Antibacterial vs. Regular Cleaners

A spray cleaner spraying a glass surface

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It is true that the influx of antibacterial cleaners seems to have flooded the market, and you are right to question whether or not you need to use antibacterial cleaners in your home.

According to many studies, regular soap or detergent and water are enough to wash away dirt, bacteria, and viruses. Proper handwashing does not need the added benefit of an antibacterial cleaner to thoroughly clean hands. The same is true for your home. Regular cleaning with soaps and detergents will remove much of the harmful bacteria and viruses.

Cons of Antibacterial Cleaners

One of the problems with the use of antibacterial cleaners is that to be effective, they need to be left on the surface for up to two minutes before being wiped away. Many people are not patient enough to allow antibacterial cleaners to have time to work. For this reason, there is not enough evidence to suggest that antibacterial cleaners are effectively used to kill the viruses that are responsible for many common illnesses.

Another issue in the use of antibacterial cleaners is that some germs are beneficial to our health. Some experts worry that trying to wipe out all traces of bacteria will mess up the balance of a person's good bacteria that is there to help a person remain healthy.

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of common antibacterial ingredients like triclosan and nearly two dozen ingredients frequently used in antibacterial soaps. The FDA stated that there was no sufficient long-term study of the health effects using the products and that these soaps do not show that they are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. Popular cleaning brands instead began to use a range of triclosan alternatives, including natural and nature-inspired antibacterial ingredients.

Some people claim that the overuse of antibacterial soaps is causing bacteria to become stronger and develop resistance. Despite these concerns about the use of antibacterial soap, there is no solid evidence that using antibacterial cleaners is leading to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. In fact, most health officials believe that the widespread misuse of antibiotics, not antibacterial cleaners, is to blame for the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Benefits of Antibacterial Cleaners

There are benefits to antibacterial cleaners. While washing with soap and water removes a lot of dirt and germs by itself, proper use of antibacterial cleansers does reduce bacteria for a short time span, which may be a help in households where someone is ill or has immune problems.

Triclosan and other antibacterial agents have long been used in commercial cleaning products for hospitals and other healthcare settings. It had not been until the 1990s that these ingredients were added to home cleaning products.

How to Keep Your Family Safe

Overall, proper food handling and handwashing techniques along with regular cleaning with soap or detergent and water should be enough to keep your family healthy. Families who wish to use antibacterial cleaners should not worry that their use will lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, but should follow the instructions to utilize the antibacterial properties fully.