Better Life: Ask the Chemist - "Do you use disinfectants in your home?"

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So let’s start with soap. Antibacterial soaps came onto the scene about a decade ago. TV commercials used marketing fear tactics to sell the belief that there is a war in your home and the only way to win it is to kill everything. We were, and still are, sold the belief that killing germs and bacteria is the only way to be clean and healthy. But then the research and reports started to come out, and it turns out antibacterial soaps are actually worse for you. Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., a lead microbiologist at the FDA, stated that there is no evidence that supports that people who use antibacterial soap are less likely to develop bacterial infections than people who use soap and water and that the overuse of antibacterial soaps may breed resistant bacteria. Additionally, the antibacterial ingredient triclosan poses health risks (may cause infertility, early puberty, obesity, allergies, and other problems), and are harmful to the environment. And in fact, antibacterial soaps have absolutely no effect on viruses. Consumer Reports’ Chief Medical Advisor, Marvin Lipman, explains, “Just like you shouldn’t take an antibiotic drug to treat a viral infection, like the cold or flu, there’s no reason you would use an antibacterial soap to kill viruses.”

So what does washing my hands have to do with cleaning my kitchen countertops after exposure to raw chicken, cleaning the toilet, sinks, doorknobs, tv remotes, and every other surface my flu-ridden kid came in contact with? Well it’s the best analogy to cleaning your home as well.

Think about your hands when you’re cooking with raw chicken, you definitely want to get your hands back to clean and safe, so what do you do? You go to the sink and elbow the water on, use a few pumps of plain soap because we have been told by the FDA, EPA, Consumer Reports, and just about everyone else not to use antibacterial soaps and wash, wash, wash, your hands until they’re clean. You simply want to remove the bacteria from your hands and soap and water gets the job done. You now have clean hands and you can move onto the salad…

It’s as simple as this, to have clean hands I just need to remove the germs and bacteria. No killing machine necessary, just plain ol soap and water. Same holds true for the surfaces in your home. Why do you need to use a registered pesticide to clean your home, when you can just use a product that helps you lift the dirt, germs, and bacteria from the surface and remove it.

Actually, not all bacteria are bad. Some bacteria are good and necessary. Just as the good bacteria needs to be present on and in our bodies, good bacteria need to live in our home too. For example, intestinal bacteria help us to digest food. The ‘good’ bacteria that naturally lives on and inside our bodies help us stay healthy by keeping the numbers of ‘bad’, disease-causing bacteria under control. When you use antibacterial or antimicrobial cleaning products, not only are the bad bacteria being killed (when following the manufacturer’s directions), so too are the good bacteria. This could be harmful if the ratio of good to bad bacteria is disturbed, and bad bacteria get the upper hand. When exposed to antibacterial or antimicrobial cleaning products, most bacteria will die, but some may survive and multiply. These strains can become resistant to antibiotics and disinfectants. The Victoria State Government issued this statement:

  • Evidence suggests that the use of antibacterial and antimicrobial cleaning products – particularly in combination with the over-prescription of antibiotics – may produce strains of multi-resistant organisms.
  • Antibacterial and antimicrobial cleaning products are no better at eliminating bacteria than cheaper plain soaps, detergents, and warm water.
  • Consumers should avoid using antibacterial and antimicrobial cleaning products unless they have a specific medical reason and have been advised to do so by their doctor.

See, big chemical companies are worth an estimated $30 billion dollars and they aren’t just selling products, they are selling an idea, a belief, a fear – you have to kill to clean. This just isn’t factual and it’s definitely not healthy.

Let’s dive into the healthy part – what are the consequences of having an EPA registered pesticide in your home around your food, kids, pets, and not to mention one that seriously messes with Mother Nature? I have a bottle of a leading brand disinfecting Wipes here and I’m going to break down the label:

To Disinfect: Use to disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces. Wipe surface to be disinfected. Use enough wipes for treated surface to remain visibly wet for 4 minutes. Let surface dry. For highly soiled surfaces clean excess dirt first. For surfaces that may come in contact with food, a potable water rinse is required. Not recommended for use on unpainted wood and unfinished, unsealed, unpainted, oiled or worn surfaces. Test small area first.

Alright. So how many people are using enough wipes to get a surface visibly wet? Have you tried to clean an entire countertop with enough wipes to leave it soaking for 4 minutes? Ok so say I did, now I’ve left a pool of pesticides on my countertop – the surface where my kids put food down on and eat directly from and where I prepare meals. But wait, it says that now that I used their product on a food surface I have to let it dry and then get some potable water and rinse it completely. Why? Because reading straight from their label it says, “Hazard to humans and domestic animals.”

What to do if it gets in my eyes or mouth? “Call a Poison Control Center. Have the product container or label with you when calling a poison control center or doctor, or going in for treatment.”

In fact, cleaning products are number 2 on the list of “Most Common Substances implicated in Poison Exposures” at the Poison Control Center and that’s why it’s recommended to lock up your cleaning supplies. I can’t tell you the amount of emails and calls we’ve received from grateful parents because their kids, or pets, got into Better Life’s cleaning supplies instead of a chemical cleaner. No safety locks required in a Better Life household. Not for cleaners at least. In fact, that’s why Better Life was created by two new dads – a line of safe, high-performance cleaning products without warning labels.

But wait, not only can it get into my eyes and mouth but it gets in the air too, right? Yep. According to the EPA's Office of Research and Development's "Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study" found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. Yikes. And what causes indoor pollution? VOCs. And what are VOCs? Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. They are in paints, aerosols, and are a very common ingredient in most all chemical cleaning products.

When you’re cleaning with traditional products do you ever get dizzy, headaches, nausea, nose and throat burning, allergic reactions, skin irritation, etc? These are all common side effects of chemicals in those traditional products. I could go on and on about health concerns, there have been many articles, reports, and consumer warnings about using them and it’s the reason why I chose green products in the first place. 

So now you know why we are passionate about plant-based cleaning. We know it gets the job done, gets it done better, and safer for people, pets, and the planet. Help us spread the word, there is a better way, a safer way to clean and it doesn’t involve killing.


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