Cleaning with Micro-organisms – the oldest way of cleaning and deodorising

22nd February, 2021

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For as long as humans can remember, nature has used micro-organisms to break down organic waste. This age-old process has now been harnessed to create microbiological cleaning products containing active micro-organisms (bacteria) to remove organic waste and smells.

CLEANING WITH MICRO ORGANISMS A

Properties of microbiological cleaning products

Micro-organisms continue working as long as conditions are favourable for them. They need a food-source, and temperature and acidity must be within certain ranges or they will not work optimally – or will even die. Problems arise if you try to use naturally-occurring bacteria in cleaning products as it is very difficult to put 50 million bacteria per ml into a bottle and keep them stable. When producers have tried, they have found that after a couple of months, the bacteria become active in the bottle, resulting in a terrible smell, or the bottle imploding (even exploding). In addition, any cleaning-agent added to bacteria should be of natural origin so that it is not harmful to the environment.

How do microbiological cleaning products work?

A really effective cleaning product is produced when you have the right combination of cleaning-agents and bacteria. The cleaning-agents will start the process by removing most of the dirt and some of the odour, and the bacteria will finish the job once they have had a chance to become established.

How do bacteria work?

Bacteria produce enzymes – proteins acting as a catalyst which creates a particular chemical reaction. For cleaning and deodorising, it is particularly important to use bacteria able to produce at least the following 5 enzymes:
Protease – to break down protein
Amylase – to break down starch and carbohydrate
Lipase – to break down lipids
Cellulase – to break down cells
Urease – to break down urine

Bacteria can also be classified into 3 different groups:
Anaerobic – which grow where there is little or no free oxygen
Aerobic – which grow where there is plenty of free oxygen
Facultative – which grow with or without free oxygen

Almost all microbiological products contain aerobic bacteria, but it is very difficult to start the bio-acceleration process with these alone – you also need anaerobic or facultative bacteria.

How is organic waste broken down by bacteria?

If you analyse organic material, you find millions of different types of bacteria, each doing its own thing – for example, producing smells. The ones added to microbiological products must ensure a controlled breakdown (or ‘bio-acceleration’) of the organic material.

Another important factor is the CFU count. (CFU: Colony-Forming Units – the number of bacteria per ml or gram). Tests have shown that a liquid microbiological product will need at least 50 million bacteria per ml to function optimally – Zybax has 65 million per ml.

Safety

It is very important that only micro-organisms known to be harmless to health (non-pathogenic and non-toxic bacteria) are used in microbiological cleaning products. In Europe, there tends to be rather a lack of knowledge and control-systems on this, with the result that ‘bad’ bacteria (“gram-negative bacteria”) are regularly found in products.

Every batch of Zybax bacteria is thoroughly tested to ensure that only non-pathogenic and non-toxic bacteria are present.

What happens when the bacteria are applied?

The micro-organisms used by Zybax are of the bacillus type, common everywhere in nature, which form endospores – a dormant, inactive form.

When there is a food-source available (urine, grease etc), the bacteria change to the vegetative state, enabling them to break down organic substances. Normally the food-source consists of long chains of molecules, the most common combinations being proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. These are ideal combinations for bacillus microbes, as the latter produce enzymes which can break down the long molecule strains into smaller, more digestible elements.

These bacteria are nature’s little helpers, playing an important role in reducing various types of waste. Ultimately, their processes are also essential for the planet’s nitrogen and carbon cycles.

When the bacteria are introduced in concentrated form into a suitable environment (e.g. a septic tank or waste bin), our bacilli produce enzymes which break the organic combinations.

There are at least three events which can have a negative influence on the organism:

  1. The food source runs out
  2. The temperature becomes too low
  3. The pH-value changes significantly

If these circumstances occur, various things can happen to the bacteria: the cells can break, get used by other organisms as a food-source, or return to their endospore state.

Multi-functional cultures

For years, ‘simple cultures’ have been used to break down and control organic waste reliably in water-purification plants. Many attempts to use combined cultures have been abandoned because of poor results, and there can be various reasons for this:

  • The various micro-organisms fight amongst themselves for the food source.
  • The different metabolic processes cause the release of toxic substances.
  • The various micro-organisms are not able to live in the same environment.

For the Zybax range of products, we use only “multiple cultures”, in which different types of micro-organisms work harmoniously together to speed up the decomposition of organic waste. These carefully-selected micro-organisms and enzymes complement each other, giving considerably better results than simple cultures.

The composition of organic waste varies in different situations: grease-traps, drains, toilets, washrooms, chemical toilets and so on. No simple culture is able to digest this wide range of organic wastes. Multiple cultures, on the other hand, have various different metabolic and enzyme-producing processes, each reaching its maximum digestion ability in different circumstances. This is why Zybax products will adapt to any source of waste to be digested, and the product can be used to optimum effect.

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The staff and I were sceptical about Zybax Ultra initially as cleaning only with water seemed a little strange. Despite this we started the trial and within 4 weeks we noticed a massive difference in our residential area. The odour was no longer apparent.

However in our Dementia unit there didn’t seem to be much difference, but we persevered with the product. At around week 6 we very nearly threw the towel in and were going to stop using the product. We decided to carry on for a further 2 weeks, re train domestic staff and carers to ensure the Zybax product was being mixing correctly and used as instructed to ensure we had given it a fair trial. After being away from the building for a few days I noted that the odour had lifted in our Dementia unit, even in the problem areas there was a huge difference. I came to the conclusion that we just hadn’t given the Zybax enough time to work.

Our home is now odour free and we will most definitely be continuing to use Zybax in the future.

Jane Davies, Registered Manager
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