Are you a clean freak? Here’s why you should avoid over-sterilizing your home

When it comes to cleaning your home, doing too good of a job is definitely possible. Yes, although killing all bacteria sounds like a good way to keep your house clean and yourself healthy, in reality, having an over-sterilized home poses a threat to your own health. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to kill everything, and the “only things that are going to survive at the end of all that is probably not the stuff you want to be interacting with the most”.

It sounds counterintuitive, but instead of labeling all bacteria as “bad”, most people would be better off thinking about how to bring more beneficial bacteria, viruses, and fungi into our homes—especially if you have kids. According to Sim Lax, a postdoctoral researcher, we’re only starting to understand that being in contact with more outdoor bacteria and complex microbial assemblages can pay dividends for our health down the road.

That, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean your house at all. One approach to gentler cleaning is to replace your current antimicrobial cleaner with vinegar. Vinegar gets its star power from its high acidity, which can change a surface’s pH level to be less tolerable to certain types of bacteria. White vinegar, in particular, has long been a staple of homemade household cleaners—and for good reason. It gets rid of grime but makes for a gentler clean than some of the really heavy-duty stuff that zaps all bacteria. 

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Are you a clean freak? Here’s why you should avoid over-sterilizing your home

When it comes to cleaning your home, doing too good of a job is definitely possible. Yes, although killing all bacteria sounds like a good way to keep your house clean and yourself healthy, in reality, having an over-sterilized home poses a threat to your own health. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to kill everything, and the “only things that are going to survive at the end of all that is probably not the stuff you want to be interacting with the most”.

It sounds counterintuitive, but instead of labeling all bacteria as “bad”, most people would be better off thinking about how to bring more beneficial bacteria, viruses, and fungi into our homes—especially if you have kids. According to Sim Lax, a postdoctoral researcher, we’re only starting to understand that being in contact with more outdoor bacteria and complex microbial assemblages can pay dividends for our health down the road.

That, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean your house at all. One approach to gentler cleaning is to replace your current antimicrobial cleaner with vinegar. Vinegar gets its star power from its high acidity, which can change a surface’s pH level to be less tolerable to certain types of bacteria. White vinegar, in particular, has long been a staple of homemade household cleaners—and for good reason. It gets rid of grime but makes for a gentler clean than some of the really heavy-duty stuff that zaps all bacteria. 

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