Probiotic cleaners versus chemicals

05 May 2017

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘good bacteria’ but can ‘probiotic’ based cleaners offer a sustainable, beneficial and cost-effective alternative to current chemical cleaners? Dr. Emma Saunders, general manager at Genesis Biosciences, explains why her company believes so

What are probiotic based cleaners?

In short, ‘probiotic’ based cleaners contain beneficial bacteria, either in live or spore form, which support the products’ cleaning action.

The use of bacteria rather than enzymes alone is key and helps differentiate between other ‘bio’ cleaning products on the market. Enzymes, although effective initially, only provide a benefit during the initial application, working in a similar manner to the surfactants contained within cleaning products. 

Bacteria, however, provide a distinct advantage in that they continually produce specific enzymes to break down the targeted soiling (substrates).

The energy created through this process allows bacteria to continue replicating in the area of application, which ensures probiotic cleaners continue breaking down the substrate after application. This gives probiotic cleaners their long term cleaning efficacy.    

What are the benefits of probiotic based cleaners?

Environmentally, probiotic cleaners have a much smaller environmental impact as they don’t have harmful pH extremes, making their application much safer and, unlike chemical cleaners, their manufacture releases less harmful chemical constituents into the local environment and ecology.

Probiotic cleaners also offer greater cleaning efficacy than traditional alternatives for two reasons. The products contain unique Bacillus strains that excel in breaking down specific target waste compounds that cause soiling, malodour and infection. The strains used have been tested thoroughly to ensure they provide maximum efficacy. Secondly, because probiotic cleaners contain live bacteria that thrive and grow while breaking down target waste compounds, the products offer longer lasting protection.

Are probiotic based cleaners cost-effective?

When looking at the complete picture, probiotic based cleaners provide a much larger return on investment than traditional chemical cleaners, because they reduce labour costs and protect assets and infrastructure.

Workers don’t need to re-apply probiotic based cleaners as frequently because the bacteria continue to break down soiling long after application and the products don’t contain extreme pH levels, which can erode surfaces over time and be costly to repair. 

Why probiotic cleaners are essential for the future

Probiotic cleaners can play an important role in addressing the challenge of bacterial resistance. Cleaning with chemical disinfectants can result in biocidal residues remaining on the surface after it is cleaned. Exposure to low biocide concentrations can result in the development of resistant bacterial isolates with reduced antimicrobial susceptibility. 

Because of this drawback there needs to be a new approach. One of the key messages we want to promote is that just as there are harmful bacteria, there is also an abundance of beneficial bacteria that can be used to tackle the issue of biocidal resistance.

Research is supporting probiotic claims

There’s a growing amount of research that supports the need to use beneficial bacteria to tackle harmful bacteria. In scientific studies, probiotic products have been shown to drastically reduce the number of harmful bacteria through different biochemical mechanisms including competitive exclusion, whereby the beneficial bacteria out compete the harmful bacteria for the same resources, or through the production of bio-surfactants, which have potent anti-microbial activity against the harmful bacteria.

A recent study in Italy carried out by the Università di Ferrara, showed that in the medium to long term a biological treatment provided better control of harmful bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas species and Candida albicans) compared to disinfectant chemicals in a hospital. 

What does the future hold for probiotic based cleaners?

It’s important that we change the perceptions that facilities management contractors have of probiotic based cleaners. Traditional chemical cleaners aren’t fit for modern cleaning demands and by providing long-term cost savings, greater protection for end-users and supporting environmental policies, probiotic based cleaners have an important role to play in the facilities management industry in 2017 and beyond.