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21 June 2018
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As a growing number of probiotic cleaners enter the facilities management industry, can these ‘good bacteria’ products offer a beneficial and cost-effective alternative to current chemical cleaners? Dr Emma Saunders of Genesis Biosciences explains.

Credit: Istock

13 March 2017 | Emma Saunders 

What are probiotic-based cleaners?

Probiotic-based cleaners contain beneficial bacteria, either in live or spore form, which support the cleaning action of the product.

The use of bacteria rather than enzymes alone is key and helps to differentiate between a number of ‘bio’ cleaning products on the market. Enzymes, although effective initially, only provide a benefit to the product during initial application, working in a similar manner to the surfactants contained within cleaning products. Enzymes also have safety concerns, as they are sensitising by inhalation (cause allergic reactions) and are not always specific to the soiling type present. Bacteria, however, provide a distinct advantage in that they continually produce specific enzymes to break down the targeted soiling (substrates). The energy created through this process allows the bacteria to continue growing or replicating in the area of application, and this ensures that probiotic cleaners continue to break down the substrate long after application for long-term cleaning efficacy.

Are they better than the chemical alternatives?

Probiotic cleaners have a far smaller environmental impact as the solutions don’t have harmful pH extremes, which makes their application far safer and, unlike chemical cleaners, the manufacturing of probiotic formulations releases less harmful chemicals constituents into the local environment and ecology.

Probiotic-based cleaners can also be more effective. The target soiling is analysed and broken down into its constituents – proteins, starch, hydrocarbons and fats – and then every element is matched with a specific bacteria strain to ensure there is maximum efficacy.

Traditional cleaners’ flaws

Traditional chemical cleaners are developed to offer some immediate cleaning benefits cheaply, but the low price means that once diluted the product is only minimally effective and requires either frequent cleaning or a lot of work to get the desired results.

That’s without considering the long-term damage such products can cause – the hazards posed to employees and the wider environment.

Future developments

People are concerned about ‘superbugs’ that have arisen because of overuse of antibiotics and the development of microbial resistance to chemical biocides generally. There needs to be a new approach. Just as there are harmful bacteria, there is also an abundance of beneficial bacteria that can be used to combat biocidal resistance in the FM industry. 

Dr. Emma Saunders is general manager at Genesis Biosciences