germs, chemicals, bacteria, health

Which Matters More: Being Green or Clean?

An expert weighs in on whether you should use chemicals to kill germs or limit exposure with gentler products.

You may be one of the many wondering if bleach should still have a place in your home or conversely, if all those gentler, so-called healthier cleaning options on the market are actually getting the job done. The questions aren’t easy ones—even for a scientist.

“It’s difficult to answer because it can depend primarily on what types of germs you’re expecting to kill. And we just don’t know how different cleaners compare to each other. You can only really be sure how well any of these things are cleaning if you’re analyzing the areas treated,” says Bruce Blumberg, a biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and one of a group of environmental health scientists helping green chemists to develop chemicals that are inherently without hazard. 

The good news: We probably worry far too much about bacteria in our homes. “Overall you need to make intelligent choices for yourself. Our obsession with sterilizing everything isn’t helping us,” says Blumberg. “Use your common sense. You don’t want or need to kill all bacteria, but you do want to avoid pathogens.”

Here, some insight into how to get things clean and when to consider going green: