Health

15 Hygiene Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Right Away

Cleanliness is close to Godliness. At some point or another, we have all heard this phrase. Maybe it was a dear old grandmother or a niggling… Simi - January 23, 2018

Cleanliness is close to Godliness. At some point or another, we have all heard this phrase. Maybe it was a dear old grandmother or a niggling and annoying aunt. Regardless of the source, since we were children our families have tried to teach us how to be fully functioning, hygienic members of societies. Some of these lessons sunk in, others did not.

We all have our own morning routines. Maybe you are the type of person who cannot wake up properly until you have washed your face. Maybe brushing your teeth is the first order of the day. We do these things because we were taught to, but we also do them because we believe that these small rituals will ensure health and longevity.

Some of them do live up to their name, others are downright harmful. But, how do you sift through all the misinformation to glean the truth? Do you spend bucket loads of money consulting every doctor, specialist, and physician known to man, or do you venture out alone and do your own research?

The chances are that given an endless supply of money and time, any person could dig up dozens of conflicting and confusing reports. In the spirit of dispelling any rumors, lies or untruths, we are going to go on a bit of a journey. Along the way, we will grapple with preconceived notions of health, wage war on old-wives’ tales, and hopefully, come out the other side with the holy grail of hygiene.  

1. Frequently used household objects need to be cleaned

Wherever you are, take a look around you. Pick out the objects that you use or touch a few times a day. Got them? The chances are, you have spotted a remote control, the doorknob, your laptop, or even your smartphone. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Now, think of the last time that you cleaned these objects.

By clean, I do not mean that you ran some sort of material across the screen of your phone in an attempt to get rid of that bothersome smudge. I mean actually clean, you know, with soap and water. Chances are, you can’t remember. Because who in their right mind cleans a remote or doorknob, only obsessive-compulsive people right? Wrong.

We have established that these objects are not frequently cleaned. But why is that such a problem? Well, think about everything you do during the day. Think of the people you meet, the places you go and the things you touch. Now imagine bringing a small piece of each of those home with you. These small pieces are none other than germs and bacteria. Even one days’ worth of bacteria and dirt accumulation is enough to make one squirm, but these objects are not harboring one’s days’ worth of experiences. They have been handled by countless different people over the span of weeks or even months.

These objects are veritable cornucopias of dirt and bacteria and they need to be cleaned, at least once in a while. This is not to say that you must go home and drench your entire house with antibacterial detergent. Simply wiping down these everyday objects with a soapy cloth, maybe once a week is sufficient.

2. Feminine hygiene products do not belong in the toilet

Did you know that in many European countries you cannot flush toilet paper down the toilet? There are actually little bins next to the toilet where this soiled paper is meant to go. These bins are then cleared out every day, or every few hours in a, particularly busy restroom. Sounds like a rather gross pain, doesn’t it? Well yes, yes, it is. But, there is a good reason for this.

Europeans are not just peculiar or masochistic in the hygiene department, they do this because their plumbing is old. This means that the pipes are quite thin and simply cannot safely transport this paper. They were built for liquid and then some, but not paper. Contrast this with culture across the ocean, where almost everything is flushed down the toilet.

This can include diapers, condoms, tampons, and pads. Granted, the plumbing is not as old and may be able to handle these foreign objects. But are you really willing to risk it? What would you do if the toilets were one day to revolt?

No one wants their sewerage strewed across the living room floor. There is a simple fix. Do not throw pads and tampons down the toilet. This is by no means taking a dig at women. Periods are natural, but they are also downright awful. They hurt and are plain annoying. But ladies, for the sake of your plumbing. When aunt flow comes a knocking, take your pad or tampon, wrap it up in toilet paper or newspaper and toss it in the bin. And not just any bin. Throw these items into a bin which is cleaned out regularly.

3. You do need to floss

People do not like going to the dentist. People don’t like going to doctors at all. But dentists, they are avoided the most. Maybe it’s the fact that sitting with your mouth wide open, while someone shoves metal things in it, is not only an uncomfortable but also an awkward encounter. It could also be because dentists can be quite judgemental.

