Cleaning products linked to antibiotic resistance: Use plant-based non-toxic cleaners instead, urge experts
03/18/2021 // Divina Ramirez // Views

Millions of people around the globe use chemical disinfectants and other similar cleaning products to rid their homes of disease-causing bacteria. However, scientists find that the use of these cleaners can cause bacteria to develop resistance to chemicals meant to kill them.

This is because chemical cleaners leave active residues that continue to kill bacteria -- but not all of them. These surviving bacteria then reproduce, and the resulting strains come equipped with special defense mechanisms that make them stronger against antibacterial products.

Chemical cleaners linked to antibiotic resistance

Contrary to marketing claims, chemical cleaners like antibacterial soaps and disinfectants do not have any real edge over plain soap. In fact, experts believe that these products are unnecessary because plain soap alone gets rid of up to 99.4 percent of bacteria on human skin.

Although seemingly harmless, the continued overuse and misuse of chemical cleaning products are a cause for great concern among scientists. That's because bacteria might become resistant to those antibiotics commonly used by physicians to treat infections. Eventually, the resulting resistant bacteria may become “superbugs.”

In the medical field, superbugs are bacteria, fungi or viruses that have become highly resistant to several kinds of antibiotics. They can also cause infections that are difficult to treat.

Additionally, the use of chemical cleaning products in millions of households has led to the presence of several toxic substances in the environment.


For instance, the antibacterial chemicals triclosan and triclocarban can be found in 60 percent of all rivers and streams in the U.S., according to environmental scientist Rolf Halden from Arizona State University.

Homemade cleaning products

On top of antibiotic resistance, dangerous chemicals in common household cleaners may lead to a greater risk of serious respiratory conditions like asthma and potentially life-threatening diseases like cancer.

Fortunately, there are many pantry staples, such as vinegar and baking soda, that can safely double as natural and effective cleaners for everyday use. Listed below are household cleaners made with natural ingredients:

Scented all-purpose cleaner

This all-purpose cleaner helps remove hard water stains, clean trash bins and eliminate smudges on walls and other hard surfaces.

To make this cleaner, pour one part white vinegar and one part water into a spray bottle. To mask the scent of the vinegar, add lemon rind and fresh rosemary sprigs. Shake and let infuse for a week before using.

Kitchen cleaner and deodorizer

This particular cleaner is ideal for ridding the refrigerator of stale odors. It can also be used to shine sinks and other stainless steel appliances or surfaces in the kitchen. To make this cleaner, combine a quart of water with four tablespoons of baking soda. Work the paste into surfaces that need cleaning.

DIY glass cleaner

For cleaning mirrors, windows and other glass surfaces, pour two cups of water, 1/2 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol 70 percent concentration and two drops of orange essential oil into a spray bottle. The solution should not be used on hot, sunny days to avoid streaking.

DIY brass cleaner

To clean brass handles, fixtures and surfaces, dampen a kitchen sponge with vinegar or lemon juice. Sprinkle salt onto the sponge. Using the sponge, rub surfaces that need cleaning. Rinse with water and dry using a soft, clean cloth.

DIY marble cleaner

To clean marble surfaces, pour two cups of warm water and two drops of mild dishwashing liquid into a spray bottle. Spray surfaces that need cleaning and rub with a sponge until clean. Rinse with water to remove soapy residue before buffing with a dry, clean cloth.

Natural heavy-duty scrub

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral typically used as a laundry detergent. It can also be used as a scrub for removing rust stains on porcelain surfaces. Just dip half a lemon into borax powder and scrub as usual.

Chemical cleaners are associated with antibiotic resistance and serious conditions like cancer. To avoid these health issues, stick to soap, rubbing alcohol and homemade cleaners made with natural ingredients. (Related: How to make DIY antibacterial hand sanitizer using non-toxic ingredients.)

Read more articles about the long-term impact of using chemical cleaners at

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