Thursday 21 April 2011

Cut the cleaner and use....saline?

A very interesting study has been underway at the University/hospital where I work.  Researchers are testing to compare the ability of different cleaners vs simple saline to eliminate bacteria (you can check out the full article here). While this was only a preliminary look at what I'm sure will become a more in depth study, the key point to take away from the study is fascinating! Researchers found that the chemical cleaners did NOT clean better than saline when petri dishes were physically wiped 3-5 times. This is a very exciting finding, in my opinion, because hopefully this can raise awareness that chemical cleaners and hand sanitizers etc. aren't REALLY necessary and can in some cases be replaced with good old water and elbow grease!

As a microbiology technologist, one of the first lessons we learn is: how to wash your hands. We use plain old soap in our lab, and the key is to RUB your hands vigorously for about 15 seconds (you can sing the first verse of "Row Row Row your boat" instead of counting if you like). Soap is just a wetting agent that helps lift bacteria off of surfaces; soap does not kill bacteria. So really, what you should take away from this little post is that it is the PHYSICAL action of rubbing that removes the vast majority of bacteria on your hands or vectors like counters, phones, door handles, etc.

I realize that you cannot use saline or water to clean EVERYTHING (I highly doubt we would ever, in the lab, switch out our 5000ppm bleach-like solution for saline), because other harmful things like viruses and spores etc. may remain.  However, in day to day life in our homes when we are washing hands, dishes, counters etc. put a little elbow grease behind your work, and decrease chemical use at the same time! Sounds like a good trade to me!


  1. Hey- Great post-- I didn't know it was mostly just elbow grease!? The link to the article, however, didn't work for me. It read Error 404.

  2. gosh, so sorry, I don't know what I did to the link, but i THINK i fixed it, it works for me, but just in case it doesn't, the web address for the article is:

  3. Makes sense to me. I used to work in a nursing home and the nurses would use plain old saline to cleanse open wounds. Not Rubbing Alcohol. Not Iodine. Not Hydrogen Peroxide. Just Saline. It came in a large spray bottle and worked wonderfully.