How to Protect Your Family’s Health-Focus on Green Cleaning, Not Disinfecting

Superbugs. They are hurting us and the health of our families, even our pets. At the same time we unknowingly are contributing to the development of a new generation of resistant infections that are almost impossible to treat. In our effort to protect our loved ones, bacteria is being created that is able to survive every modern antibiotic. Even worse, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the resulting superbugs have spread from sea to shining sea. Unfortunately when these superbugs strike the critically ill, the results can be fatal.
The recent outbreak of Avian Flu in 2008-09 and Swine Flu (H1N1 Pandemic) in 2009-10 caused us to panic. We believed that we were under attack and that all bacteria was bad. The result is a germ phobic population that has been trained (mostly by what we see in the media and from advertisements) that different sizes of excavators the only way to keep our families safe and healthy is to disinfect, disinfect, and disinfect. According to the research, however, we are now finding that because of our excessive disinfecting, mutant bacteria that is capable of resisting the most powerful antibiotics currently available is evolving.
What is scariest to me is that researchers have come to understand that the overuse and improper use of disinfectants may be the cause for generating these superbugs. Disinfectants that are not used in the right context and improperly applied will not kill the bacteria as intended, but rather cause the subsequent generation of the bacteria to be more resistant. While it is important for hospitals to be vigilant in protecting their patients, especially those with weakened immune systems, that is not necessary for your home.
It is important to focus on green cleaning regularly, but not to become paranoid enough to use disinfectants everywhere, for every application.
Disinfectants are not effective cleaners because they are not intended to be. They are formulated to destroy (i.e., kill) bad bacteria and germs. Unfortunately a disinfectant does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces, or even remove the bad bacteria and germs. All disinfectants MUST be registered by the US EPA as a pesticide. In fact, since disinfectants are designed to kill, their cleaning efficacy is generally quite low.
Cleaners, however, contain surfactants (i.e., soap) and are formulated to remove dirt and impurities from surfaces or objects. Even better yet cleaners will also remove most, if not all, of the bacteria (i.e., germs). Although cleaning will not necessarily kill the germs, removing them reduces their numbers and lowers the risk of spreading any infection. As a result the efficacy of cleaners is commonly higher than a disinfectant. Selecting green, ecofriendly cleaning products will further protect your family and pets by reducing the toxins in your home. The green cleaning products that are bio-based enzyme formulations are the best. Enzymes will actually remove the bacteria’s food source leaving a safe, green, and residue free clean surface.
There are a few hot zones in the home such as the toilet, door knobs, and telephones that deserve extra attention selection of machine tools and may need to be disinfected, especially if a family member is sick or has been exposed to a sick friend.
Proper use of a disinfectant is critical. Always pay close attention to and follow the label directions, especially the hazard warnings. Generally the instructions will be to start with a general household cleaner to wash the surface and remove germs, then rinse with water. Then, and not earlier, follow-up with an EPA registered disinfectant to kill any remaining germs. Be sure to study the label to understand what the EPA has approved the product to kill. Also follow the requirements for dwell time (i.e., how long the chemical must remain in contact to kill the targeted germs). This is generally 10 minutes. For some products it is also necessary go through the final step of rinsing to remove the toxic chemical. When performed correctly this is a tedious and arduous process. This is reason alone to stay ahead of the issue with the regular use of green cleaning products.
In summary the best way to protect your family is to focus on cleaning, not on disinfecting. Using green cleaning products will further enhance your family’s health by reducing their exposure to the unsafe, toxic, and harmful conventional cleaning chemicals.