No one likes being judged or criticised. But in a dentists’ defense, they have a right to be judgmental. A lot of people do not take oral hygiene seriously. They diligently brush their teeth every morning and think that they are set for the day. This is not even nearly enough.

When a doctor orders a day of bed rest and hands you a prescription for some medicine, chances are that you totter off and follow their orders to the letter. When a dentist tells you that you need to brush your teeth twice a day and that you must not forget to floss, you probably think they are being overly cautious. They are not.

Oral hygiene is not some closely guarded secret. It is available to anyone who wishes to listen. If you are keen to spend the rest of your life with a mouth full of clean and healthy teeth, which are actually your own, then follow these simple rules. Brush your teeth twice a day with a gentle bristle toothbrush. This should be done for at least two minutes. Then floss once a day. Flossing removes bacteria and plaque that accumulated around the gum line. This is a vital step in your oral hygiene routine, but should not be done more than once a day.

4. Exfoliating too often is a mistake

The beauty industry is growing larger each year. It is constantly peddling innumerable products, which come in all shapes and sizes. Some of these products are necessary and will help you keep your youthful glow. But, there are some which are being excessively used. That all-natural, deep-sea, environmentally-friendly face scrub which you are oh so proud of, is probably being overused.

The skin has its very own ecosystem. It is perfectly suited to protect us from the elements. It is prone to wear and tear though. The sun is the destroyer of youth. Every day our skin is blasted by UV rays from that flaming fall of gas which heats up our little blue planet. To reduce this degradation of the largest organ of our bodies, we apply beauty products.

Sunblock is essential. Moisturisers speak for themselves. But what about exfoliating face scrubs? The idea is that they remove dead skin cells and excess oil. This is true, in parts. Millions of skin cells die every day. Most of these fall off naturally, but not all. Excess oil is also a valid condition. While having oily skin is said to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, it also breeds an environment for blackheads and can successfully block a person’s pores.

Exfoliating does live up to its name, in that it does remove dead skin cells and impurities. But it can also irritate one’s skin. To maximise your beauty regime, you should only be exfoliating a few times a week. This is for the mid-range skin. If a person has sensitive skin, then this number drops down to one. Exfoliation can be incredibly abrasive to the skin and should be practiced with caution.

5. It is possible to wash too much

In about the 15th century, peasants and common folk did not bath. This was not because of the unavailability of running hot water. Granted, this was a factor, but it was not the prevailing reason. People outside of nobility and royalty did not bath because they superstitiously believed that bathing washed away one’s soul. That must have been a very odd time to be alive.

Living in the grand 21st century, we know that this is a complete falsehood. We love to bath, and we do so without fear for our immortal soul. There is nothing quite like relaxing in a full tub of water. It soothes aching muscles. It relaxes a troubled mind. It washes off the outside world and the aromas that are commercially available, aid in making our nightly baths a glorious immersion of the senses.

Bathing can be luxurious, yes, but it is also completely necessary. As we go about our day we sweat, we pick up dirt and our skin cells die. A soak and a wash in the tub rids us of all these. Today, we do not smell, and we are not coated with a thin layer of dirt and grime. We are clean, and in this cleanliness, we avoid the rampaging diseases which our predecessors fought. But, we may be overdoing it.

Immunity works as follows, the body is exposed to a small amount of a pathogen and then it starts building defenses against said pathogen. This entire process is dependent on exposure. Bathing excessively can not only irritate the skin, it can also rob us of this exposure. Thus, leaving us vulnerable to our environment. 

6. Cotton swabs are unnecessary

The parent in you must be positively reeling right now. Are Cotton swabs unnecessary? That is absolute villainy and treachery. Mothers the world over teach their children to clean their ears. Teachers ask children if too much was in their ears is the cause of their questionable listening abilities. These authoritative examples have conditioned us to believe that our ears, like every other part of our bodies, needs to be cleaned. Have we all been misled, or is this truly how one does practice good hygiene?

