DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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10 March 2015

Are we too clean?

This post was first published on 16 December 2009

We are back to a practical subject again today because I've been thinking about the word "germaphobe" and it scares me a little. I've come across this word a few times recently and I want to comment on it. We all know it makes good sense to keep a clean house, to raise children to wash their hands before they eat and, in general, to maintain good levels of cleanliness in the home. But you can be too clean.

Hang your dirty cloths and rags over the side of the laundry bin to dry while they're waiting to be washed.

Since television advertising started blabbing about the benefits of whiter than white and how we can rid our homes of germs, we've been brainwashed to believe that every germ is harmful, every germ must be killed and if we don't do that, we're not as good as our next door neighbours. What hogwash!

There are many medical studies around now that assure us that exposing children to pets and normal household dirt is good for them. It builds up the immune system and allows the body to naturally develop antibodies that fight those germs. Back a few years, when I was growing up, and even when my boys were young in the 1980s it was common for children to play out side. Out there, among the dirt, bugs and grass stains, not only were they having fun swinging on ropes and riding bikes, they were building bone strength, muscle tissue and healthy immune systems. Nowadays there is a tendency for children to play inside on computers and playstations, and inside is becoming increasingly clean. We have gone from the common family home with a dirt floor in the 1800s to stainless steel and the war against germs now.

We are surrounded by millions of bacteria and viruses but only a small number actually cause us any harm, the rest we live with, have evolved with, and being exposed to them has probably helped build tolerance to many of them. When we do our daily chores it's not necessary to rid the home of germs - it's impossible, and it's not a healthy option. Now, I'm not advocating that we leave our sink dirty and not sweep the floor. Of course we continue to do those things. We also need to wipe handles, cupboard doors, remote controls, light switches etc, but we shouldn't be using antibacterial wipes. Soap and water, vinegar or bicarb will do the trick. Using bleach, peroxide or disinfectant every day is overkill.

Wash you dishcloths once or twice a week, depending on how dirty they are. In between times, thoroughly rinse the cloth, wring it out and hang it over the tap or sink to dry. Few bacteria can survive dry conditions, they need moisture to propagate and thrive. Hang your dirty dishcloths and cleaning rags over the side of the laundry bin/basket so if they're wet they can dry out and not sit in the pile of dirty laundry, wet, waiting for a few days to be washed.

Take the pressure off yourself to kill germs, your aim should be to have a clean home. You'll never eliminate germs completely. So relax, put the bleach bottle away, stop buying the antibacterial wipes and allow the short sharp exposure to pathogens in the normal home to build your immune system. If you do that, your immune system will not only protect you from colds and flu but also from more sinister ailments.


28 comments:

  1. I agree. My mother-in-law was a germaphobe who has since converted... hmm hmm... Germs help our immune system to be stronger. For some reason people just became so scared of a little dirt.

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  2. I am SO with you on this one. My girls born in the early 80s grew up without anti-bac wipes and constant exposure to over-bleached surfaces. They learned to wash their hands properly after using the loo, and not sneeze over other people. And they seem to have remained healthy. They certainly have not got germphobia - but their homes are 'clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy' Sometimes I think it is the marketing men who are to blame!!

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  3. Now they are talking about children being exposed to peanuts at an early age, in minute quantities to help stem the rise in peanut allergy. I was a bit overprotective when our son was small but he played outdoors in our garden, then out with friends. Some days he was so filthy and smelly (river mud), that he had to strip outside before being allowed in the bath!

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    1. That's good to hear about the peanuts - I had suspected as much, but hadn't heard anything authoritative on it. During my first pregnancy they were even saying that pregnant women shouldn't eat too many peanuts, and then during this last pregnancy that was debunked (and that's just in the span of four years - where advice changes to be the opposite! Perhaps we ought to just stick with common sense ;)

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    2. I SO agree with this. Common sense and critical thinking will stand us all in good stead. We have to think about where these recommendations and reports are coming from. Many of them are obscure reports or theses that are yet to be proven, but are picked up by the media and then they have a life of their own. They go to social media sites and given much more importance than they should have. It takes a lot to reign in such ideas and it's often years before common sense prevails.

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  4. I might be to clean , I buy an old sheet from a jumble sale and boil wash it cut it in too cloth /duster size then use them in the kitchen and then wash them but the ones i use for cleaning the toilet i throw them away after using them x

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  5. Hear hear! My sentiments exactly.

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  6. What are your views on cleaning with steam Rhonda? It makes sense to not use chemicals and steam is just killing germs with heat. Perhaps it makes it too clean though, like you say, we need to build a good immune system. Pam

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    1. I've never cleaned with steam, Pam, so I don't know how much steam cleaners are or where they're made and for me that must come into the equation too. From a safety point of view, from what I've read, it seems to be effective while using no chemicals. Steam cleaning tile or vinyl floors is probably a good option. Are there steam cleaners for other surfaces too?

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    2. Apparently there are nozzles to put on steam cleaners for almost every surface. A steam cleaner is of course yet another gadget and one day it will break and make more waste. And, like you say, where and how was it produced. A lot to take into consideration. Pam

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  7. There is an "ad" being pushed on tv at the moment that has a class of young children being encoureged to wash their hands with an antibacterial handwash in a pump bottle, at school and at home. The inference being that teachers are "smarter", they know what is best, so it must be a good idea. The Mother then buys this stuff for the home and the kids are seen using it in the home.......well we all know that kids will never just use 1 pump, so lots will get used and we know this stuff is not cheap, so up go sales, which is the whole point.
    These antibacterial handwashes contain harmful chemicals, which are then absorbed by the skin and in children the concentration would be higher due to the fact they use lots, play with it instead of washing off straight away and their bodies are small, so the impact of the chemicals would be worse.
    Your skin is the largest organ of your body and is absorbing anything it comes in contact with, which means chemicals from the washing of clothes that you wear, as well as any soap, perfume, lotion, shampoo etc.
    Sadly most adults and children no longer walk outside barefoot on dirt or grass to allow the skin to absorb natural things the body needs to keep healthy.

