Cleaning Through The Ages

Chemical disinfectants have been around for hundreds of years. Due to the modern increase of human and animal diseases, these products have continued to be the standard for cleaning surfaces in our environment. With technology and science advancing, new and more powerful products are being developed, with the ability to destroy all microorganisms in a specific area. But is this a good thing? Are disinfectants, which are supposed to be saving us, actually hurting us?

Let's explore these disinfectants' history and what we can do to make our buildings safer and more balanced for the future!

chemical cleaners compared to probiotic cleaners

When Did We Start Disinfecting?

Believe it or not, the idea of disinfection has been around since the Greco-Roman period (332 BC-395 AD). Before chemicals became the norm, physical disinfection agents were used. The most common ways to physically disinfect surfaces included the following: heat, fumigation, drying, filtration. While each method is simple to perform, they are very time-consuming, and in many cases, deadly.

Once the 19th century rolled around, new disinfecting compounds started to appear on the market, each having a specific purpose. Some have stood the test of time, while others are no longer widely used. The most notable disinfectants during this time were chlorine water, phenol, formaldehyde, and hydrogen peroxide.   

Today, thanks to mass production and commercialization, chemical disinfectants are used in nearly every cleaning procedure worldwide. It seems perfectly safe if everyone is using these products, right? Not quite. Let’s take a look at some of the most widely used disinfectant products and their harmful side effects when exposed. 

common chemical disinfectants are bad

Common Chemical Disinfectants  


Alcohol-based disinfectants, such as isopropyl alcohol, are used abundantly throughout the health industry. It was first invented in 1920 to help sterilize and disinfect medical equipment. Isopropyl alcohol eventually became the main ingredient in several products to help disinfect surfaces.

Side effects when exposed:  

  • Dizziness

  • Low blood pressure

  • Stomach pain

  • Nausea

  • Slow breathing

  • Vomiting

  • Throat pain/burning

  • Seizure


Many of today's cleaning products use chlorine as the primary ingredient, specifically household bleach. Simply put, household bleach is chlorine dissolved in water, derived from 5.25%–6.15% sodium hypochlorite. It was first introduced as a disinfectant in 1908 as a way to clean drinking water. Chlorine is used in preparing chlorides, chlorinated solvents, pesticides, polymers, synthetic rubbers, and refrigerants. 

Side effects when exposed:  

  • Airway irritation

  • Wheezing

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Sore throat

  • Cough

  • Chest tightness

  • Eye irritation

  • Skin irritation


Formaldehyde is a disinfecting compound composed of three ingredients; carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It was first discovered in 1859 and began commercial production in the 1880s. Not only is formaldehyde used in household disinfectants, it is used to manufacture various building materials (plywood, fiberwood, glues, etc.).   

Side effects when exposed:  

  • Death

  • Skin irritation

  • Cancer

  • Burning sensations of the eyes, nose, and throat

  • Coughing

  • Wheezing

  • Nausea

Hydrogen Peroxide 

Hydrogen peroxide is a compound made from combining hydrogen and oxygen first invented in 1818. In addition to disinfecting, hydrogen peroxide can be an antiseptic for cuts, burns, and other skin-related injuries. As a disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide is able to clean drinking water, surfaces, and other applications. 

Side effects when exposed:  

  • Eye irritation (sometimes permanent eye damage)

  • Lung irritation (shortness of breath)

  • Skin irritation (blisters, burns and skin whitening)

Peracetic Acid

Peracetic acid is a disinfectant procured from mixing acetic acid with hydrogen peroxide together. Peracetic acid was introduced commercially in the 1950s to help remove certain bacteria and fungi from foods. Additionally, its use expanded into other industries as a way to prevent biofilm buildup on surfaces. 

Side effects when exposed:

  • Eye irritation (corrosion/itchiness) 

  • Lung irritation 

  • Skin irritation

  • Coughing 

  • Blisters

  • Fatal (explosive around certain metals)  


Phenols (or Phenolics) are some of the first chemical disinfectants discovered. The first phenol was invented in 1834 and was known as carbolic acid. Today, phenols are popular in household disinfectants and certain mouthwash products.    

Side effects when exposed:  

  • Skin irritation 

  • Eye irritation 

  • Anorexia

  • Progressive weight loss

  • Diarrhea

  • Vertigo

Safer forms of cleaning

Are There Safer Cleaning Options Available?

Absolutely! Just because a big corporation claims they have the best cleaner on the market doesn't mean it's safe. Many companies use "greenwashing" tactics to make it look like their products are chemical-free and good for the environment. But in reality, these claims are often false. So what should you use instead? There are several options to choose from.      

DIY Cleaners

Want to know exactly what is going into your cleaner? A DIY (Do It Yourself) cleaner is a good option. Typically, these cleaners use two to three natural ingredients that you can find right at home. The most popular all-purpose cleaning solution is simply vinegar, baking soda, and some water. That's it!  

Plant-Based Cleaners

All-purpose plant-based products have grown in popularity over the past few years. Many of them are cruelty-free in addition to being vegan friendly, which is fantastic! But this isn't the case for all plant-based cleaners. Be on the lookout for toxic and carcinogenic ingredients that are often hidden, such as 2-butoxyethanol.    

Probiotic Cleaners

Probiotics are known as "good bacteria," similar to kombucha or kefir. Probiotic cleaners, especially our Origen Clean products, disinfect surfaces without any of the dangerous side effects mentioned above. And the best part, it's very intuitive!

Probiotic cleaners benefits

How does it work? We're glad you asked. Our advanced ultra-low volume (ULV) fogger sprays probiotic bacteria on dirty surfaces rapidly and efficiently. These probiotics provide real-time defence on all surfaces for three to five days, and actively work to continually reduce the presence of bacterial pathogens, remove biofilms and eliminate odours. All of this ensures protection against microscopic threats to human health and wellbeing. In comparison, standard chemical cleaning products must be sprayed multiple times throughout the day in order to keep protecting surfaces.

One of the best parts? Our solution can be deployed by anyone, anywhere, covering over 6,000sq/ft in only 15 minutes.

As COVID-19 continues to affect our environment, businesses struggle to return to work, as guaranteeing everybody's safety remains a challenge.

With our ultimate probiotic cleaning solution, you will have the reassurance that only the healthiest ingredients are activated to clean your space while saving you money. Want a happier and safer business that ensures customer confidence? Origen Clean has you covered. 

Book a free discovery session today and start controlling your environment!

Ensure Your Building Is Healthy & Balanced

At Origen Clean, believe all buildings should be healthy and balanced. That's why we've put together a free e-book with our top 10 tips to help keep your staff, customers, and stakeholders healthier over time. Use these tactics to ensure the best possible environment for everyone who enters your building

Click here to download free e-book

Free ebook to create a healthier office

Written by: Zach Zachariou


Probiotic Cleaning Quote

At Origen Clean, we believe probiotics are the key to long-term prosperity of any company. We are pleased to provide new clients with an initial discovery session to introduce our products and technology.