If this was a comedy website or perhaps a “life hack” blog, then this article would be about how your sponge is dirtier than your toilet seat, or that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s, or some other rubbish that shows a dramatic lack of scientific knowledge. The real myth of disinfectants however is that in everyday life they are a good idea.
So, what does that even mean? Everyone knows that germs are bad for you right? Well actually no; the truth is that germs (bad or pathogenic bacteria) make up only a tiny percentage (less than 1% of the species of bacteria around us), and that even then the majority of bacterial badness only occurs when the normal order of things is thrown out of whack. Don’t get me wrong, there are some situations where disinfectants are a great idea – cleaning wounds, or in situations where someone is already compromised (sick in a hospital for example). However, in everyday life it is far more important to leave the bacteria to look after themselves. Most people have heard of the gut microbiome by now, but the truth is that microbiomes are everywhere, on our skin, in the soil, even on our bench tops. For the most part the good bacteria keep the bad in check but sometimes the bad bacteria get a foothold and that’s when things start to go wrong for us. Often that foothold happens because, just like antibiotics, we use disinfectants too much. Just like antibiotics, pathogenic bacteria can become disinfectant resistant. So, when you wipe down the bench 20 times a day what you are doing is making it harder and harder for the good bacteria to keep it all under control. No matter how hard the bad bacteria try they can’t develop a resistance to being eaten by good bacteria, but if the good bacteria aren’t there because of disinfectants then they can thrive.
This has become such a big problem that the FDA recently banned the marketing of antibacterial soaps for domestic use as they provided no benefit and have been linked to negative health outcomes.
So, here’s a tip – if you are having constant stomach issues you might want to ditch the antibacterial soaps and toothpastes. Those antibacterial agents are almost certainly getting into your diet screwing with your guts.