Probiotic Cleaners: A Solution to Soil and Groundwater Contamination
Beneficial Microbiomes Impact
How often do we stop to consider the broader effects of using disinfectants in our homes, workplaces and on our farms? When we clean, we typically think of wiping out all of the germs on surfaces of our homes. Often, this means a weekly dose of bleach or other strong cleaner washed down the drains. However, the effects of these chemicals work their ways down the drains, into septic systems and groundwater, and have profound impacts on beneficial microbiomes.
Similarly, agricultural operations need to maintain a high level of cleanliness to reduce animal mortality and improve overall herd or flock health. This usually means using chemicals with active ingredients such as potassium monopersulfate, a strong antimicrobial agent. These chemicals eventually wash out into the surrounding soil, where their antimicrobial effects decimate soil microbiomes as well. In addition, these products are unsafe to inhale, making it potentially hazardous for farm workers. With the recent movement towards regenerative agriculture, there is a need for cleaning options that are safe for soils, but also effective for cleaning.
Probiotic, or microbial based cleaners, offer an elegant solution. The good bacteria in these products are derived from soil - Lactobacillus species. They can safely be used on organic farms, with no danger of disturbing valuable soil microbiomes. In homes, probiotic cleaners can be rinsed down drains into septic systems, without harming microorganisms that are required for proper septic functioning. Even natural cleaners, such as essential oil-based cleaners, can harm septic systems and clog the drain field. And the best news, probiotic cleaners actually work! Many natural or home-made cleaners may be a safer alternative to disinfectants, but they don't actually get the job done. Even vinegar, a popular homemade cleaner, has a limited ability to clean surfaces.
Probiotic cleaners work in an entirely different way. Millions of good bacteria are added to the surface, in the form of a stabilized probiotic ferment. Once on the surface, these microscopic superheroes get to work. They feed on the invisible grime layer that is present everywhere in our environments (called "biofilm"). Biofilm is the habitat for pathogens - where bad bacteria and viruses live and reproduce. The probiotics in microbial-based cleaners begin to feed on biofilm, and produce enzymes that break it down. As they do this, they effectively remove the habitat and food source for dangerous bacteria and viruses. This process continues for 3-5 days, as the biofilm feeds the probiotics, and they disrupt the living space for pathogens. The end result? A reduction in bad bacteria and viruses in our environments, with the use of natural and beneficial bacterial species. When these probiotics are washed into drains, groundwater, soil, or even inhaled, they are completely inert and safe.
It seems counter-intuitive....using bacteria to clean may not seem logical at first. However, probiotic cleaners represent a paradigm shift in cleaning. With applications in homes, businesses, transportation, hospitals, and agriculture, the concept of microbial cleaning is poised to become the solution to effective and safe cleaning in the future.