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Smart, safe and effective: Can ‘probiotic’ based cleaners change the facilities management industry?

Author : Dr Emma Saunders, Genesis Biosciences general manager

02 February 2017

We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘good bacteria’ and with a growing number of probiotic cleaners entering the facilities management industry, can these products offer a beneficial and cost-effective alternative to current chemical cleaners?

What are probiotic based cleaners?

In short, ‘probiotic’ based cleaners contain beneficial bacteria, either in live or spore form, which support the cleaning action the product is trying to fulfil.

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 the initial application, in this respect they work 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 very 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 probiotic cleaners continue to break down the substrate long after application.

This is fundamentally what gives probiotic cleaners their long term cleaning efficacy.

What are the benefits of probiotic based cleaners?

There are a number of benefits when using probiotic based cleaners over the currently available chemical alternatives.

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

Probiotic based cleaners also provide far greater cleaning efficacy.

To create our probiotic based cleaning products, we have invested over £2.5 million and more than 35,000 man hours into research, trials and efficacy testing, to find unique Bacillus strains to address specific cleaning challenges.

From all of that research and investment, we’ve been able to create cleaning solutions that excel in tackling a specific cleaning challenge.

The target soiling is analysed and broken down into its constituents – which may include protein, starch, hydrocarbons and fats – and then every element is matched with a specific bacteria strain to ensure there is maximum efficacy.

We’re using natural science and state-of-the-art research and development practices to address 21st-century cleaning challenges and that’s a huge benefit of probiotic cleaners.

What are the drawbacks of traditional cleaners?

Traditional chemical cleaners are flawed by design. They’re developed to offer some immediate cleaning benefits at a very low price, but the low price point means that once diluted the product is only minimally effective and requires either frequent cleaning or a lot of labour to get the desired results.

That’s without considering the long-term damage those products cause when applied on surfaces, the hazard they pose to employees, and the impact they can have on the wider environment.

Probiotic based cleaners can offer safer and longer lasting cleaning protection because the beneficial bacteria in Genesis’ cleaners continue to work against target waste compounds and offers longer lasting protection against harmful bacteria which causes soiling, malodour and infection.

Are probiotic based cleaners cost-effective?

A common misconception in the cleaning and facilities management industry is that probiotic based, or biological, cleaners are far more expensive than current chemical alternatives on the market, but that view is often only considering the short-term or per/litre costs.

Dr Emma Saunders

When looking at the complete picture, probiotic based cleaners provide a much larger return on investment than traditional chemical cleaners, because they reduce labour costs and protect assets and infrastructure.

Workers don’t need to re-apply probiotic based cleaners as frequently as traditional cleaners because the bacteria continue to break down soiling long after application and the products don’t contain extreme pH levels, which can erode surfaces over time and be very expensive to repair.

Probiotic based cleaners could provide facilities management company companies with significant savings on the overall cost of their cleaning contracts.

Why probiotic cleaners are essential for the future

In addition, bacterial resistance is a huge issue that the facilities management industry is fully aware of and probiotic cleaners can play an important role in addressing this.

Now more than ever people are concerned about ‘superbugs’, which have arisen due to the historical overuse of antibiotics and the development of microbial resistance to chemical biocides generally.

A key drawback to using chemical based cleaning products stems from the fact that many are biocides.

Using a biocidal or antimicrobial sanitiser has an obvious appeal to many, particularly in the home and in health establishments.

However, the continued use of antimicrobial products is coming into question due to an increase in resistant strains of harmful bacteria.

Cleaning with chemical disinfectants can result in biocidal residues remaining on the surface after it has been wiped cleaned.

Exposure to low biocide concentrations can result in the development of resistant bacterial isolates with reduced antimicrobial susceptibility.

Because of this drawback there needs to be a new approach. One of the key messages we want to promote is that just as there are harmful bacteria, there is also an abundance of beneficial bacteria that can be used to tackle the issue of biocidal resistance within the facilities management industry.

Research is supporting probiotic claims

There’s a growing amount of research that supports the need to use beneficial bacteria to tackle harmful bacteria.

In scientific studies, probiotic products have been shown to drastically reduce the number of harmful bacteria through different biochemical mechanisms including competitive exclusion, whereby the beneficial bacteria out compete the harmful bacteria for the same resources, or through the production of bio-surfactants, which have potent anti-microbial activity against the harmful bacteria.

Trials in a hospital in Italy carried out by the Università di Ferrara showed the effects of probiotic cleaning as compared to conventional chemical disinfection on four indicator microorganisms:

Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas species and Candida albicans.

This independent study clearly showed that in the medium to long term a biological treatment actually provides better control of harmful bacteria compared to disinfectant chemicals.

What does the future hold for probiotic based cleaners?

It’s important that we change the perceptions that facilities management contractors have of probiotic based cleaners.

New research and the results we’ve delivered for clients prove that probiotic based cleaning products carry a huge number of benefits over harsher chemical based products.

Traditional chemical cleaners aren’t fit for modern cleaning demands and by providing long-term cost savings, greater protection for end-users, and supporting environmental policies, probiotic based cleaners have an important role to play in the facilities management industry in 2017 and beyond.

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