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  8. Rhonda, I just find George Carlin talking about the immune system... 'which n e e d s germs to practive on'.

    He's a little rough, but so directly -and right!
    http://youtu.be/X29lF43mUlo

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  9. Could not agree more Rhonda. Advertisers have so much influence on society that people have forgotten the ancient wisdom of our elders.

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  10. Agree 100%! We need to build up our immune system as someone commented earlier through eating organic foods, being in the fresh air and sunshine, getting plenty of sleep, NOT eating sugar and junk food, etc. Our body can fight germs and bugs but doesn't do such a good job at fighting toxic chemicals.

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  11. There's growing evidence now, that excessive cleanliness may be responsible for the increase in autoimmune disorders in some people. Apparently the bugs (including mild not-so-good ones and some parasites) kept the immune system 'toned' and 'distracted'. If we're so terribly clean and there's nothing else for it to do, it can start to attack some of your own tissues and cause illness. While researchers do not claim it's the whole answer, it's an interesting proposition. Human beings evolved alongside an enormous number and variety of bugs. The life we live now is the one that's out of step with our biology and marketing is making it worse.

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  12. The other big point is that we NEED bacteria for a whole host of bodily processes and functions. We simply could not digest our food if our gut was not full of other little 'helpers' which break down our food and allow us to absorb all sorts of nutrients. You have touched on this with soaking grains/pulses and fermenting in general. If we constantly expose ourselves to antibacterials etc we prevent our bodies from operating properly. We suffer digestive issues and all the flow-on problems associated such as emotional/mental health, immune system, nutrient deficiencies etc. Our homes should be clean and tidy but not sterile.

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  13. I totally agree! So many people I know get sick all the time, from 'germs' that they likely haven't been exposed to due to the things you mentioned. We aren't sick in our home very often, and we keep a clean home but not germ free for certain. The kids do play inside mostly in the winter (at least these past two very cold winters) but when it's warm they are outside climbing trees, swinging, riding horses, weeding the garden, collecting eggs. Even today they helped unload a truck full of hay for our horses.
    I believe that these natural exposures to germs has helped them to be very healthy children!

    Deanna

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  14. SO true. Some say cleanliness is next to Godliness, but today I think we think that cleanliness equals being sterile, which is an impossibility...even in the environment of a hospital!

    Margaret I so agree with you about the antibacterial gel. This year my little neighbor's back to school supply list had the gel as part of the list!

    Between the over use of antibiotics and this hypervigilence for over cleanliness it is not surprising that there are now so many resistant "bugs" out there, some are now deadly because there is nothing to treat them with.

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    1. Peascod....Who knows what chemicals are in the antibacterial gel, but the ad I was talking about was for a foaming soap pump handwash and a germ killing spray, which was sprayed on schoolbag, in shoes,etc.the odd germ on any of that gear would not do as much harm to you as inhaling all the chemicals in the darn spray.

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  15. My boys (80's children) were dirty stinky little devils; hardly ever ill, house tidy and sort of clean. My nieces, squeaky clean and rarely outside playing, ill frequently, house very tidy and over-cleaned. I am a firm believer of a little dirt, occasionally, will not hurt .

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  16. I recently read an article along these lines about hand washing dishes. Using a dishwasher tends to get the dishes too clean, and people in homes with hand washed dishes have better immune systems! (Which I now tell people who frown upon my lack of dishwasher/disinfector ;)
    -Jaime

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  17. A great post, we are definitely too clean, well not me personally but as humans I think we have taken this too far. Maybe instead of a war on germs we should have a war on keeping germs?

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  18. Wise words as always Rhonda. I don't even use anything in the loo, what's the point, it gets flushed away in the next flush and anyway, it fouls up the water system and it's not as if you're going to drink out of it are you, or paddle your feet in it? I hate all this obsession with antibacterial this and that, it's just a money-making ploy by the marketing people.

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  19. I very much agree. I wish your books were available in the U.S. Perhaps you will consider selling on Amazon at some point? Have a great day!

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  20. As usual, you are a breath of fresh air. Thanks, Rhonda.

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  21. Yes, yes, yes! I agree with everything you say about too much cleanliness! It has been a soap box of mine for years and I get increasingly concerned about how many antibacterial wipes and sprays that are used everywhere. When my first Great nieces and nephews came along - eldest is now 22 - I was horrified at my niece using these products, the fist time I had experienced them. Her children still seemed to have the same tummy bugs that other children had when my children were small, if fact more I think. I was a Primary teacher and taught in a variety of areas: inner city very mixed and poor families and in more well-to-do middle class areas. The children from poor families who rarely had a bath, hardly ever washed their hands ( except when they were at school!) played out in the gutters in the streets etc never had a day off sick. Children in the middle class areas were forever ill will some tummy bug or other. I have concluded, like you, that the human body needs some germ and bacteria around to strengthen the immune system. If we are forever taking broad sweeps at them with anti bacterial products children are not getting any exposure to the bacteria their bodies need to learn to resist. Unfortunately my daughter doesn't share my view and her house is full of such products. I am a firm believer in very hot water and soap and thorough cleaning but not obsessively! My mother used soap and water and my two sisters and I had the usual childhood illnesses, chickenpox etc but I never remember having sickness and dihorrea bugs. OK, I'll get off my soap box now.

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  22. Excellent advice. Where I come from we talk about 'clean dirt'. That's the sort of 'dirt' that healthy children can get outside and play in and it won't do them any harm.

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