Bacteria With an Appetite for Cleaning Products

Hardy germs will persist despite our best cleaning efforts

February 8, 2019

If you’ve ever wondered why certain bacteria and viruses persist on surfaces, even after you’ve spritzed them with cleaning products and disinfectants, scrubbed them with microfiber cloths, blasted them with ultraviolet light, and generally done everything in your power to eliminate them, wonder no more.

Scientists say despite your cleaning crew’s best efforts, some bacteria will always be present, McGill University’s Office for Science and Society reports. The surviving bacteria are the hardiest, having survived many rounds of cleaning. As a living organism, bacteria usually dine on the substances found on “dirty” surfaces, such as decaying plant and animal matter. But if you’ve cleaned all the dirt away, what does the bacteria eat? In order to survive, these organisms have developed the ability to eat cleaning materials. In fact, acinetobacter bacteria, a persistent pathogen that is often found in hospitals, can survive on ethanol alone and degrades cleaning products. This germ is resistant to radiation, hydrogen peroxide, high pressure, and high temperatures.

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