We all know that the homes we believe belong to us are actually varied landscapes in which billions of creatures live, but we usually try not to think about our microbial roommates. Find out why your bathroom is the ultimate bacteria battleground, and why cleaning it can sometimes make it worse.
- Faecal Bacteria Is King of Your Bathroom
It’s not really a surprise to find faecal bacteria in a bathroom. That’s what we go there for, after all. Nor are the fecal bacteria so bad;generally speaking they’re part of the family Bacteroidaceae, and are nothing more than gut bacteria that took the long, strange trip to the outside world.
They splashed down into a porcelain-shored lake, and most of them were sucked down into the terrible void beneath the lake. But the lake didn’t go quietly. It swirled and splashed, allowing for the aerosol dispersal of some of the bacteria via tiny droplets.
The droplets came down in a harsh new environment. Chemicals wiped many of them out, but a few were left alive, on a moist and therefore oxygen-poor surface. This suited the anaerobic bacteria just fine, and they dominated their new landscape.
- Skin Bacteria Is Faecal Bacteria’s Partner-in-Crime
So yes, cleaning with bleach pretty much does the opposite of what cleaning with bleach is supposed to do — it leaves your bathroom covered with fecal bacteria. This isn’t because bleach and a good scrub is good for bacteria, but because it’s bad for the bacteria that usually proliferate in bathrooms, especially on surfaces that would usually be dry, and therefore not good environments for moisture-loving microbial life. Bleach cleaning gets rid of skin bacteria.
Bathroom skin bacteria tend to be members of the Propionibacteriaceae family. This family of bacteria is often found in intestinal tracts of animals, and in dairy products, but with humans it makes its home in the pores. The bacteria Staphylococcus also dominates bathroom surfaces. Yes, that is the one that causes the famous staph infections in hospitals. It’s often on our skin, but it takes a depressed immune system and an open wound for it to turn dangerous. These bacteria eventually displace the fecal bacteria that predominate in a bathroom after a bleach-cleaning. How long it takes for skin to beat feces depends on the use of the bathroom. It could take only about five hours, or it could take longer.
Of course, like most environments, bathrooms contain thousands of kinds of bacteria but skin will win as long as bathrooms are cleaned with soap and water.