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How Clean Is Too Clean

Great sanitation is the key to survival. Long gone are the days of sanitation related diseases, like the plague, throughout most of the world. Now it seems we have an entirely different problem. Is it possible? Could we be too clean? It seems that everything from environmental damage to allergies is leading back to our newfound preoccupation with sanitizing everything. From our mouths and hands to our counter tops and bathtubs we want it all 99% germ free. But, is that actually what’s best for our health and if not what should we be cleaning with instead? How clean is too clean?

Personal Hygiene

Hand Sanitizer

This seems like a great place to start. Most people have heard the controversy surrounding hand sanitizer. Apparently, spreading alcohol on your skin to kill germs isn’t the bright idea we thought it was.

There has been an increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria in recent years. Which has been partially attributed to the overuse of hand sanitizer. Also, there is recent research pointing to the importance of the microbiome. Accidentally ingested hand sanitizer is damaging to the microbiota we rely on for good health. And in addition to all of that it strips the natural, protective oil from your skin. This causes it to crack and gives pathogens a gateway inside your body. I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking to lay out a welcome mat for pathogens to enter my body.

Hand sanitizer is unnecessary overkill. Still, there is sometimes good reason to use it. For example, my daugher insisted everyone wash their hands or use sanitizer before holding her baby. It was, after all, flu season. Nothing wrong with a mama bear, but I recommend you find a sink instead.

Antibacterial Soap

Speaking of finding a sink. Along with hand sanitizer we all seem to adore antibacterial soap. Guess what? It has all of the same ill effects as hand sanitizer. It is slightly better because at least you rinse it off but it is still a problem. We often slather antibacterial soap all over our bodies, unlike hand sanitizer. Unless you are preparing for surgery this is unnecessary and bad for your health.

I have heard many people argue that they use antibacterial soap because they have acne. But, because antibacterial soaps strip the oil from your skin they often cause over production of oil to compensate. Your skin is likely to become irritated if it is dry and cracked (even on a microscopic level). Also it creates an opportunity for acne causing bacteria to permeate your skin. In addition to all of this, when we use antibacterial products we disrupt the balance of good an bad bacteria. This often leaves more of the virulent bad bacteria to breed.

Mouthwash

Mouthwash dates back thousands of years. Of course, they weren’t using what we are now. Listerine was created in the 1870’s. Originally it was used as a floor cleaner and a post surgical antiseptic wash. To increase sales it began being marketed as a treatment for bad breath in the 1920’s. It worked, sales skyrocketed!

Here’s the thing, there are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people on earth. Those bacteria are part of your digestive system’s microbiome. They are imperative for good health. The same thing happens in your mouth as what I described happens on your skin. When you disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria you give the bad bacteria an opportunity to grow out of control.

Using mouthwash causes the very things it’s supposed to prevent! Because it is antibacterial it strips the protective layer from your teeth and gums. This causes teeth to become more porous and easily stained. It also speeds up tooth decay and, you won’t believe this, causes bad breath! Furthermore, to make it more shelf stable, acids are added to mouthwash. They make the stripping process much worse. If that isn’t enough, the dyes in mouthwash have been shown to be carcinogens in animal studies. Also, the use of mouthwash has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

It is best to just stick with brushing and flossing and if you’re feeling particularly motivated, oil pulling.

Household Cleaning Products

Most modern, conventional cleaning products are disinfecting. The problem is that disinfecting cleaners contribute to all sorts of health problems. They are associated with allergies and asthma. They also contribute to poor indoor air quality and are believed to cause reproductive, respiratory, central nervous system and endocrine disruption and impairment. Cleaning products have a lot of harmful effects!

The Hygiene Hypothesis

There is scientific evidence showing that household and personal disinfecting is damaging our immune systems. Many are blaming this practice for the drastic increase in childhood asthma and allergies. When we constantly disinfect children’s immune systems aren’t exposed to pathogens or typical dirt and grime. This causes them to be unable to discern between dangerous invaders and harmless materials.

Furthermore, the immune system needs proper training(preferably prior to age 1). Without it, the immune system can be come inefficient or over active. This leads to a long term increase in health issues and illness. I know it seems counter intuitive but exposure to bad bacteria and other contaminants is good for your immune system. It is like boot camp. It’s necessary training. This gives your immune system the ability to identify the true enemy rather than randomly attacking your own body or harmless stuff like peanuts.

System Disruptions

Chemical disinfectants the same as antibacterial hygiene products. When you introduce disinfectants into your body or environment they create imbalance in the good and bad bacteria. I’m sure you know what happens then. Now you’ve created an environment where bad bacteria can thrive. Which is completely opposite what you were intending to do.

Most antibacterial household cleaners contain toxic chemicals which build up in the body and environment. They contribute to poor air quality and can even cause disruptions to several of our body’s systems. It is believed that they contribute to reproductive disorders, respiratory problems and that they are a neuro-toxin. It is also believed that many cleaning products are linked to cancer. A recent study showed that cleaning your house regularly could be as bad for your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!

Additional Considerations

Clearly disinfecting products have a multitude of health consequences. Maybe you are a germaphobe though and getting away from these products is really challenging for you. Perhaps you feel that your choice to use disinfecting hygiene and cleaning products only effects you and your family.

Sorry to burst your bubble but you’re wrong. Unfortunately these products actually contribute to toxic waste. They enter our water supply both through our own use and in the manufacturing process. They cause sediments to form in bodies of water that impact wildlife. Overall, these products aren’t just bad for your health, they are bad for the environment.

The use of disinfectants is a public health concern and we all need to work together to address it!

Alternatives

There are many alternative hygiene and cleaning products. You can choose to purchase green or natural products or you can make your own.

Thrive Market and The Grove Collaborative both have an excellent selection of green / natural hygiene and cleaning products. You can even get these options at your local grocery store, Walmart or Target or just add them to your Amazon cart.

I’m pretty crafty and I like a good DIY. So, I enjoy making some of my own hygiene and cleaning products. I love being able to customize the fragrances and store my products in glass jars and bottles.

Things you’ll find in your pantry like coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and honey can be used as hygiene products. And, common household staples like hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar and baking soda can be used as cleaning products. It is likely that you have all of these things on hand and can make the switch today!

Effectiveness

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Believe it or not, there has NEVER been a study that has shown that home disinfecting reduces illness. Further, no study has ever shown that antibacterial hygiene products do either. It has been shown time and time again that natural cleaning products and plain soap and water are just as effective. More importantly it is better for you because, these products don’t have negative health or environmental consequences.

So, what are you waiting for! Ditch the harsh cleaners and antibacterial stuff and go green or better yet homemade!

Let us know in the comments when you’ve made the switch and what your favorite green or DIY product is. If you’re still hesitant, share your concern so we can encourage each other to take this step toward creating healthier surroundings!

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Posted in Health, Your Surroundings, Your World

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