Did you know that natural antibacterials have been used to treat infections and illnesses for thousands of years? Examples include Comfrey, Lady’s Mantle and St. John’s Wort, which are still used today. But in the past 50 years, synthetic antibacterials have been developed to prevent and treat illnesses. Some of these are hand sanitizers, antibiotics and chemical cleaners. You know, those Clorox Wipes and Purell hand sanitizers that we see advertised everywhere during cold and flu season.

Hand sanitizers and chemical cleaners are advertised to kill “99.9% of surface bacteria”. I always have to ask: only 99.9% –  What happens to the rest? What kind of bacteria is the .01% that survives and what does it do?

The .01% that survives our synthetic antibacterials is, in most cases, the bacteria that have built a resistance to the cleaners. No matter the amount of chemical cleaner that you apply, the .01% will still survive to reproduce more and more resistant bacteria. As the resistant bacteria grow in numbers, the health risk increases, since most times the resistant bacteria are the harmful type. So, how do these harmful resistant bacteria get “killed”?

We add stronger and more volatile chemicals to “kill” the resistant bacteria, but there is still the .01% or higher that survives. As the lifecycles continue, and as we add stronger and stronger chemical cleaners, we create more and more resistant bacteria, eventually creating a “superbug”. Among these superbugs are ultra-resistant bacteria that cause diseases that are difficult to treat, like MRSA and the Flesh Eating Bacteria that has been in the news recently. Neither of these can be treated with normal level antibiotics, like those used to treat strep throat.

The most effective way to stay healthy is just to keep clean. Washing your hands with normal soap, not necessarily antibacterial soap, then drying your hands with a clean towel or paper towel is the best method. The reason is that the action of scrubbing your hands then wiping off the water physically removes the bacteria. It is important to realize that this washing and wiping is a type of removal that bacteria can’t build a resistance to. It keeps you clean and healthy without creating a superbug.

We are all descendants of survivors of some of the worst plagues and sicknesses to hit the world: The Black Plague, Smallpox, Cowpox, The Bubonic Plague, Influenza, Typhoid Fever, Measles, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Cholera, HIV/AIDS, Meningitis and Polio. So what can we do to silence this paralyzing fear of bacteria and viruses that our ancestors survived without modern medicine? Simply wash and dry your hands and your surfaces, just like mom told you to.