The Newest Cleaning Trend Is All About Bringing Bacteria Into Your Home—Wait, What?
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:08 AM
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Even if you don’t quite identify as a neat freak, the last thing you want to do is make your home dirtier. That’s why, for some, the thought of bringing bacteria into your home on purpose sounds positively deranged. Probiotic cleaning products, however, do just that, and that’s how they can make your space even cleaner.
Now, you might be a loyalist to antibacterial surface wipes or even to your favorite line of natural cleaning products, which may not have a probiotic element but offer a pretty green clean. The addition of healthy bacteria (read: Not the kind that will give you a sore throat or runny nose) to a surface spray or floor cleaner can not only help get rid of bad bacteria, but it can also keep your home healthy and clean in the long run. Allow us to explain and figure out if this cleaning innovation is right for your home.
But wait… I thought probiotics were just for gut health?
First things first: Yes, probiotics are also found in everything fermented or cultured, including yogurt, miso, and sauerkraut. They are, in fact, very similar to the probiotics you’ll find in cleaning supplies. “We use a lactobacillus extract that’s fermented much like the ferments of kombucha, kimchi, or other gut-friendly foods,” explains Mat Franken, CEO and founder of cleaning brand Aunt Fannie’s. “A bonus is that it’s been shown to be conditioning to the skin. We formulated our products at around a 6 pH—the same as the skin mantle—to be extra kind to skin. Cleaning with gloves is now optional.”
When you eat probiotics, they help to regulate all the different kinds of bacteria in your body, and the same is true when you use probiotic cleaners in your home. “Using ‘good’ bacteria to crowd out the ‘bad’ bacteria is similar to how kombucha works to balance out the bacteria in your digestive system,” says Counter Culture founder Michelle Perkins. “This means you are not killing 99% of bacteria, which in all cases requires a toxic active ingredient, but you’re discouraging other bacteria from settling into your surfaces the way nature has been doing for billions of years.”
Isn’t the point of cleaning to get rid of bacteria?
It turns out that cleaner that cleans 99.9 percent of germs might actually be wiping away some perfectly healthy bacteria too. “Conventional cleaners have oversanitized our homes, and there’s increasing evidence that killing the good (and bad) bacteria in your home can contribute to autoimmune diseases, weight gain, allergies, and even eczema,” says Franken. “Probiotics, on the other hand, don’t obliterate beneficial microbes.” The studies that show bacteria’s positive impact are encouraging—though not all bacteria, of course, is healthy. Remember: It’s about a balance.
When you opt for an antibacterial cleanser, sure, you get rid of the potentially harmful microbes, but you also get rid of the potentially beneficial ones too. “We have been taught that sterile equals clean. This is not the case,” says Perkins. “We need an active and diverse microbiome to keep us healthy and well.” So you might just want to bring on the (good) bacteria.
So how effective are they?
According to research: pretty effective. One 2016 study testing probiotic cleaners in a hospital setting showed that probiotics not only help manage microbial contamination, but they also reduce the occurrence of drug-resistant bacteria. Another 2018 study conducted in a dentist’s office showed that they do, in fact, successfully limit (bad) bacteria growth. In both studies, researchers stressed that these eco-friendly cleaning options reduce the risk of bacteria growing resistant to more traditional surface sprays—it’s a win-win.
Once you’ve sprayed your countertop, the revitalized biome can also keep your home tidy. “Our bacteria actively search out fats and oils as a food source so your surfaces will stay cleaner longer,” Perkins says.
All this considered, probiotic cleansers have proven themselves to be more than just hype—they’re scientifically backed cleaning solutions that can keep your home healthy and happy. Just be sure to follow a bit of advice before you add them to your arsenal: “There are no interactions or reactions to fear,” says Franken. “However, you should avoid conventional cleaners or disinfectants that will wipe the good [bacteria], including the good stuff from our products.” If you do feel a need to opt for an antibacterial cleaner for any reason (maybe a member of your household has the flu), then wait at least a few minutes for that cleaner to dry, and then use a probiotic spray to repopulate the good bacteria so you can enjoy your newly refreshed biome.