May 23, 2010

Cleanliness Standards Revised

"U.S. consumers spend nearly $1 billion a year on antibacterial products that aren't necessary" according to Mother Nature Network.
In our increasingly germa-phobic society (where people go around carrying Purell on their key chains), we are pounded by advertisement for disposable products promising a cleaner, thus healthier life: Tissues, bottled water, antibacterial wipes and the latest… Kleenex's Disposable Hand Towel (!?).
For such products to make it on the market in 2010, proving that some manufacturers are either clueless about their role/impact on the environment or simply ignoring it for the sake of their wallets, is one thing, but perpetually preying on our primal fear of getting sick and misleading us with bogus information is another (one of the reasons why I do not miss TV).
"Regular washing of bathroom hand towels does not ensure clean hands." Kleenex says...

With absurd quotes like this one, coming from (or shall I say, sponsored by) an industry leader, no wonder why our society has trouble letting go of the disposables... we have come to believe that a higher standard of cleanliness would make us healthier.
The cleaner, the better...
But have we reached the point where we're too clean for our own good?

It is apparent that since disposability has hit the market and entered our homes, our standards of cleanliness have gone extreme. Sadly, living up to these made up standards and fitting "socially acceptable cleanliness" are costing us our health (killing the good germs) and that of our planet (depletion of resources through production and pollution through disposal).
Finding the right balance between squeaky clean and hygienic seems to be in order.
We have been steered away from reusable products, and led to think that these were somehow gross, so here are 10 standards, revised for TheZeroWasteHome:
It's OK to:
  1. Actually, it's not just OK, it's a must...: Switch from your antibacterial products to natural soap (Don't breed the "superbug").
  2. Wear clothes more than once: I admit, it took me a few months to get used to it. Your clothes should not make you self conscious if they have stains or smell, so use your sense of smell to guide you if you're stain free.
  3. Wash your hair every other day: a little cornstarch can serve as a dry shampoo (sprinkle on your hair, massage in, and brush out) between washes.
  4. Let it mellow, if it's yellow: I confess, I do not let it mellow and flush when I have people coming over.
  5. Blow your nose in a handkerchief: tissues are only a recent invention, people lived without them before us. And remember, a hankie being a personal item it is used only for you, so they're your own germs.
  6. Use the Diva Cup: Get over your skepticism and fear of the cup; if you can insert a tampon, you can insert the cup.
  7. Hold off on your weekly sheet washing: If you went to college, you know your immune system survived less frequent washes. In Europe, people air out their sheets between washes. The word "sanitizing" is actually synonym of "airing out", in french crosswords.
  8. Use and reuse a cloth napkin between washes: We use napkin rings to tell ours apart: so simple and yet, it helps us go longer between washes (once a week).
  9. Clean your house with vinegar, castille soap, baking soda and reusable cloths (instead of Comet, 409, Windex, Dawn, Scrubbing Bubbles, Tilex, Lysol, bleach, etc...): Seriously, that's all you need to keep your house clean.
  10. Accept a stain on the kitchen towel that you just washed: Stop fighting stains on items that are meant to be stained. Kitchen towels don't have to be spotless.
I have to say that I used to be obsessed with the whiteness of my kitchen towels, worried that my cleanliness would be judged by their spotlessness. I then realized that the impact of repeat washes and bleach, were not worth it, and that my time would be better spent elsewhere.
By lowering our modern squeaky clean standards, we can refocus on what matters most... spending time with our loved ones, cooking healthy food, or lending a hand to save the Earth.
Note to Kleenex: In a house where none of your disposable hand towels are to be found, we've amazingly survived yet another winter, free of colds...