While most present-day ads promote soaps and household cleaners that kill 99.9% of germs, the truth is you actually need this 99.9 % of germs to develop a strong and functional immune system. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on clean living right from clean energy to impeccably clean houses. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being clean and tidy. Matter of fact better sanitation has led to a reduced number of deadly diseases like cholera and typhoid. Nevertheless, obsessive cleaning of surfaces, floors, and laundry has adverse effects on an individual’s health.

It Leads To A Weakened Immune System

Over sanitation actually leads to an increased infection rate of autoimmune diseases and allergies. It seems counterintuitive, right? Well, it is not. Matter of fact research shows most individuals who clean their houses with seemingly superior antibiotic products actually have higher rates of asthma. The immune system needs to be exposed to germs in order to fully mature and to be able to fight them.  This is based on the hygiene hypothesis theory developed by British researcher David Strachan in 1989. According to this theory, people exposed to viruses, bacteria, and allergens in early childhood developed a formidable immune system in later life.

Another scientific evidence that supports this claim is a study carried out involving mice placed in a sterile environment and a control group. After a period of time, the mice in the sterilized environment had higher rates of asthma and colitis. Basically, when you over clean, you get rid of pathogens. In later years, the immune system is consequently unable to identify these pathogens because it has never been exposed to them. This means it will fail to recognize harmful invaders. Alternatively, it can overreact to harmless bacteria leading to allergic reactions and autoimmune diseases such as juvenile diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, and hay fever among others.

It Interferes With Microbiome Biodiversity

True to the findings of German physician Robert Koch, certain bacteria cause specific diseases, some of which are life-threatening. Nevertheless, there are certain microbes that are good and promote health. These organisms which include both good bacteria an intestinal worms called helminths, prevent inflammatory diseases and regulate immune system function.

Individuals in today’s society have fewer biomes compared to those who lived in industrial societies, according to a study by Jeffrey Gordon. This is because of both the kind of diets popular today and over sanitation. Instead of eating farm produce, most people prefer processed foods which come in airtight sealed packages that prevent bacterial growth.

There’s also a lot more emphasis placed on washing one’s hands before and after any meal, as well as washing fruits and raw edibles before consumption. While this prevents diseases like cholera, they also deplete microbiome levels in the body. This, in turn, can lead to the development of inflammatory diseases.

It Potentially Causes Cancer and Respiratory Diseases

Household cleaners contain a lot of harmful chemicals and volatile organic compounds which have the potential to cause health issues such as chronic respiratory diseases and cancer. Some have ammonia and bleach which are corrosive and irritate both the eyes and throat. Overusing these products in a bid to create a germ-free home means more exposure to these chemicals.

This is to add to carcinogens preexisting in a home’s building materials, such as asbestos in vinyl floors, polybrominated diphenyl ethers in insulation, and chromated copper arsenic in treated wood. All these chemicals pollute and degrade indoor air quality causing respiratory diseases and cancer. It is therefore recommended to ditch commercial cleaners and instead implement the use of eco-friendly ways to clean, such as mixing baking soda and warm water.

Obsessive cleaning disrupts normal bacterial biodiversity which is key in promoting human health.  Instead of constantly washing clothes, surfaces and other things in the home aim to do timely cleaning. Also, instead of using the 30% of bar soaps and 75% of liquid soaps with antibacterial agents, use warm water and ordinary soap to clean. Encourage your children to play outdoors in areas with soil and vegetation rich in beneficial biomes. Exercise outside as well instead of the gym. Include fresh farm produce in your diet and keep a pet just to add to microbial biodiversity. Unexpectedly, a little dirt is actually good for your health!

Ali Miller