Antibacterial wipes are useless for thorough cleaning, expert says

It seems a lot of people use antibacterial wipes for cleaning surfaces in their homes. However, a scientist says using antibacterial wipes to get rid of bacteria is ultimately useless. Here's why.

Using antibacterial wipes gives some people a sense of security from germs, but according to one expert, getting rid of germs using antibacterial wipes is “an absolutely redundant” exercise.

Dr. Clare Lanyon, a biomedical scientist from Northumbria University, U.K., says antibacterial wipes only eliminate germs from surfaces for 20 minutes. She says antibacterial wipes and sprays are a waste of money because common bacteria and fungi can replicate and quickly recolonize back into its original mass if one single cell is left.

Antibacterial wipes vs endless wave of bacteria

Lanyon says research has found bar soap to be more effective in destroying germs because they have ingredients that can break down cell walls.

Speaking to The Telegraph after doing an experiment for the BBC program Trust Me I’m A Doctor, Lanyon found “dramatic growth” of germs in less than 12 hours after cleaning a regular kitchen surface with antibacterial wipes. Some of the these germs were potentially-harmful bacteria, which can cause food poisoning.

Lanyon reminds everyone that it’s important to always thoroughly clean up after handling raw meat. Doing so will lower the risk of spreading harmful “foreign organisms.” However, this is only effectively done by scrubbing the area with soap.

Mostly harmless

She adds, however, that most germs found in people’s homes are mostly harmless. They may even be beneficial. There have been past studies that suggest some germs can help strengthen our immunity and boost mental health.

“The point of the show is you don’t need to be so fastidious in cleaning your house from top to bottom because you can’t actually remove all bacteria and nor would we want to — exposing ourselves to everyday pathogens is good in keeping the immune system healthy and strong.”

A waste of time

Still, maintaining germ-free kitchen surfaces 24/7 is almost impossible because you can find germs in every room of the house, so they can rapidly repopulate.

“Some bacteria can divide every 20 minutes so it doesn’t take long for one cell to become one million cells — in fact it would only take around 6.6 hours,” Lanyon says.

“The research shows you can quite quickly reestablish bacteria that we have in our homes anyway. You’re never going to get your home sterile and clean — no way — and there are better things to be doing with your time.”

She suggests that you can just “Spend your time cleaning up after food that’s known to be high risk. But on a Sunday, if your kitchen is clean, don’t be cracking out the antibacterials and wiping it down because it’s an absolutely redundant exercise. The minute you walk around the kitchen you’re shedding bacteria and fungi into the area again and it’s just recolonising.”

“Personally,” she adds,” I don’t waste my time purchasing antibacterial products for the home… Our research found that a lot of antibacterial cleaning products were not as effective as good old fashioned soap and water.”

Germs like warmth and moisture

antibacterial wipes

Sponges are the dirtiest. | Image source: file photo

According to research released by NSF International, an agency that independently tests food and health science sectors, perhaps the dirtiest place for bacteria is sponges.

The researchers had 22 families swab 30 everyday household items in their homes like kitchen sinks, phones, and pet products. The results showed that in kitchens, salmonella and E.coli were present in 72% of sponges tested, as in 45% of sinks, 32% of counters, and 18% of chopping boards. They make their way through these areas by way of contaminated meat.

Meanwhile, in bathrooms, dangerous bacteria are present in 27% of toothbrush holders and 9% of faucets.

Kitchens contain more bacteria in comparison because they are warm and moist; this is where we cook and wash after all. Warmth and moisture make kitchens an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. 

But smooth, cold surfaces are less hospitable to bacteria. 

What you can do to eliminate germs

Experts recommend keeping dish cloths, sponges, and rags, clean and dry. This is to prevent them from becoming breeding grounds for bacteria.

They also recommend having separate chopping boards instead of keeping just one. That’s one for raw meat and one for food you’ll eat raw, like fruits and vegetables.

Instead of using antibacterial wipes, you can use a vinegar-and-baking-soda solution as a disinfectant, or just soapy water.

The point of the experiment isn’t to discredit antibacterial wipes in general. Granted, antibacterial wipes are appropriate in cleaning skin to wipe away dirt. But they’re never appropriate in thoroughly cleaning our homes.

Live not on antibacterial wipes alone

On 2016, the FDA announced on their website that there’s insufficient scientific evidence that proves antibacterial products are better at preventing sickness. The long-term use of these products also raise questions regarding their potential negative effects on health.

The announcement says they need more data on ingredients such as triclosan. Triclosan is a common ingredient in antibacterial products, and its long-term effects are unknown.

If we are to be fastidious about cleaning our homes, one should not rely on antibacterial wipes alone. Nothing beats soap and water, and good-old fashioned elbow grease. Even then, we should be clean, true, but there’s only so much we can do to eliminate bacteria.

 

Source: Medical Daily

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Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore