Probiotic Cleaners Are a Thing — Here’s What They Are and How They Work

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Imagery Courtesy of Airbiotics/Graphics by Susanna Hopler)

I recently heard about probiotic cleaners and thought, “Come again?” I was obviously familiar with probiotics when it comes to gut health (cue that “activi-ahhhhh” song!) but never in terms of cleaning. Upon further investigation, I learned that these products are marketed as being allergy-free, non-toxic, eco-friendly, and non-GMO — basically all the things you’d want in a cleaner you’re using around kids, pets, or yourself.

Naturally, I was curious. So I got on the phone with Robert Meirovich, the CEO of Airbiotics, a company that makes probiotic all-purpose cleaners, to learn more.

Here’s the premise: There’s bacteria on everything, and there’s “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. And the same complaint that people have with antibiotics you’d take for, say, strep throat — that it kills both the good and bad bugs — can be said about the cleaning agents typically used in the kitchen. You want to kill the bad stuff (your E. coli and Listeria and the like), but leave the good stuff. That’s where probiotic cleaners come in.

“Ninety-five percent of bacteria is actually good,” says Meirovich. “But when you kill absolutely everything, you weaken your immune system and exacerbate allergies. You need a cleaner that can penetrate surface biofilm to kill the bad stuff and leave the good stuff.” He argues that commercial cleaners strip the surface of both good and bad bacteria, but also don’t cut through the biofilm, so they don’t get surfaces truly clean.

But you don’t have to have a degree in biology to be won over: The rest of the argument is that the product is so natural you don’t have to wear gloves when you use it (it contains actual probiotic bacteria just like yogurt!), and that it cleans even better than the leading commercial cleaners, because it prevents only the bad bacteria from growing. I can certainly get behind a product that doesn’t smell like it’s poisoning me when I use it, and I love the idea of less bad bacteria on my surfaces. And for someone with allergies who’s sensitive to the chemicals in commercial cleaners, it could be a great solution.

That being said, I haven’t tried any of the products (stay tuned — it’s on my to-do list and I will certainly be writing about it!). I would say in my day-to-day I’m more worried about actual dirt, grime, and grease than bacteria, so if the products didn’t truly clean my stovetops, I’m not sure I’d convert.

Have you tried any probiotic cleaners? Did you notice any reduction in indoor air pollution, or better cleaning power?