Got Dirt? So What?

Dirt doesn't scare me.

In fact, generally speaking, I like dirt.

Dirt under my fingernails means I've been working in the garden.

Boy with dirty face Dirt on my kids' faces means they've been out having a good time.

Dirt on my dog's nose means she's been happily digging for her hidden treasure — bones — in the backyard.

According to my mother, when I was a little kid, my favorite kind of gum was the dirty kind – the kind I'd scrape up off the sidewalk or sneak from under the church pew when the sermon got boring. Yes, I chewed it all, and I'm still alive to tell about it. None of that dirt did me any harm.

In fact, my theory is that my family and I are as healthy as we are because we've eaten so much dirt growing up. Our stomachs seem to be made of steel – after all, once you've eaten dirt and lived to brag about it, what can possibly take you down?

I share my passion for dirt with you today because it's March — spring cleaning season — and people are about to start on a total tear about every mote of dust and mark of grime within eye-shot.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think everything should be dirty. I think clean has its place, no doubt about it. I prefer eating on clean dishes to dirty ones, I usually prefer wearing clean clothes to ones that stink (unless, of course, I'm gardening), and I like sleeping in a clean bed.

But I don't think everything has to be clean all the time. And I certainly don't think that "clean" means antiseptic, germ-free, and smelling like roses or whatever darn synthetic fragrance is in the air fresheners being marketed today to make us feel like our homes just popped out of a spic-and-span bottle.

In fact, I take issue with the glorification of "clean" that goes on, as if cleanliness were next to godliness. I'm pretty sure it's not. Cleanliness is next to the cash register, at least in the minds of most companies that produce cleaning products — which is exactly why they produce them.

What I find particularly annoying is that we're subject to billions of dollars of advertising messages every year exhorting us to clean clean clean – and to use, ironically, products that often contain toxic ingredients that actually make our houses dirty dirty dirty and us sick sick sick.

Take, for example, products that kill germs. We've been made to fear modern "germs," as if they were the ancient bubonic plague. Having eaten probably trillions of germs in dirt over the years with nary even a stomach ache, I resent the fear marketers try to instill in consumers about the dang things.

A lot of doctors do, too. Dr. Stuart Levy, Director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, says, "No current data demonstrate any health benefits from having antibacterial containing (i.e., germ killing) cleansers in a healthy household."

Or consider "extra strength" cleansers, especially the ones that include nasty ingredients like phthalates, ammonia, and chlorine bleach.

Whatever happened to good old soap and water? Water carved the Grand Canyon, for goodness' sake. Surely, it can tackle the dirt on my kitchen floor!

Yes, I dust my tables and sweep the floors. I vacuum the carpets and wash out the toilet, too. But I certainly don't obsess about it, and I try like all get-out not to succumb to the marketing madness that has led to creation of a different cleanser for virtually every surface in our homes. (Mostly I use mild soap, water, baking soda, and vinegar. You can check out my DIY cleaning recipes here.)

Greenmoms1 If we're going to focus on cleaning anything up this spring, I think it should be our attitude about dirt. Thank goodness the Green Moms Carnival is tackling this topic. You think I've got an attitude? Wait til you check out their posts!

8 Responses to Got Dirt? So What?

  1. Jenn March 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    Love this post! And the NYT recently ran an article agreeing with you: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27brod.html?scp=2&sq=dirt%20kids&st=cse
    Jenn

  2. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish March 9, 2009 at 8:10 am #

    Amen! I echo this rant myself on an almost daily basis with friends around here. Growing up the daughter of a microbiologist, I had the dangers of antibiotic overuse drilled into my head. Same with antibacterial soaps and other products. We are creating super resistant strains of bacteria that will be worse in the long run. And damaging eco systems in the process. Thank you for speaking out on this issue!

  3. Anna (Green Talk) March 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    Diane, I agree with you. My favorite is soap and water. As both you and Beth said, these antibacterial soaps and products are not good for us. It hampers are own immune systems from growing stronger from exposure.
    On the subject of dirt, there is nothing like dirty fingernails from the garden. Wearing gloves? Not this girl.

  4. Willo March 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    I agree. And though it generally grosses out everyone, I regularly let me kids eat things off the floor or ingest some dirt, grass, etc..

  5. Renee @ EnviroMom.com March 10, 2009 at 8:41 am #

    Great post Diane. I don’t think I’ve eaten near as much dirt, but maybe I should 😉 I’m certainly not a clean freak like modern marketers want us to be. I also am totally perplexed by why people are so afraid to have their homes smell like, well, homes and instead spritz them full of all sorts of awful smelling chemical ‘air fresheners’!!

  6. mother earth aka karen hanrahan March 14, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    one summer as a little girl I tried purposefully each day to get filthy, and it’s true …I had a terrific time doing it!

  7. Mary Hunt March 21, 2009 at 9:33 pm #

    When I see dirt on food I ask myself, “If I were camping would I eat it”? In the same way, a little dust around the house doesn’t get to me like it used to, either.

  8. Amber March 27, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    Amen, amen, amen. I let my kids eat dirt and play in dirt, and they’re very healthy.
    Cleaning products scare me, too. The commercials are the worst – watching a happy mother spray some sort of antiseptic product on a high chair tray, as the baby sits in the high chair no less. What’s the real danger in this picture, the bacteria that surround us all the time, or the synthetic chemicals? I’ll take the bacteria any day.
    Although I do think pre-chewed gum is sort of gross. I guess we all have to draw the line somewhere. 😉

Leave a Reply

Go Green. Save Money. Guaranteed!

Save $5,070 THIS YEAR With Our FREE Go Green, Save Money Guide

Don't worry! We protect your privacy.

Close this popup

  • Get the Greener, Cleaner, Healthier Life You Want & Save $$$ Doing It - Guaranteed!