Antibacterial Use at Home

Antibacterial products are increasingly being used in the home, from cleaning products to makeup and pillowcases. But, are they necessary? Are there any concerns with using them and are there any benefits to using them?

There are millions of good bacteria that live on our bodies that could be washed away when using antibacterial products. These good bacteria protect us against infections caused by the bad bacteria and keep bad bacteria from having room to multiply.

Some studies have shown that the overuse of antibacterial products along with over-prescribing of antibiotics may lead to the development of multi-resistant organisms (MROs). Multi-resistant organisms are strains of bacteria that have developed resistance to a variety of antibiotics and disinfectants creating a ‘superbug’.

Are antibacterial products more effective?

Researchers have found little difference between using plain soap or antibacterial soap in a home or community setting and there is no added benefit of using antimicrobial soap in preventing infections. Similarly, antibacterial ingredients added to makeup, hygiene products, and surfaces of children’s toys have no added benefit to protect against the common cold or the flu. Moreover, some antimicrobial chemicals (such as Triclosan) are harmful to plants and animals when the chemicals are washed down the drain. Triclosan also kills good bacteria and can cause antibiotic resistance over time.

The overuse of antibacterial products in the home or community can compromise the effectiveness of the active ingredients used to disinfect operation rooms and hospital equipment, which may lead to increased risk of infections when seeking care. 

What kinds of household products may be labelled as antibacterial, antimicrobial or antiseptic?

  • Soaps and cleaners
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Window cleaners
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Toothpastes
  • Mouthwashes
  • Facial cleaners
  • Makeup and makeup brushes 
  • Pillowcases
  • Garbage bags and plastic wrap 

What are alternatives to antibacterial products?

Plain soap or detergent and water (any temperature) are the only tools you need to ensure effective cleaning and hand washing. Below you can find resources on helpful natural alternatives to disinfect surfaces if need be; otherwise, plain soap and water are just as effective!

Most healthy households can avoid the use of antibacterial cleaning products. Should you have any health concerns please consult with your doctor.

Safe Food Handling

BC Centre for Disease Control's tips and guidelines on safe food handling to reduce risk of contamination and food poisoning.

Green Cleaning Product Recipes

The Queen of Green has developed 9 easy cleaning recipes for everyday cleaning.

Alternative Non-Toxic Disinfectants

The David Suzuki Foundation have provided alternative non-toxic disinfecting solutions for at-home use.

Parent Resources on Antimicrobial Product Use

Information for parents from Canada's paediatricians on the use of antimicrobial products in the home.

Potential Adverse Health Effects on Children

Research from the University of Alberta suggests a causal relationship between frequent disinfectant use and childhood gut microbiome change and weight gain.

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