Spring Cleaning Carnival: Get the Antibacterials Out

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SPRING CLEANING BUTTON Welcome, spring! If you’re not from Michigan, spring may be a season that speaks of flowers, sunshine, and green leaves on trees. Around here, it’s just confusion, all the time. Case in point: Thursday, we were easily outside in short sleeves. Saturday we woke up to snow on the ground. What season is this?

Even here, we are starting to get more sunshine than during the dreary winter months. As soon as it hits 40 degrees outside, folks are putting their car windows down, and by 50 or 60, we’re opening our front doors for a while just to catch some rays through the storm windows. It gets me motivated to weed out some clutter in all areas of my life.

Thank you for visiting the Spring Cleaning: Get the Junk Out! Carnival for our first link-up opportunity: get the antibacterials out. You can see all the topics here and a list of the star-studded hostesses from all over the blogosphere.

My Story: Why I Talk About Soap

I’ve been enamored with soap and how it works ever since a science class in college, where I conducted independent research on whether antibacterial soap is more effective than regular soap. I wrote about the experiment and findings yesterday; it’s a must read if you have a closet science geek in you!soap

I think being clean is important, don’t get me wrong. I wash my kids’ hands after we get home from library storytime and before we eat…most of the time. I don’t freak out if I forget though. I use a shopping cart cover and cringe if a little boy sneezes on my daughter’s head. On the other hand, academically I know that a little exposure to bacteria will only make our immune systems stronger, and we’ll survive a cold, or even (*tremble, shudder*) a throw-up bug. The healthy immune system line is a great excuse for not dusting regularly, by the way. 😉  (Photo by KatieW)

Even more importantly, I understand that our bodies are host to literally trillions of good bacteria that keep us ticking. If we get in the business of killing microscopic living things, we had better know what we’re doing. I do know what antibacterial soap does, and I’m not happy about it.

The Facts: Triclosan and Bleach Don’t Just Kill Bacteria

In case you haven’t been around since my very first post (yes, I talked about soap in my first post), you might not recognize the term triclosan. It’s the active ingredient in most antibacterial soaps on the market.

How It Works: Triclosan kills bacteria NOT by brute force (think nuclear bomb) but by working within the bacteria to coax them not to reproduce (think of a disease). It has two major issues:

  1. It kills both good and bad bacteria, a problem for our healthy flora.
  2. It contributes to “bacterial resistance” because bacteria who are naturally resistant to the chemical (just like some people don’t get certain diseases even though they’re exposed to them) survive, then reproduce, creating a bacterial population that looks like the dreaded “super bugs” on which antibiotics and antibacterial soaps won’t have any effect. NOTE:  This is an edit to the original post, in which I claimed that bacteria can learn to fight against us. Bacteria can’t learn and can’t change their genes. Here is a guest post explaining more about how superbugs happen from my biologist reader at Finding Joy in my Kitchen who pointed out my error. Thank you, SnoWhite!

For regular daily handwashing, it’s just overkill. Soap and water, as I discovered yesterday, works just great. Our Creator provided us with ways to be clean and healthy before laboratories were ever invented. Want more science behind triclosan and some other issues its been linked to? Read this post: The Harmful Effects of Triclosan.

What About Bleach? Bleach is more of a nuclear bomb killer, destroying all image life in its path. It’s not as likely to participate in causing bacterial resistance, so it’s a better choice than triclosan when you need to kill bacteria. However, it’s becoming pretty widely accepted that exposure to run-of-the-mill germs is good for us.

Bleach, however, also affects the human nervous system. When you’re pregnant, I bet you get your husband to clean the toilet, right? We just know those fumes aren’t good for us. My friend who sells Shaklee products shared an incredible story of a boy working on schoolwork in his bedroom while his mom did laundry with bleach directly below him. As the fumes came through the ventilation system, he lost his focus and his handwriting visibly worsened.

Did you know the indoor air quality in many homes is worse than the outdoor air quality because of the cleaners we use? It’s just not something I’m willing to mess around with on a regular basis. I keep one bottle around for very, very select times, like these two gems.

Read more about Why Bleach is Bad for You.

The Bottom Line: Triclosan and bleach don’t just kill bacteria, they might hurt you and your family, too.

Take Action: Get the Antibacterials Out

72% of the soap purchased for household use is antibacterial. Gaaaaah! Let’s get that number down closer to zero, which is how many households need antibacterial soap.

Baby StepIncrease your consciousness about where triclosan and bleach are hiding.

Take a walk around your house, or just read a bottle or two as you brush your teeth or do dishes. Look for “triclosan” on your household products (aka triclocarbon in bar soaps and microban in products). You’ll find it in almost every soap or commercial cleaner that claims to be “anti-bacterial”, unless you already have some natural soaps in your house. You’ll also find it in some sneaky places, like toothpaste, antiperspirant, mouthwash, some waterless hand sanitizers (more on those later), shoe inserts, dishtowels and washcloths, sponges, shower curtains, and cutting boards.

You can bet a cleaner has chlorine bleach in it if it warns you not to mix with ammonia. Plus, you can probably smell it.

Understanding how pervasive these chemicals are is the first step to eradicating them from your house.

Making Strides: Commit to finding product alternatives without triclosan and avoid buying any more products with the chemical.image

I have a pretty extensive list of possible triclosan hiding spots and easy alternatives here. For handsoap, you can simply buy regular soap, often labeled “moisturizing” or some such name so they don’t look less important than the bottles touting the “antibacterial” label. *raspberries!*  Be more frugal by using a foaming pump and even more green by just using a few Tablespoons of castille soap in your pump (directions to fill the pumps here).

Once you know where the antibacs are, you can start to replace them one by one with safer alternatives.

Leap of FaithGet rid of all bleach and triclosan by using natural cleaners or making your own.

image I use three simple products to clean just about everything in my house, except for my dishwasher detergent. Believe me, I tried homemade versions – want to see my failures? I’m a big fan of Biokleen Dishwasher Detergent now!

You can make your own homemade cleaners easily and even cheaper than buying the toxic ones. Here’s an easy chart of all green cleaning alternatives featured at KS.

Take it one step at a time, and decide for yourself whether it’s wise to just use up what you have first and slowly switch over to natural products or jump in with both feet and Freecycle your conventional cleaners.

Next Week:  Get the Gluten Out

image Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free is hosting next week’s topic. I’m very intrigued and looking forward to learning more about gluten and how our body processes it, so interested in fact that I’m going gluten free for Holy Week. (Eek!)  I’ve never done anything like this before, but I think it’s the best way for me to (a) remember what grains are GF and which ones aren’t, and (b) walk a mile in the shoes of someone newly diagnosed with celiac disease (gluten intolerance).

You can see all the hostesses and future topics here – plug them into your calendar!

Bonus: A Giveaway!

Cleanwell has offered to share their triclosan-free (yet still antibacterial, for those of you who can’t release their fear of germs – I understand!) cleaning solutions with one lucky participant. The winner will receive their choice of a starter pack with a hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, and handsoap OR their new foaming hand sanitizer. I’m pretty excited to try that one, because their original is too difficult for little hands to squirt, and I want my son to have an easy way to wash his hands (sometimes) after going potty. Better mostly clean than not at all when you’re a preschool-aged boy in a rush!

How to enter:

  1. Link a related blog post to the carnival.
  2. Comment with your thoughts on getting the anti-bacs out – will you accept one of the levels of action?
  3. Get an extra entry if you’re a subscriber to KS, either via email subscription or reader feed. Be sure to leave an extra comment!

Contest will end Friday, March 26th at 11:59 p.m. EST. Winner will be chosen using random.org and announced Monday here at KS. Contest open to U.S. residents only.

SAVE: Use the code CWAA5 to save 15% on CleanWell products, including CleanWell’s Natural Hand Sanitizer, until 12/31/2012.

Your Turn: Link Up About Antibacs Here!

What can I link up?

  • tips for good handwashing (or washing other things)
  • recipes for homemade cleaners (bleach and ammonia free)
  • product reviews of cleaners without harsh chemicals
  • your story of transitioning to greener cleaners
  • questions you have about soaps or antibacterial products
  • research or information you’ve found about triclosan or bleach
  • ideas for helping others make a transition
  • anything else related to getting rid of the antibacterial products in your home – be creative! Old posts are welcome, but it would be great if you mentioned the carnival in a new post so your readers can find us, too.

Etiquette for linking:

  1. This linky allows you to link to your homepage AND the permalink for your carnival post. Be sure to leave a permalink, along with a little description.
  2. Please link back to this post. You can copy this line into a blog editor if you’d like:
    I’m participating in Kitchen Stewardship’s Spring Cleaning Carnival, Get the Antibacterials Out.
  3. If you refresh the page to see new entries, click “cancel” when a box asks you to resend information, or else your entry will come through twice.


Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship My carnival post You can write a brief (250 chars) synopsis here to tempt readers to visit your post!

Kelly the Kitchen Kop OUR ENVIRONMENT IS TOO CLEAN! Is our world too sterile? Do we let our kids play in the dirt enough?

Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free Sanitizing in Commercial Kitchens Why you want your favorite restaurant to use sanitizers - a look at why it's so important.

Shauna @ His frugal servant Anti-antibacterial other environmentally friendly and homemade cleaning products we use

Mandi @ Organizing Your Way Easy, Natural Bathroom Cleaners and Tips More natural cleaners that you can make at home for your bathroom!

Katie @ Simple Organic Good Bacteria, Bad Bacteria How to wash your hands and be gentle on the earth.

LuAnn @ Back Porchervations Spring Cleaning Carnival - Week 1 - Tuesday Breaking it down into small enough baby steps for the easily overwhelmed - like me.

Emily @ Live Renewed Change Your Mind About Antibacterial My thoughts on Antibacterials - how and why to avoid them in your home.

Heavenly Homemakers Unclogging Drains without Bleach or Drano! Create a volcano in your drain using vinegar and baking soda...unclog your drain SAFELY!!

Kat @ Kat's Food Blog How to Clean (SCD Legally) How I clean my house and myself with only SCD legal food based products.

Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama Baby Steps Around the House Top 3 Steps to cleaning your home in a safer way

Anna @ Frugal For You Getting Anti-Bacterial Products Out Reflections of a newly informed anti-bacteria lover.

Lisa @ Condo Blues A Bleach Free Way to Kill Bathroom Mold and Mildew How to stop mold and mildew from growing in moist bathroom air without resorting to nasty chemical removers.

[email protected] What is Soap? The truth about soap.

Yancy @ A Green Spell Green Spring Cleaning Homemade cleaning products

Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama Baby Steps Around the House Top 3 Steps to cleaning your home in a safer way

Beth Terry @ Fake Plastic Fish Spring Clean Carnival: Get the Antibacterials Out... Of Your Plastic! Many of us have seen hand soaps and household cleaners that contain antibacterial chemicals like Triclosan. But did you know many plastic food containers do too?

Lenetta @ Nettacow How to Wash a Toddler\'s Hands Keeping the little ones all clean and shiny!

Doc Mock@ Green Living for Better Health Antibacterial Soap Do you really need to use antibacterial soap? Does it protect your family more than conventional soap, or is it harming them?

Micaela @ Mindful Momma For The Love of Vinegar...Top 15 Ways to Use it in the Home Ditch the antibacterials and start cleaning with good old vinegar!!

Claire @ Saving Money Plan Spring Cleaning: Do You Use Vinegar? Do you use vinegar as a cleaning agent?

Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up Can Washing Your Hands Lead to Infertility? The effects of triclosan on fertility

Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green Disinfect Without Pesticides Great options help you to disinfect you home naturally.

Amber@He who watches over us does not slumber I’m participating in Kitchen Stewardship’s Spring Cleaning Carnival, Get the Antibacterials Out. Also a GiveAway I am having a giveaway while washing down my pantry shelves with soap and water. Come on over and find out it is triclosan free.

Disclosure:  Cleanwell provided a giveaway prize free of charge, but I didn’t receive any product. The Amazon link is an affiliate link.

Click here for my disclaimer and advertising disclosure - affiliate links in this post will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price.

65 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    I will definitely be reading labels and looking to replace cleaners (etc.) with less harmful options when purchasing replacements.

  2. says

    I already follow the blog in my reader. I intend to take the leap of faith and get rid of the bleach and antibacs. We rarely use bleach but I want to cut it out completely. I’ll need to find new brands of hand soap, too.
    .-= kanmuri´s last blog ..Tedious Work =-.

  3. says

    Since I’m in a slightly contrary mood :p I’ll say that SOME families do need stronger cleaners, they just are the minority. I work with kids who have special needs and some have medical conditions that require sanitary levels similar to what is found in a medical location. When you are working with a g-tube or tracheotomy, it is important that things are more than just clean. And some people have immune systems that are compromised to the point that a cold can quickly turn into pneumonia and a 2 week hospital stay.
    Like I said, those are the minority, and there’s still an argument for increasing immunity through exposure, but its not quite accurate to say that NO families need strong cleaners or antibacterials.

  4. says

    Hear that sound? It’s a “babe in the woods” alert! *lol* Growing up, my family was definitely into ‘better living through chemicals’ – Dad was a chemical engineer for a defense contractor. DH’s family is pretty much the same way, although of a more ‘make-it-do-or-do-without’ sort.

    I’m 1/2 way through the “baby steps” action level with intent to make serious inroads to the “making strides” level.
    .-= LuAnn´s last blog ..Lucky Not-a-Stroke =-.

  5. says

    Do you have any recommendations for families who need some sort of antibacterial cleansers? Are there natural versions?

    Two of my children get recurrent MRSA infections, sometimes requiring hospitalization and/or surgery. Needless to say, keeping the bacteria out of here is important to us.

    Would love to hear of some more gentle things than the bleach and Lysol we usually use here…
    .-= QponCutie´s last blog ..Actress Nicole Sullivan on Losing the Baby Weight with Jenny Craig =-.

    • Katie says

      I do! Cleanwell is a brand with handsoap and sanitizers that use tea tree oil as the active ingredient. Many people swear by Grapefruit seed extract for homemade sanitizers. You can check out that link for homemade cleaners for the vinegar/hydrogen peroxide mixture that I use, and there’s another link there to some further research on the hydrogen peroxide. Also, tea tree oil diluted in water is pretty powerful stuff, worth a quick Google search! Foods like virgin coconut oil and raw honey and garlic have some antibiotic properties, so you can battle (at least a little bit) from the inside, too. Not that those foods are going to protect from MRSA, don’t get me wrong, that’s serious stuff. But it can’t hurt! Even just rubbing alcohol can help with cleaning, like on wipes.
      :) Katie

  6. says

    We are antibacterial free at our house!

    Thanks for hosting this carnival and for spreading the word about triclosan and antibacterials. We were using regular soap before I started reading KS, but then when I read your post about triclosan, I became like you – wanting to tell everyone I know to stop using antibacterials!!

  7. chloe says

    Thanks for the challenge! I’ve been doing pretty well with keeping antibacs out, but never thought about microban in, well, *everything*! Today I am picking up a bag and making a quick circle of the house and ditch all those products with triclosan that I’ve been keeping around for no reason!

  8. Lanise says

    Thanks for another informative post. I have 2 questions. What are your thoughts/knowledge on products such as oxyclean? We are now using soap nuts, but there are times when I need to soak items, etc, and I use oxyclean. As there a safer alternative?

    Also, I use to be a coupon queen so I had tons of cleaning supplies that I got for free or pennies. After over a year of not using coupons anymore, I still have some left. Being the cheap person I am, I hate to throw things out. Also, I hate to just dump a whole thing of windex down the drain because I don’t want it just going into the sewer. I was just trying to use these items until they were gone and then switch over to more natural items, like I did with laundry detergent. But, now I’m feeling a more urgent need to get rid of them sooner than later. Any thoughts?

    • Katie says

      I was in that exact boat a year or two ago. I used up my Oxiclean b/c it’s not all that bad, just a lot of fillers. PLain “oxygen bleach” is the active ingredient, and non-toxic. You can just buy that and it works exactly the same way! It is not chlorine bleach at all.

      With my old cleaners, I freecycled them and felt good about them not being just tossed but not being used in my own home, either. It was a good compromise!

      :) Katie

  9. says

    Thank you for your valuable information. Please remember that there are a few of us who’s immune systems are compromised because of various illnesses, for example organ transplants. In these situations sterile conditions are required everyday and some families do need antibacterial soaps. Therefore, increasing immunity for most is necessary but not for all. Keep up the good work and thanks.

  10. says

    How timely, I had a conversation last night about what we use to clean our houses. She douses everything in bleach. I douse everything in vinegar. Our only real agreement is that the other person in the conversation is nuts for using what they use to clean their home.

    Katie I didn’t realize that garlic has some antibiotic properties based on how much we season with garlic, my family is protected by anti-bacteria bugs from the inside. And vampires :)
    .-= condoblues´s last blog ..A Bleach Free Way to Kill Bathroom Mold and Mildew =-.

  11. Lauren says

    we have already been using natural cleaners for about 2 years now but still hanging on to some of the bad stuff. we RARELY use bleach though, i do use it occasionally on my husbands socks so they look decent longer but we mostly only keep it because our apt windows sweat really bad and create a bad mold problem around the frame so we use bleach water to kill it. if anyone has any information on a safer way to do this please let me know!

    we are going to cut out the antibacterial handsoap! we planned to do this a couple of weeks ago so i am using up the one small bottle i have left.

  12. Kristi says

    As a biology/chemistry major in college, I’ve known about the effects of antibacterials for awhile, but have had trouble finding cleaning products without them. Thanks for all the suggestions, I will definitely be looking into them.

  13. says

    So I checked my hand sanitizer from Costco and no Triclosan….main ingredient is alcohol. It’s made in Canada. Is that okay then? I am trying to use soap and water as much as possible but I like to keep this in the car and in my purse when water isn’t available.
    .-= Jana @ Weekend Vintage´s last blog ..Womens blouse-Butterick 2683 =-.

  14. Stephanie says

    We are mostly anti-antibacterial here. Regular soap in the bathroom, but I haven’t run out of the anti-bac in the kitchen yet (and I’m too cheep to toss it out). I occsionally use a splash of bleach in my cloth diaper laundry after a stomach bug. Now I’m even reconsdering that.

  15. says

    I have quit buying anything anti-bac, though I keep a jug of bleach for a few rare uses. (Carefully sanitizing the litter box is one of them.)

    For contact lens wearers, “moisturizing” hand soap may not be the best choice. I have read that the reside on your hands can plug up your contacts and reduce oxygen flow to your eyes. I use liquid Ivory soap.
    .-= Lenetta @ Nettacow´s last blog ..How To Wash a Toddler’s Hands =-.

  16. Frances says

    When we bought our house the previous owners left B&BW antibac foaming soap in both bathrooms. We used them up, then I ripped off the labels and refilled them with some SoftSoap foaming soap refill (not antibac!) I got at Target. The bottles look real nice (all white/clear), they work splendidly (which is why I wanted to keep them), AND the soap smells heavenly (Midnight Vanilla scent). YAY!

  17. says

    I have read up on the antibacterial soaps in the past when I heard that the triclosan that is absorbed through your hands while washing is passed through your breastmilk to your babies. That really freaked me out since I was nursing our first child, and I immediately banned anything intibacterial from our house. Even those antibacterial toys, washcloths (just ran across those when I was shopping for new dishcloths at W-M), and clothing. Castle soap and vinegar and water are our go-to products for cleaning. Thanks for posting about these products!
    .-= Stacy´s last blog ..Have you checked out the new Simple Living Media sites? =-.

  18. says

    I was watching the NBC nightly news tonight (Thursday) and they had a short blurb about triclosan, and how the FDA is perhaps realizing how unsafe it is! FINALLY! I don’t know much more than that, but I immediately thought of you and was so thankful for all your research and fervor for this nasty chemical in so many soaps and other products. It’s because of you that we now use our castile soap and water in our foaming pumps for all our handwishing needs! :) (I get excited about soap too…)

  19. says

    Hey there, fantastic post I sent my mom the link too! We’re using a lot of natural/home made cleaners here, and the rest are things like bac out and 7th gen dish soap… I think next time I’ll try the bio’kleen though!

    One thing I wanted to say *totally being a pain here* but Celiac is not the same as gluten intolerance… it’s kind of like saying HIV and AIDS are the same… the gluten intolerance can cause Celiac disease, but they’re different :) (we have all sorts of gluten problems in my family!!)

  20. says

    Thank you so much for giving everyone an extremely breathtaking possiblity to read critical reviews from here. It is always very great and packed with a lot of fun for me and my office friends to search your blog at least thrice every week to learn the newest secrets you have. And of course, I am usually contented with all the spectacular principles served by you. Certain 4 ideas in this posting are easily the finest we’ve ever had.

  21. says

    I’ve removed the bleach from my home as well as many other harsh chemical cleaners and replaced them with more natural remedies (like baking soda and vinegar). We’re all still alive and healthy! :)

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