Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Clean is Clean?

I don't mean to be too preachy.  But wait a second, I'm about to lauch a rant.  So if you don't like that, you may be excused. 

I'm 51 years old.  I rather like that I've reached a certain age and think I have a perspective that the young ones haven't yet reached.  They don't agree, but that's fine too.

It is very difficult to purchase a soap product at the grocery store that doesn't have words "anti-bacterial" on it somewhere.  At some point, it was cool and very commercial to advertise that your product killed germs.  And who wouldn't want that?  You want your house, your kitchen and bathrooms clean.  You don't want germs.  No one can argue.  But is clean clean enough?  Can you get too clean?

Please understand that being my age means that my parents were children in the early Depression.  The last one.  My grandparents were young adults.  All in rural Oklahoma.  My mother's parents were farmers.  Watermellon was a main crop.  My father's parents were ranchers and lived just miles away.  Their families knew each other. 

Both families lived in houses without plumbing until the children were big.  I don't mean to over-explain here.  That means there were no flush toilets, no sinks, no bath tubs, no running water of any type.  No hot water heater.  You get it. 

They went to the outhouse to use the bathroom.  My mom spent her entire life terrified of snakes.  And with good reason.  During the time she was my Mom, we lived in a place with small non-threatening garter snakes.  Who could be afraid of that?  But during her youth, she went to outhouse, warm and wet.  Various creatures liked to hang out there, including rattlesnakes.  My grandmother would take her children to the outhouse and guard them with a shovel while they used the outhouse.  According to family history, my grandmother was very good at killing large snakes by chopping at their heads with the end of the shovel.  There are many details about my family heritage that I doubt, but that's what Grandpa always told us.  There was no sink to wash up, no antibacterial soap.

They raised chickens and killed them for food, chopping off their heads, gutting and plucking them.  Never done it myself.  But I've killed a few critters in my time.  This wouldn't have been a process where everyone stopped and washed up with paper towels and antibacterial soap.  

My mom told the story of once-a-week baths.  In dry hot dusty Oklahoma summers it is hard for those with modern sensibilites to imagine hawling water to a tub, then each person bathing in the same water until the last person.  And repeating next week. 

Understand, we are not talking about the Pilgrams, the Middle Ages, George and Martha Washington.  We are talking about my parents.  I'm old, but really not.  This wasn't that long ago that this was not an uncommon lifestyle.  

Both of my Grandmothers saw 90.  My Mom is alive and 73.  I come from a family that is very healthy, more than most.  The human being is an incredibly strong and powerful being, much more than we commonly realize on a daily basis.  Built into us is this amazing imune system.  I don't have any medical training, but I believe that we are exposed all of the time to germs and bacteria of all types.  That our immune system is supported by this continued exposure, this continued fighting off of bugs.  Of course, this may not be true of people with impared immune systems.  I don't mean to make statements for others.

So what is clean enough?  I was taught that anything that got dirty could be cleaned.  Soap and "elbow grease" (meaning physical effort) applied liberally and often, cleaned everything.  Repeat the next day.  I don't get manicures.  My hands are working hands.  They do things.  And when I'm done, I "wash up" with soap.

When I prepare chicken, I wash my sink, put the chicken in it to clean and pick over it, then wash the sink again.  Am I concerned about getting sick?  Hasn't happened yet? 


  1. LeAnn, what a great post! Over clean has caused our current resistant bacterias, and if we don't stop using anti-bacterial products on the home front it will only get worse. My son's doctor sold me on that idea, oh say 28 years ago. I know that about the only bacteria to be affected by the anti-bacterial products is THE GOOD BACTERIA WE NEED! People, stop already. Sorry I too (yeah it is an age thing, and that is A-OK) have been know to rant, I think I just did.

    PS I have worked in health-care long enough to understand and see the downward spiral.

    PSS rant over.

  2. Wow! Somebody who thinks exactly like me. I am not that old, only 32, but I am a firm believer that we are killing so many good germs that only the really bad, stong ones remain. Ever notice how the kids that don't get to play in the dirt are the kids that are sick all of the time. I played in the dirt my whole life and have only got the flu maybe 5 times my whole life. I don't get sick. The world needs to relax! Thanks LeAnn!

  3. this makes me feel better about my house not being perfectly clean all the time!

    I have a giveaway going on right now that you might be interested in!

  4. I hate commercials that play to people's sensibilities concerining 'germs'. We are so far removed from having a germy lifestyle. Thank you for reminding people of that.

  5. I'm so glad to find kindred spirits. I feel a little alone in this area. Thanks so much all for your support and encouragement.