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Q&A: Do bacteria build up resistance to germ-killing disinfectants?

Q&A: Do bacteria build up resistance to germ-killing disinfectants?

Q: I use disinfectant spray in the bathroom to kill bacteria and other germs. Do bacteria build up resistance to disinfectants like they develop resistance to antibiotics? —John Huxhold Manchester, MO

A: They might. Alcohol, chlorine bleach, and hydrogen peroxide kill many germs and evaporate quickly and completely.

Newer cleaners containing chemicals such as the antiseptic benzalkonium chloride and the antibacterial compound triclosan tend to persist on surfaces. That may allow bacteria to develop resistance to those agents just as they become resistant to antibiotics.

We recommend simple detergents and water for most cleaning, and the old standbys when disinfection is necessary. (Read “The smart person’s guide to spring cleaning” and “Tips for spring cleaning the healthy way” for more advice.)

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