Cleaning for Health

Personal hygiene and regular housecleaning are essential to good health. Frequent handwashing is key to preventing the spread of microorganisms (also known as microbes or germs) that cause many common illnesses. And regular cleaning of surfaces in the home removes dirt and food particles on which germs can grow.

Personal cleansing and household cleaning products that contain an active antibacterial or antimicrobial ingredient provide extra protection against germs, including those that may cause disease. That’s because their active ingredient helps them go beyond simple cleaning to kill or control the growth of microorganisms. (The words antibacterial and antimicrobial are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, however, antimicrobial means activity against a wide variety of microorganisms, while antibacterial refers to activity against bacteria.) Together with good cleaning habits and practices, these products play an important role in helping to prevent germs from spreading.

Some Facts About Germs and Disease

  • Germs are most often spread by hands through person-to-person contact.
  • Germs can enter our bodies through the mouth, nose, eyes and breaks in the skin without our even knowing we’ve been infected.
  • Poor personal hygiene by food handlers is the second leading cause of food-borne illness.
  • Germs can be transferred from inanimate surfaces to hands and vice-versa.
  • Some germs can live on dry surfaces (such as toys) for several hours and moist surfaces (like bathroom sinks) for up to three days.
  • Salmonella┬ácan survive freezing and can survive on dry surfaces for at least 24 hours.
  • The average kitchen dishcloth can contain 4 billion living germs.

Benefits of Handwashing and Antibacterial Soaps

Handwashing is recognized by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the most important means of preventing germs from spreading.

Washing hands with plain soap initially removes some germs, but germs left on the hand can quickly regrow and multiply.

Washing hands with an antibacterial soap results in reduced bacterial growth on the skin than when washing with plain soap, because a very small amount of the antibacterial ingredient remains on the skin after rinsing to control the growth of bacteria.

Dishwashing liquids that are also antibacterial hand cleansers provide protection to the skin when they’re used as one would use a liquid hand soap. About 65% of consumers on occasion use a hand dishwashing liquid to wash their hands at the kitchen sink.

Benefits of Disinfecting Household Surfaces

  • Regular cleaning products do a good job of removing soil, but only disinfectants or disinfectant cleaners (also known as antibacterial cleaners) kill the germs that can cause many illnesses.
  • Surfaces like kitchen and bathroom counters, door knobs, toilet seats and children’s toys may be contaminated with bacteria even when they’re not visibly soiled.
  • Germs can be spread to other surfaces on dirty cleaning cloths and sponges.
  • Products that claim to kill germs must meet efficacy requirements and guidelines established by Health Canada before they are approved. Approved products receive a Drug Identification Number (DIN), which is displayed on the product’s label.
  • In order for surfaces to be effectively disinfected, the instructions on product labels need to be followed carefully.