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Hands up if you’ve used some antibacterial cleaning products during the covid pandemic years; cleaning sprays, liquids to add to your laundry, even hand soap.
You can now find a vast array of products which contain powerful bactericides that claim to eliminate 99.9% of all bacteria.
But do we really need them for a decent level of clean?
what makes a cleaning product antibacterial?
An antibacterial cleaning product contains chemicals that prevent bacteria from growing and reproducing and there are 2 types: non-residue and residue.
Non-residue antibacterials use disinfectant (alcohols, bleaches) which will wipe away from the surface with a damp cloth.
Residue antibacterials use antimicrobials (triclosan, triclocarbon) that leave behind a residue which in theory gives a longer lasting protection against bacteria regrowth.
And whilst both will kill bacteria and some viruses, they won’t act specifically to clean kitchen spills, stains and slops such as fats, oils and greasy food residue.
so should we be killing all bacteria in our homes?
95% of all bacteria are completely harmless to humans. It might be an uncomfortable thought but we’re literally surrounded by endless bacteria at all times, they live on and in our bodies and always have done. They help us break down food in our intestines and they prevent harmful bacteria from taking hold.
A biocide that kills 99.9% of all bacteria means you’re killing all those good bacteria too. And that’s not helpful. In fact recent studies have suggested that illness, autoimmune disease, and allergies can be linked to our use of bactericides within the home.
Added to this is the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. It’s thought that although the main cause of this is the overuse of antibiotics - overusing antibacterial cleaners is also contributing. Interestingly in 2016 the USA banned antibacterial hand soaps after research indicated they changed our natural resistance to bacteria (and because there was no scientific evidence that they were any better than normal soap and water).
After all this - let’s not forget - a single bacteria cell left behind will simply start to repopulate a surface in 20 minutes or less so before you know it the original cleaning was pointless if your aim was to eliminate all bacterial traces.
what to use instead of antibacterial cleaning products?
A simple multi purpose cleaner that is suitable for most surfaces such as smol multi purpose spray that uses soap and detergent is going to give a great clean for your home without the need for biocides.
Soap and surfactants used in standard cleaning sprays will break down the cell membrane of bacteria and some viruses (including the coronavirus), making them unstable. Then when you wipe across the surfaces with a cloth you’ll actually destroy their protective membranes thereby removing the bacteria.
There’s nothing the bacteria can do to protect themselves against this process so it’s good to know they can’t develop a resistance or evade this simple method of cleaning.
And on top of that they’re also designed to tackle your household spills and remove the actual dirt from a surface.
exceptions to the rule.
Of course if there is somebody in your household who is ill or perhaps immunocompromised then you might want to use an antibacterial spray at times and in certain areas.
Interestingly you may find you still need to first clean with a multi purpose spray so that the biocide can then sit on a clean surface. This is because organic matter like oils and fats may block its antibacterial abilities.
For most of us in most scenarios however, it’s not necessary to use an antibacterial cleaning spray, which is good to know when you’re looking to limit your exposure to chemicals and the amount you are flushing down your sink.
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