Last week a man emailed me about how to kill bacteria in his home. Someone visited him who once had MRSA and he wanted to do everything he could to protect himself from becoming infected. He asked lots of questions about cleaning and MRSA disinfecting of suspect surfaces and objects in his home and how to get rid of any bacteria he might contact.
While cleaning your home is certainly an important part of controlling and preventing infections, waging an all-out war on bacteria could actually do you more harm than good.
We’ve all been programed to believe that we must eradicate bacteria from our homes. Companies that make soaps and cleaners would have us believe we need antimicrobial soaps and strong chemical disinfectants to create cleaner kitchens and bathrooms and to kill any and all bacterial around us.
The trouble is, not all bacteria are bad. And some kinds of bacteria are necessary for your very survival. By waging an all-out war against bacteria, the "good" bacteria you need to survive get killed along with the "bad" bacteria that cause infections.
Beneficial bacteria live on your skin, in your environment and in the food you eat. You actually have 3 or 4 pounds of "good" bacteria living in your gut, helping you digest food, making vitamins for your body and supporting your immune system. Other helpful bacteria live on your skin, helping to ward off the dangerous bacteria you encounter every day.
Chemical disinfectants and soaps containing antimicrobial agents kill off the beneficial bacteria you need to fight off infections. Some antimicrobial agents have even been linked to the problem of bacterial resistance. Toxic cleaning products can also wreak havoc with your immune system, cause allergies and dermatitis and may even lead to asthma, corneal damage and nerve damage. This kind of collateral damage is the last thing you need if you’re struggling with an infection.
The best way to avoid collateral damage while cleaning is to use products that target the "bad" bacteria while leaving the good bacteria and your immune system alone. Plus, there are other factors that play an even bigger role than cleaning does in reducing your risk of infection.
A balanced approach
Last week I mentioned keeping things in perspective is important for controlling MRSA in hotel rooms. The same holds true for your home. Rather than becoming a "germ-o-phobe", it’s better to clean and disinfected using a more balanced approach.
There’s no way to completely kill MRSA and Staph bacteria on every possible surface and object inside your home – nor should you try to. A more balanced approach is to disinfect high-touch surfaces with a safe disinfectant and to practice good hygiene using natural soaps and sanitizers. I prefer silver-based disinfectants and using hand sanitizers that contain essential oils. And good old fashioned soap and water is still the most effective way to wash your hands.
From a larger perspective, the strength of your immune system is even more important than how well you clean. You are exposed to all kinds of bacteria every day. It’s your immune system that’s your first line of defense against "bad" bacteria you may encounter. So focusing on your immune system is every bit as important as your cleaning and hygiene regimen.
To your best health,
Microbiologist and Natural Health Expert