You’ve probably heard how important probiotics are for gut health—cue those Activia commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis explaining how good bacteria can ease your digestion, making you feel less bloated and more energetic—but what happens when you start putting probiotics into cleaning supplies? A lot, it turns out.
“Essentially, traditional cleaners use harsh chemicals to remove germs,” says Michelle Perkins, founder of Counter Culture probiotic cleaning products. “Traditional and even most ‘natural’ cleaning products use chemical surfactants as the primary cleaning agent.” And many of those surfactants can be toxic to people and pets, she adds.
Probiotic cleaners use a unique combination of fermented bacteria and essential oils that ultimately create compounds known as bio-detergents, which break down dirt and grime. However, it’s important to note that they don’t kill all bacteria—and essentially, that’s a good thing. “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 Perkins. “This means you’re not killing 99 percent 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.” Over-sanitizing your home and getting rid of good bacteria can actually lead to several health issues, including autoimmune diseases and weight gain.
Using these milder cleaners doesn’t mean your home will stay dirty. In fact, the products are super effective: A 2016 study that tested the use of probiotic cleaners in hospitals determined that they reduce the occurrence of drug-resistant bacteria, while another study in 2018 found that probiotic cleaners work in limiting the growth of dangerous bacteria.