Effects of Heat on Bacteria

What you need to know about bacteria in your home and how to get rid of it

How does heat affect bacteria?

Heat is a good tool for cleaning and disinfecting, such as using a steam mop to clean your floors. You know this, but do you know why heat affects bacteria the way that it does?

Without going into some deep-rooted and complicated scientific reasons, you are going to find out exactly how it is that heat will take care of bacteria and why you want to use it in your homes when trying to get rid of nasty cells that cause sickness and infections.

What is bacteria?

In simple terms, bacteria is a type of biological cell that is classified as either good or bad. Bacteria is one of the first life forms on earth, and it will probably be here long after you are. Bacteria is made up of small proteins that grow at optimal temperatures that range in degrees.

Types of Bacteria

There are two main types of bacteria that you are probably aware of; Good Bacteria and Bad Bacteria, and it breaks down as 85 percent of bacteria is good and 15 percent of bacteria is bad.

Our bodies are full of good bacteria. It helps us digest our foods or keep our immune systems strong. Bad bacteria are responsible for illnesses and infections.

How to get rid of bad bacteria?

There are many different ways to get rid of bacteria. Some of those ways include anti-bacterial soaps or cleaners, antibiotics, and heat.

Since we clean our homes primarily with hot water and soap, you might want to know exactly how it is that heat is going to affect bacteria.

How does heat generally affect bacteria?

Since bacteria are presented in cell form, you want to know how it is that heat affects these cells. There is no one universal way for how heat affects individual forms of bacteria, but here are a few things it can do to those tiny cells.

There is an optimal temperature that bacteria grow in, similarly to our own bodies. You don’t want to be too cold or too hot; otherwise, your body reacts negatively. The same goes for bacteria. When the temperature is too hot, the proteins in bacteria start to break down.

The higher the heat, the more likely bacteria is to experience molecular “death.” What that means is that bacteria that are exposed to temperatures that are higher than 110oF will start to die off due to its inability to grow at those temperatures and its inability to regenerate when the heat touches it.

How does heat affect bacteria in everyday life?

When you are cleaning your home, you probably navigate towards using hot water versus cold water. Washing dishes, for example, is rarely done in cold water. The reason is that the hotter the water, the more likely it is to get the dishes cleaner.

The same goes for when you are cleaning your bathroom, mopping your floors or using hot water for your dishwasher and white laundry rather than cold water. Heat at extremes, such as pure hot water, will kill negative bacteria that can potentially cause your family harm.

No matter what type of cleaning products you use, using them in addition to hot water is much more effective than if you used cold water. You want negative bacteria to be eliminated in your home, especially during flu season when one surviving bacteria strain can infect your entire family.

Cleaning your home with heat is ultimately much more effective than if you just used anti-bacterial cleaners. The heat you get from the steam is 99.99 percent effective on negative bacteria. That is exactly what you want when trying to get rid of nasty germs.

The Takeaway

Overall, bacteria react negatively to heat due to the fact that it cannot grow in extreme temperatures. There are those rare cases when bacteria can grow in the heat, but those instances are extremely rare and not in your homes.

Therefore, the next time you turn your dishwasher on, mop your floors, or even throw a load of laundry into your washing machine, try using the hot water option. Together with a good cleaning solution, your home will be mostly free of negative bacteria that can cause sickness or infections to your whole family.

Resources — Researchgate, Jstor, Physics