly set up your room. Here are a few pieces of advice to keep in mind when setting up yours: 

  • Find the right space: Select a space in your home or garage that provides you with enough room for the number of plants you hope to grow and any additional equipment you plan to use (filters, fans, etc). Make sure you have enough electrical outlets, access to water, and a ground surface that is suitable. 
  • Choose the right materials: Investing in a grow room composed of fungal resistant material is a great place to start. This material should be designed specifically for indoor grow rooms.  Take the time to research which provide the optimal humidity and moisture control. Grow tents are often a great investment as they are designed specifically with materials meant for growing plants indoors. Plus, they have features that help make setting up ventilation and grow lights much more straightforward. ***Some people use cabinets or closets which might be space-saving but are usually a recipe for disaster. If your walls are made of drywall you are inviting mold and mildew to dive into that porous surface. Don’t make that mistake. Be sure to find a suitable material to install that will protect your walls and cupboards. 
  • Stay Organized: Establish a regular cleaning routine to keep your grow room tidy and perform maintenance (like changing filters). 

How Do You Clean a Grow Room or Grow Tent?

Keeping an indoor grow room clean is more than just sweeping up dead leaves. If you don’t keep it properly clean with oxidizing agents you’re inviting little creatures to come and take over the space meant to be for your plants. 

Plus, if you don’t deep clean regularly, it can wreak havoc on any systems you’ve installed and might require extra maintenance. If you are spending money on ventilation systems and other tools, you need to make sure they are doing their job. 

Here are some things to keep in mind for when you clean your grow room:

  • Regularly sweep and wipe out any debris or dry up puddles of water or liquid nutrients
  • Don’t forget lights: dust and wipe and sterilize lights if necessary
  • You can use an air compressor to shake out any lingering debris or shop vac to vacuum up loose pieces. If you have the two, even better. 
  • Sterilize tools regularly, even when they are brand new
  • Replace filters and clean vents of ventilation systems
  • Sterilize water pumps and systems

Using products that retain their ability to kill pathogens in the air (like Gard'nClean Fast Release) can eliminate some of these steps. For example, this product is able to treat microscopic openings, safe enough for HVAC systems, and composed of a powerful oxidizing agent like 99.9% ultra-pure ClO2. That means it will employ when released in the air (fogging) and disperse throughout your space. 

So as long as you’ve kept your room clear of dust build-ups, spills, and debris, this type of product does the rest. 

Using Those Oxidizers to Sterilize

While cleaning is always a necessary, routine part of taking care of an indoor grow room, a regular deep cleaning practice will keep your plants in tip-top shape. 

The CDC has very specific guidelines for the disinfection of various surfaces and even differentiates between “sanitizing” and “sterilizing.” Their regulations help keep us safe by ensuring businesses across a number of industries follow best practices to kill off dangerous microbes that could be detrimental to our health. Sanitizing includes efforts like sweeping and dusting, while sterilizing is much more powerful. Sterilizing or disinfecting attacks the microbes and pathogens that can cause disease. 

Just as businesses must follow cleaning standards for us, we need to do the same for our plants. To completely remove any trace of dangerous microbial life including bacteria, fungi, spores, and other plant pathogens, you need to bring in the big guns. This is especially important for indoor grow rooms. 

When to Deep Clean or Sterilize?

Always plan to deep clean between growth cycles. You can spray or fog the space to make sure to reach every tiny crack and crevice where those microscopic contaminants might be lingering. Make sure to check the product instructions for use and specifications to see if it’s compatible with those methods. 

Remember, that when using powerful oxidizers, always follow safety precautions. You will likely need to invest in gloves, masks, and goggles.

The Power of Fogging

If you have the capability, fogging your grow room is one of the least labor-intensive ways to get an effective clean and optimize your plants ability to flourish. Fogging creates micro-sized water droplets that can really penetrate your space from floor to ceiling. That means you can sanitize, deodorize, oxidize, and increase humidity throughout the entire grow room. 

The benefits are worth the effort, and the effort is minimal if you have the right equipment.

So, how to fog your grow room? Well, it's pretty simple: 

  • Set the exhaust fans off for 4 to 6 hours
  • If possible, set them to automatically turn on an hour or two before reentering (make sure to follow the instructions with your product for reentry period and proper ventilation.)
  • Employ the product, lights off, circulating fans on.

Certain products require that plants be removed from the grow room, so make sure to read up for proper application. We know that Gard'nClean is able to be used while plants are inside your grow room. On the other hand, SaniDate requires plant removal. 

How to Choose the Best Grow Room Cleaners

As we said, for indoor grow rooms cleaning is imperative. We know that all the options we listed earlier are effective, but how do we decide which to use? 

Safest

Winner: Gard’nClean

We are particularly wary of any products that might be harmful to us. Not only do you want to protect your plants, but you need to protect yourself!  

With indoor grow rooms, it’s hard to have proper ventilation. So, products that insist proper ventilation is necessary during the application leave us feeling a bit wary. We could certainly invest in some kind of mask or breathing apparatus, but the reality is that we probably won’t. 

So seeing research pointing to higher reports of lung disease in nurses using hydrogen peroxide suggests we should look elsewhere. Even if using hydrogen peroxide is convenient and common, it doesn’t make it the best option. There is also extensive research shown that breathing peracetic acid can irritate lungs and cause both coughing or shortness of breath. So we aren’t particularly fond of solutions that include that in their formula. 

That’s where products using chlorine dioxide shine. Gard’nClean specifically developed its protective membrane with safety in mind. So, once you add water to the closed container, there’s no fear of breathing in fumes that cause toxicity or harmful effects. 

Least Corrosive 

Winner: Gard’nClean 

Most of the products strong enough to knock out microbes are highly reactive. That means they also cause damage to living tissue. This can be detrimental to both you, your plants, and even your equipment. 

When pure chlorine dioxide, such as that used in the Gard’nClean formula, is suspended in water and diluted it is not corrosive. It is a stable gas and does not form acidic compounds that cause high levels of corrosion. 

Lowest Price Point - Cost

Small Batch Winner: Bleach

Large Quantity Winner: Gard’nClean

While bleach is the most affordable, Gard’nClean is a close second. Bleach is readily available and used often so it’s much more accessible if buying small quantities. On the other hand, if you want to buy a lot, Gard’nClean will get you the most bang for your buck. 

The Final Part: The Dirty Work

Of course, when it comes to cleaning your grow room you will have to choose what is best for you. You’re the one who will be doing the cleaning after all. 

Staying proactive is your best bet at keeping your grow environment ideal for your plants. Keeping a regular cleaning routine and maintaining your grow room is a good place to start. Using products that work over time (like Gard'nClean Extended Release, that slowly releases ClO2 over a period of 30 days) will make your job easier in the long run. 

With good habits, not only will your happy, healthy plants thank you but your equipment and systems will last longer and perform better. 

Resources:

https://extension.psu.edu/what-disinfectants-should-i-use-in-the-mushroom-house

https://ag.umass.edu/greenhouse-floriculture/fact-sheets/cleaning-disinfecting-greenhouse

https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/ppls/070299-00019-20200325.pdf

https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1033&context=extension_pubs 

https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19


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