Is Too Much Cleaning Bad for Your Health?

The old adage, “dirt don’t hurt” is more of a saying to keep people from panicking over a tiny little mess or constantly trying to sanitize nature, which has been full of dirt since the dawn of time and still continues to thrive. The phrase, however, does not fool anyone when it comes to basic hygiene and cleanliness. The places where we work and play are required by law to be sanitized on a routine basis in an effort to promote wellness and prevent the spread of diseases. But the question arises, is it possible to clean too much, to the point that it actually hurts us instead of helps us? There are two main things to consider with cleaning as it relates to physical health: chemical effects and the immune system.

Chemical Effects

Some of the “best” cleaning products work wonders on busting away dirt and grime, but their abrasive qualities do not stop at the surface they are used on for cleaning. In fact, some of these cleaners contain highly toxic chemicals that have harmful effects on human, plant and animal life. Each time a cleaner is sprayed onto a surface or is pumped out of a floor cleaning machine such walk behind scrubbers, invisible compounds are released into the air that can irritate eyes and skin, cause nausea, or trigger allergic reactions. In fact, according to the EPA, homes that regularly use chemical cleaning products are actually two to five times more densely polluted than outside air.

Fortunately, there are ways to tone down the amount of pollution and irritation caused by abrasive cleaners in your home or office. For example, if you like the way a certain abrasive cleaner cleans and shines your warehouse floors, but know it is heavy-laden with harsh chemicals, consider only using this cleaner once per week, preferably right before the weekend so the chemicals have time to settle and the air is not as harsh for workers to breathe. When you need to clean your floors throughout the week, fill the tank of your floor scrubber with an eco-friendly cleaner or simple antibacterial soap and water. The dirt and germs will still be taken care of, but the air will be much friendlier to everyone’s lungs.

Immune System Reactions

In today’s western society, antibacterial products abound, and it is hard to come across something that does not kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria. However, immune systems, especially those of young children, need to be conditioned and programmed to handle the bad things of their environment, otherwise health problems like allergies develop.

When we get a vaccine, we actually insert a weakened version of the virus we want to avoid directly into our blood stream. We do this so our immune system can practice fighting it and can quickly and efficiently kill it when it comes in contact with the real thing. Think of the world as one giant vaccine. We need exposure to it to keep our immune systems up to par and ready to fight whatever comes our way. If we are constantly killing 99.9% of the natural environment off everything we touch, we can not expect our immune systems to be prepared to fight when something threatening does enter our blood stream. Although restrooms and cooking surfaces should be cleaned often, fixtures such as coffee tables, floors, and even furniture only need a simple wipe-down to keep dust at bay.

Deciding what to scrub with a strong cleaner and what to simply wipe off can be tough at first, especially if you feel a false security blanket from oodles of cleaning products that promise to protect you by killing lots of bacteria with harmful chemicals. One of the easiest ways to break the habit is to purchase eco-friendly cleaning products, or re-fill your old bottles with a simple soap and water solution. Eco-friendly formulas will cut down on your indoor pollution level, and a simple soap and water will not kill all the naturally occurring bacteria you need to keep your immune system in shape.