We are too clean – that is why we are now all suffering from allergies. No – we are not nearly clean enough – that is why most hospitals are riddled with MRSA and C difficile...
We certainly spend a staggering amount on cleaning products. According to SCA, a ‘global hygiene company… that develops personal care products and solutions’ (such as TENA incontinence pads, babies’ nappies and various versions of wet wipes) we spent 11.3 billion Euro on their products alone in 2010. But, according to their recently published Hygiene Matters report, an extraordinary number of us are paranoid about hygiene. To quote:
• Globally, 48% of respondents said that they have refrained from using a public toilet and a further 24% have avoided swimming or using the showering facilities in a public gym!
• 1 in 10 have shunned public transport and going to the cinema due to worries over the lack of general hygiene.
• 7% of people have turned down dinner at a friend’s house because they are worried about the overall hygiene and cleanliness.
• Couples are far from taking equal responsibility when it comes to buying hygiene related products. Just over 12% of US, 17% of German and 27% of Australian couples share the responsibility, while nearly 75% of Swedish couples buy products together.
• 1 in 4 of us never discuss our personal hygiene issues with people we know. Men are more embarrassed about talking about it and are more inclined to talk to their wives (46%) while women are more likely to talk to their mothers (42%).
Now, obviously, the subtext to SCA’s Hygiene Matters report is that we should be buying lots more of their products in order to put our minds at rest about going out to dinner at friends’ houses or going to the cinema – but maybe the
take home message should actually be, buy more carbolic – and use it!
The take home message for hospitals is certainly that washing hands is the most effective way of keeping the bugs at bay – and that the deterioration in hygiene standards owes much to the arrival of alcohol wipes and hand sanitisers which lulled hospital staff up to surgeon level into a false sense of security as far as bugs are concerned. But as was pointed out in an article in Latitudes in 2009, standard sanitisers do not actually kill viruses, although some do kill some bacteria. They merely make it less likely that the virus will attach to you hands. Moreover, sanitisers do not remove dirt. The only guaranteed way to really clean you hands is to wash them thoroughly with soap and water.
Efficacy as cleaners apart, hand santisers, along with the gazillions of other hygiene and cleaning products that SCA and their fellow manufacturers thrust upon us, are all chemical-based and plastic-packed. So, not only do they add to our already heavy chemical overload (horribly debilitating those who are chemically sensitive) but, since they are all overpacked in mainly un-biodegradable plastic containers, they are horribly un-green. The wonderful thing about a standard bar of soap is that it comes either naked or wrapped in a light cellophane wrapper and when it is finished, it is finished! Absolutely nothing to throw away…
So, for those extra stocking presents or for Aunty Lil who normally gets a bottle of never-used cologne – how about a nice basic bar of soap?….. Or even a kit to make your own?…. Check out Teach soap.com, How to make soap (on About.com) the SoapKitchen, the LittleSoapCompany and about a thousand other suggestions on Google!