Kirstie’s curse on the cult of clean: Plug-in air fresheners pumping out toxic air chemicals, housewives washing surfaces and even their hands in bleach – no wonder Britain’s leading homes guru is screaming, ‘Get a grip!’
I pop half a lemon in the dishwasher if I want my house to smell nice and I’ve banned plastic containers of hand soap. Instead I remember that surgeons wash their hands in hot water and soap
As someone who spends a lot of time looking into other people’s homes I wasn’t sure it was possible to still be surprised by them.
But what I discovered this week left me flummoxed.
It began, of course, on Twitter, when I sent a tweet out on Monday reiterating my belief that plug-in air fresheners were wrong on every level.
Like millions of others I’ve always hated the things. They give me headaches and when I was pregnant it was even worse.
On Location, Location, Location I can’t even view houses that have them — the crew have to go in first and remove them all!
In a quiet way I’ve been banging on about this for years, but recently I’ve spotted more and more of the things.
With news like this week’s UN report warning of the damage we are doing to the planet, I have become more vocal on the topic.
Any single-use plastic has to be questioned, and a single-use item that requires valuable electricity to pump chemicals into our homes really ought to set alarm bells ringing.
Quite a few people responded to my tweet saying: ‘I use Zoflora instead, pop a bit on your radiator’.
Zoflora (a sweet-smelling concentrated anti-bacterial disinfectant) was new to me, though I like the name and it sounded reassuring organic.
Any single-use plastic has to be questioned, and a single-use item that requires valuable electricity to pump chemicals into our homes really ought to set alarm bells ringing [File photo]
Then I slid down the rabbit hole and found myself at the mad hatter’s tea party, where every surface is being disinfected and fear of bacteria in our homes is being pushed and peddled by ‘clean influencers’. Just like Alice, I am looking around utterly bemused.
How I didn’t know about the fashion for the various people who give cleaning tips on the internet and Instagram is beyond me. But what has shocked me is the staggering lack of environmental awareness surrounding many of these tips.
Not only that, but we seem to be swallowing the marketing myth, hook line and sinker, that our homes, clothes and pets are a danger to us.
Whether it’s those shouty commercials claiming to kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria or the ones implying your child’s high chair is something to fear if — horrors — you used the same cloth to wipe it as you did the kitchen table, these messages seem to have infiltrated our psyche and it’s making me furious.
I’m lucky enough to have a lovely laundry room in my home, with a shelf of cleaning products, but these consist of environmentally friendly basics like bicarbonate of soda and vinegar [File photo]
Now, I’m not one of those women who lives by the fridge magnet mantra ‘only dull women have clean houses’, and among my friends and family I’m known as somewhat neurotic about tidiness.
I’m all for the mindfulness of cleaning and spent the past weekend in the loft of our Devon home dusting, vacuuming and re-ordering my wardrobe. Like many women who work away from home, I’m desperate to re-engage when I return.
But this obsession with eliminating all germs is just a marketing con, exacerbating working mothers’ guilt — and the products are getting into our water and destroying the ocean.
These sprays we are encouraged to apply so liberally (doing far more damage to pets and children I’d hazard than any stray cat hair) all seem to come in plastic containers.
Even if these can be recycled they are rarely made from recycled products — and the powerful ones don’t offer refills, as brands such as Ecover and Ocean Saver do.
One woman tweeted me to say she puts a cupful of disinfectant down her toilet every night and another said she washes her hands with a squidge of bleach at least once a day. What do these people think is going to happen to them? [File photo]
Several studies have shown a link between chemicals used in cleaning and lung damage when tiny vaporised particles are inhaled.
Many even say: ‘Keep away from children and animals’ on the packaging and Zoflora is flammable in its undiluted form. When I was growing up there was no such thing as anti-bacterial spray.
My mother-in-law has reached the age of 89 never using the stuff, and neither did my own late mother, despite an immune system compromised by cancer and its treatments.
Over 25 years she endured at least three or four bouts of chemotherapy and she never doused her home in chemicals, preferring to just be a little more careful than normal and ask anyone with a cold or cough to stay away.
So how did we get to a place where people are more afraid of being killed by germs than global warming?
One woman tweeted me to say she puts a cupful of disinfectant down her toilet every night and another said she washes her hands with a squidge of bleach at least once a day.
What do these people think is going to happen to them? The only times you need to wash your hands are after you’ve been to the loo, before food and if you’ve picked up dog poo.
I’m lucky enough to have a lovely laundry room in my home, with a shelf of cleaning products, but these consist of environmentally friendly basics like bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.
I pop half a lemon in the dishwasher if I want my house to smell nice and I’ve banned plastic containers of hand soap.
Instead I remember that surgeons wash their hands in hot water and soap.
So I’m calling on all influencers — particularly the young — to denounce these toxic chemicals with their over-reliance on plastic. If you wouldn’t put it in your fish tank, don’t put it down the drain.
And please don’t wash your hands in bleach!
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