View Full Version : Are anti-bacterials just a scam to sell more detergent?

06-06-2001, 10:37 PM
In recent years Iím sure most people would have noticed the trend in household item advertising towards Antibacterial versions of products. Off the top of my head I can think of Antibacterial floor cleaner, cling wrap, dishwashing liquid, lunch bags, laundry detergent.

My question is how clean do we really need to be? Are our homes swarming in bugs that will immobilise us unless we bleach every surface to buggery? I have always assumed that companies just exaggerated the threat to sell products.

We have been living perfectly well without these products. Has the rate of illness due to household contamination fallen dramatically due to the anti-bact craze or is it all like I suspected, unnecessary?

Bob Scene
06-06-2001, 11:07 PM
Our entire culture is nothing but a scam to sell more detergent.

06-07-2001, 01:14 AM
Constant cleaning only reduces the challenges to your immune system. I feel it is important to expose yourself to low levels of bacteria and the like to maintain good health.

In other threads at these boards I've covered my own theories that too clean of an environment can lead to a compromised immune system. The link that I wanted to post will not work so here are some excerpts from the study and its report in the famous British medical journal Lancet:


Dust bacteria may help stop asthma
By David Derbyshire

"A BACTERIAL by-product found in household dust and dirt may protect babies from asthma later in life, a new study suggests. Researchers at the National Jewish Medical and Research Centre in Denver say that exposure to endotoxin, a substance produced by micro-organisms in soil and waste, may help prime the immune system."

"The finding backs up the "hygiene theory" of asthma and allergies - that the preoccupation with cleanliness is partly to blame for the growing incidence of the disease. Allergies were rare 150 years ago. Today, one in seven British children is being treated for asthma."

"High standards of cleanliness mean that infants are not being exposed to the microbacteria and toxins that could help the immune system develop."


Search for the Science News cover article, "Germs of Endearment" for more information. I remain adamant that too many people are sterilizing their environments with all of the new antibacterial cleaners. Such a reduction in challenges to the immune system do not bode well for human disease resistance.

06-07-2001, 01:54 AM
"Anti-bacterial" products frequently do nothing at all (except fleece the consumer). This is a good thing. When they do work, they kill helpful bacteria as well as harmful, and they are strongly suspected of contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibacterial products for household use are a scam, and a potentially harmful scam at that.

Soap and warm water will keep the average home clean enough. If you're worried about catching colds (which are caused by viruses, not bacteria) and other illnesses, the best thing you can do is to wash your hands well and often, with plain soap and lots of warm water.

06-07-2001, 07:40 AM
I agree, from a theoretical point of view as well as practical experience.

I thought I'd try out the antibacterial washing-up (dishwashing) liquid, during the eight weeks or so that the bottle lasted, I had to be prescribed antibiotics for seriously infected hangnails no less than three times, I also had about half a dozen hangnails that didn't need medical attention. It was only after I switched back to the ordinary product and the problem vanished, that I made the connection. My feelings about this:

Antibacterial chemicals kill benign bacteria as well as harmful ones(which may not actually be present in sufficient numbers to worry about) - this means that your immune system isn't getting a workout and starts attacking other things such as pollen and housedust out of sheer boredom (yes I know) - this is becoming established by a number of studies.
Antibacterial chemicals will kill off your skin's natural 'flora', leaving it as a sterile culture medium ripe for different, harmful bacteria to rapidly colonise.
Hi Opal
Mammals are adapted to living in a dirty environment, hygiene is a fairly modern concept and hyper-cleanliness is very recent. Not that I'm saying doctors shouldn't wash up before surgery and all, that would be stupid, but for the everyday person, a bit of benign dirt isn't going to harm at all and may in fact help.
IMHO there needs to be a distinction between medical hygiene, food hygiene and HyperCleanliness, most of the food-poisoning bacteria will be harmful no matter what, and there's no such thing as a small and beneficial dose of gangrene.
I'd be interested to hear if anyone has experienced a sudden onset of foot or body odour after starting to use antibacterial soaps or other similar products, as I suspect that this could be another consequence of point 2 above.

06-07-2001, 07:47 AM
Scam? Not in the truest sense. I imagine that those detergents actually do fight germs better than other detergents.

Is this extra protection absolutely necessary for common household use? Probably not. But if people will buy it, then the manufacturors are glad to make it.

So the problem is not so much that the public is being scammed as that the public does not understand where to draw the line in keeping things "clean".

06-07-2001, 07:49 AM
Oh, and having an antibacterial chopping board isn't a substitute for having an ordinary one and washing it properly, although you can bet that's what's happenning out there right now.

06-07-2001, 07:52 AM
Originally posted by Mangetout


06-07-2001, 08:00 AM
1. Stop putting "Hi Opal!" as the third in a list of more than three. Opal's assertion is that it is stupid to make a list of two; the salutation is to correct the defect.

2. While I agree that hyper-cleanliness is silly (product of too much information), the assertion that anti-bacterial products and efforts at cleanliness are making our immune systems less-developed, and that this is a bad thing, seems over blown. All kids end up in contact with enough germs and such to choke a horse, and no one manages such a clean house that the environment is bacteria or virus free, to say nothing about going outside. The benefits of cleanliness are quite well established, and it would be difficult to assert that we should simply be less clean to be more healthy. The current spate of diseases such as asthma has more to do with awareness of the disease and worries about needing treatment than it does actual increased incidence.

3. Hi Opal!

06-07-2001, 08:02 AM
I see everyone's covered the main points. I'll just add my rant.

The thing is, that the majority of the people do not use them correctly anyway. I was at my friend's house, and she had an anti-bac surface spray. The instructions went something like this:

To use as an anti-bac, saturate surface and leave for 10 minutes. To use as a regular cleaner, spray on and wipe clean.

I'd reckon it would be pretty safe to say that, under those instructions most people would be using them as a regular cleaner anyway, and not get the 'protection' they think they're getting. IMO those products are a waste of money.

As an aside, from what I remember from microbio lectures (could be wrong), the only reliable way to totally sterilise a surface is a 70% alcohol solution, application time of 10 mins.

06-07-2001, 09:10 AM
Originally posted by DSYoungEsq
1. Stop putting "Hi Opal!" as the third in a list of more than three. Opal's assertion is that it is stupid to make a list of two; the salutation is to correct the defect.

Yes, I know about that
Yeah, whatever, but that was a long time ago and the whole thing has evolved - move on; get 'outside the box' a bit why don't you?.
Hi Opal!
So, no I won't stop.