Too Clean: What We May Be Leaving Behind

by Linda Jenkinson |

cleaning products

We might be just a little OC about clean, to a point that if we downsized our carbon footprint to a triple extra-small, someone would still be at it with a wipe.

I used to wonder what our descendants will find of this civilization in thousands of years, but these days the thought is disappointing. It seems clear that we will leave behind little else besides planned obsolescence in a plastic bag. Future generations will find our discarded refuse mummified in poly-urethane containers that don’t degrade over time. Lots and lots of plastic.

We’ve come a long ways from the era when Mae West said, “I’ve been in more laps than a napkin”. Napkins these days only make it into one lap. Like most everything else, they are disposable.

  • Wipe your mouth with a paper napkin.
  • Dry your hands with a paper towel.
  • Sweep or mop your floors with a disposable pad.
  • Wipe your countertops with a disposable, antiseptic wipe.

In our obsession with sanitation, we use wipes for everything from our babies' bottoms to our shopping carts. We use tissues instead of handkerchiefs, paper napkins instead of cloth, and poly-wipes instead of launderable rags, wash cloths, or towels. And let‘s not kid ourselves. We use them primarily for the sake of convenience. These, days we even have waterless cleaners—we call them sanitizers—to use in our never-ending battle against germs.

Many disposables are filled with antiseptics and antibiotics, packaged with their manufacturer’s promise that these chemicals will keep you safe from a germy world. But do they?

Medical professionals and scientists share growing concern over superbugs, the strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics (1,4). Often resistant strains are the result of residues left by antibacterial products. When these pathogens are placed under stress, they can develop sub-populations whose sole purpose is to defend the bacterial colony.

Both the FDA and the CDC have acknowledged that antibacterial soaps are no more effective than regular soap and water(3). It seems the biggest differences between them are:

  1. Regular soaps won’t trap bacteria in a residue.
  2. Regular soaps won’t kill healthy bacteria along with the pathogens.

According to the World Health Organization(2), we are approaching a post-antibiotic era-- one in which common infections and minor injuries can kill.

Before you spray that countertop or use that wipe next time, ask yourself if it will do more harm than good. Are you keeping things too clean?

Read more at these sources:

  1. “Antibacterial Soaps No Better at Cleaning.”Accessed February 22, 2016.
  2. Caba, Justin. “Meet The Doctors Looking For A Solution To Antibiotic-Resistance [VIDEO].” Medical Daily, April 16, 2015.
  3. “Antibacterial Soap vs. Regular Soap: Which One Is Better?” Accessed February 22, 2016.
  4. “Strange but True: Antibacterial Products May Do More Harm Than Good" - Scientific American. Accessed April 29, 2016.

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