26 November 2008

Is there such a thing as too much cleanliness?

Carol McIntosh says "I have a theory about all the eczema, allergies etc around today - too much cleanliness! Soap and water is cheap and effective. I always remember an old lady telling me that she always wanted a lovely bathroom but never had enough money to change her it. When her children grew up they could not remember the bathroom but remembered the days at the river in summer etc. Perhaps there is a lesson in this. Relax a little, just chill out with your children and see what happens to the eczema."

Before my first baby was born my doctor told me a similar thing. Actually what he said was I'd have to lower my standards once there was a baby in the house. I was stunned. You have to understand my mother's nickname is Mrs Sparkle and I have inherited some of her cleaning genes so being told to lower my standards was unbelievable.

He then went on to tell me that soap, hot water and elbow grease were more than adequate for cleaning most household surfaces. Another suggestion was to keep the disinfectants, bleaches and stinky chemicals for when they were really needed, such as during outbreaks of contagious illness.

Dr. Max wasn't telling me to leave our home dirty. He was telling me to keep it clean, not sterile. So, clean it has always been and I can tell you that cleaning with soap and hot water and elbow grease works. I will confess right now that I tend to use mostly water and micro fibre cloths, with soap for the baths basins, sinks and outside of the toilets. Even the windows are washed with cold water and dried with a micro fibre cloth.

In the cleaning cupboard at the moment is a basket of rags for cleaning and polishing cloths, a box of laundry soap, some scrub buds, white vinegar, a half box of bi-carb, borax and washing soda and about a dozen assorted micro fibre cloths. I love those micro fibre cloths, they do a great job on everything.

Those few simple items, along with a soft broom, the vacuum and the steam mop keep the entire house clean.

I haven't added up how much money we have saved over the years by not getting brainwashed into believing clean wouldn’t happen without a dozen different products but I'm pretty sure it's a lot. According to the grocery tracker we have spent a grand total of $8.72 since January on cleaning supplies. That was for some soap, 2 litres vinegar and some scrub buds. I'm thinking that's not too shabby, how does it compare to your spending?


  1. Hi Cath
    Couldn't agree more. Have thought for a long time theres too much 'helicopter' cleaning . I have never bought sterile anything like whipes , hand wash etc. Been making up miracle spray for a long time, bi carb and vinegar and micro fibre clothes keep our house lived in and our immune systems tip top

    1. Miracle Spray is the best, isn't it, although I tend to just use the microfibre cloths and good old elbow grease for most cleaning jobs. We have hand wash *for visitors* - my family knows it's not for them, they get to use the soap and water :) I am thankful every day for a family doctor with good sense (it helped that he has four sons and he and his wife weren't afraid to let them get dirty), and that we had such a tight budget for so long. I can see how young mothers and new homemakers get swept up into the multiple cleaning product propaganda with all the advertising and false information spread by marketing.

  2. Asa child, my mother kept me spotless and I was always sick. She commented once that the dirtiest children in the neighbourhood were never sick like her children were and maybe there was something to be said for allowing your children to be dirty on occasion.

  3. There were four of us growing up,we got dirty ,played outside all the time. Mum used good old soap and water on us and for cleaning and we were never sick. When we went to the doctors for injections the doctor would say children need to consume a peck of dirt if they are to build up resistance . The only child that attended before us was never allowed to get dirty and was constantly visiting tthe doctor he said the poor little boy needed to build up his immunity by being exposed to some dirt.


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