Wait, What Are Probiotic Cleaners, and Do They Actually Work?
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.
“You’re not going to be able to kill everything, and the only things that are going to survive at the end of all that is probably not the stuff you want to be interacting with the most,” explains Simon Lax, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at MIT who studies the interactions between humans and bacteria. So the days of killing 99.9 percent of bacteria, as traditional cleaners claim to do, may soon be a thing of the past.
As for how to use these new types of products? The same as you’d use regular cleaners, so don’t get too concerned. “Spray, let the probiotics do the work, and wipe,” Perkins says. “The more often you use them, the better, as you’re replenishing your army of grime fighters!” Double-check the package before use, but most of the products on the market are safe to use on a range of surfaces, from granite and glass to carpet and vinyl.
Ready to give the trend a try? Here are some of the top brands emerging right now:
Containing one of the cleanest ingredient lists we’ve ever seen—just purified water, probiotics, lactic acid and organic essential oils—Counter Culture believes that cleaning products can be effective without containing harsh ingredients or harming the environment. Selling air and fabric freshener, an all-purpose cleaner and a floor cleaner in fresh scents like lavender and lemongrass, the brand is a one-stop solution for your home’s grimiest spaces.
Aunt Fannie’s probiotic range includes hand soap, dish soap, cleaning wipes and multi-surface cleaners, and boasts only plant-based ingredients. With a delicate pH balance free from traditional harsh chemicals, parabens and phthalates, it’ll remove grime from your dishes and surfaces without your having to worry about ingesting dangerous ingredients.
Promising surface protection for up to three days, Veo Active-Probiotics uses a cutting-edge combination of surfactants and probiotics to create a formula that’s 99 percent biodegradable, making it one of the most environmentally friendly options around.