Everything you thought you knew about cleaning is wrong.

The dirtThe world

The world is a dirty place. Really, it's the dirtiest place you can imagine. It's the only place in the universe that we know of that is packed full of bacteria and viruses. One (poor, bored and lonely) microbiologist estimated the number of bacteria on Earth to be somewhere near 5 x 10^30. That's five million trillion trillion of the little guys, all up in you skin and guts, hanging out in your house, in the ground, air and water. Also dirt. Literal tons of dirt.

The world is a dirty, dirty place.

So, we clean it. We get down on out knees and scrub the toilet bowl, wipe down counters, spray Lysol in the air, wash doorknobs and microwaves and clean our cars and use disinfectant soap on any surface it will stick to. We scrub ourselves down every morning, clean our teeth and sterilize our food. We avoid public washrooms and wash out hands after sneezing and basically do everything we can to show all those million trillion trillions of bacteria just who owns this planet. And it works, right?... Right!? Guys? It... it works, doesn't it? Otherwise why would we do it?

Let's play a game. Which is the most contaminated surface in your house:
a) Toilet seat
b) A doorknob
c) Toothbrush
d) Kitchen sponge
e) Kitchen sink

The answer? D. Bacteria loooveee moist, nurturing places. Your sponge? Usually damp and probably infused with lovely little food bits. After that the order is something like: your sink, toothbrush, doorknob then toilet seat. Yeah, the toilet is where you poop... but you don't poop on the seat, silly. At least I hope you don't. If you do you should tell me so I can remember to avoid your bathroom.

Did you know that men's living areas are more sterile than women's? It's hypothesized this is because men are less likely to clean! If you wipe down a surface with that damp, bacteria-infested sponge you're not cleaning; you're just spreading the colony around. The drier something is and the less it is used the more sterile it becomes. Women's public restrooms have much more bacteria and fecal matter hanging around, too. You can, of course, sterilize a surface through use of antibacterial cleaning supplies like bleach, but just a little bit of soap and a damp sponge isn't going to do squat and may actually make the problem worse.

If you care enough, the recommended routine is to wipe down kitchen surfaces with antibacterial cleaners every day, and scrub your toilet, sinks and bathtub once a week. You're supposed to do your underwear as a separate load and wash it with bleach (Fecal particles in your undies!). Use different cutting boards for meat and veggies. Put cutting-boards and sponges in the dishwasher, in bleach, or in the microwave. You can use alcoholic hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean, and keep your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet to protect it from aresolized toilet water. (Though honestly, it's more the thought than the reality of it)

As for your body? Your shower head is contaminated with a teeming colony of very happy bacteria. They probably don't like it very much when you blast them out with hot water and fling them onto your body or aresolize them into the air for you to breathe. No, they wouldn't like that at all. The really interesting thing? These little guys are resistant to chlorine, and cleaning them with bleach only makes the multiply! Cute. :3 Oh, and one more thing: Bacteria like it warm. So maybe you should have ice-water baths from now on, eh?

Don't forget the things you use most frequently are the "dirtiest"! Your phone is probably the most contaminated thing you own, as you handle it with your dirty, grubby fingers and speckle it with spit and face grease. And who cleans their phone? Not I, for one. It never occurred to me. Your keys, doorknobs, computer keyboard/mouse, purse (Do you ever set it on the floor? Presto! Contaminated.)... these are all things that are teeming with bacteria, much moreso than that public toilet you cover with disposable toilet covers. You should disinfect these every day to prevent bacteria from breeding!

Or... you could just chill. As I said before, we live in a dirty place. Bacteria own this world! We live with them quite contentedly. Most of them do no harm to us and our bodies have great natural defenses against those that can. And the presence of fecal matter everywhere is not that big of a deal, I promise. It seems a little gross, but it's in minute quantities and nearly every living thing on the planet is excreting waste products of some form or another. It's what we do. And it's alright!

Obviously be smart: clean your goddamn bathroom well every once an a while, leave your toilet seat down when you flush. Put your toothbrush out of harms way. Wipe your kitchen surfaces with disinfectant before preparing food on them and wipe them again when you're done. Wash your hands a couple times a day, be more diligent during cold and flu season, sneeze into your elbow and don't go around licking people's phones.

But don't go overboard either: most bacteria are happy to just sit there multiplying and not doing much else and there's no reason to go and commit genocide on them. Doing so can actually breed stronger, more resistant bacteria! You also need the barrage of bacteria and viruses to keep your immune system up-to-date. Obsessive cleaning can make you more likely to get sick since you have fewer immunities built up.

As for why everyone insists that we can win this "war" against bacteria (or that we even need to)? Well, what can I say... marketing works.

And to finish: "If an alien came from space and studied the bacterial counts, he probably would conclude he should wash his hands in your toilet and crap in your sink." And honestly? That's alright with me.

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Everything you thought you knew about cleaning is wrong.

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