Start by considering the function of earwax. For the sake of this argument, earwax can be compared to mucous. Throughout the body, mucous acts as a barrier and a lubricant. How does this apply to earwax then?

Ears are an orifice. This means that they are, in part, exposed to the outside world. It is for this reason that the ears need a first line of defense. This is where earwax comes in. It is this gooey substance which traps dust, insects and any other foreign particle which may happen upon our ears. If it weren’t for earwax, these particles would venture forth into the ear canal and wreak untold havoc.  The second job of earwax is to maintain the lubrication of the ear.

Our ears are made up of skin. When skin is dry it cracks, and these cracks leave us vulnerable to infection. Cotton swabs one and only job is to remove earwax, this is wholly undesirable. In an aim to keep the environment of the ear balanced and healthy, toss the swabs and let nature take its course. If there is an unhealthy accumulation of earwax, rather let a doctor remove it in a safe and sterile environment.

7. Toothbrushes need to be looked after

It is very common for people to have a dream where their teeth fall out. The psychological meanings behind this dream are numerous, but there is also a practical explanation for this nightmare. This being, that we love and cherish our smiles. The eyes may be the gateway to the soul, but it is our lovers’ smile which we search for.

Everybody wants that beautiful and flawless Hollywood smile. We want to dazzle the world with our charm and captivate the masses with our pearly whites. This is why we brush our teeth. Of course, we also brush because we don’t want bad breath and because we know that it is hygienic to do so. But mainly, it is because of the smile. Therefore, we diligently scrub away at our teeth every morning and every night, then place our trusty old toothbrush back in the cupboard. This is one drastic mistake here. Can you spot it?

Here’s a hint, toothbrushes do not belong in the cupboard. After a brush simply rinsing and shaking the water off is insufficient. Leaving your toothbrush damp leaves it open to bacteria. This bacterium sits and stews for the next few hours until you brush your teeth again. At this point, it reaches its final destination which is none other than your mouth.

To optimise your brushing regime, you need to take good care of your toothbrush. Do not lock it away in a cupboard, rather put it in a cap which has air flowing through it. At least once a week, let your toothbrush sit and dry in the sun. A toothbrush also needs to be replaced every 3 months and should never be left in the proximity of the toilet.

8. Cover your mouth when you sneeze

In the 6th and 7th centuries AD, the bubonic plague swept through Mediterranean countries as well as parts of Asia. It claimed the lives of approximately 25 million people. Once a person had contracted the disease, within a few days they would start displaying flu-like symptoms. This meant that if someone coughed or sneezed then it was very likely that they had the plague and would probably die soon.

This was still a very superstitious time. In this spirit, Pope Gregory I told the citizens to say, “bless you” to someone when they sneezed. In so doing the sneezing or coughing culprit was given a blessing, and hopefully, that would keep them from dying.

This odd tradition lives on today. The accepted social etiquette of covering one’s mouth when they cough or sneeze has not. This is not to say that every citizen of the world is a germ-spewing machine, but studies do show that at least a quarter of observed people do not, in fact, cover up their mouths when air is involuntarily pushed out of it.

Covering one’s mouth when they cough, or sneeze is not only polite, it also prevents the spread of germs and diseases. Obviously, this is not always possible as a sneeze can catch one totally unaware, but every person should at least make a concerted effort. If you are sick, it always best to avoid going out and instead recover in the comfort of your home. This will speed up your recovery and prevent you from making others sick. If you must leave the house, remember to do so with a box of tissues which can be coughed into if need be.

9. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom

Being human is a messy business. Our bodies do not run at full efficiency and we do produce waste. It is a simple and inescapable fact of life. It is as certain as death and taxes. Luckily, we have these wondrous places where we can dispose of these unwanteds and unneededs. It is safe to say that we owe the Romans an enormous debt of gratitude for gifting us with the marvel that is sewerage systems.

A healthy person visits the bathroom a few times a day. No one likes to talk about it and we sort of go about our days pretending that we don’t, in fact, use the bathroom at all. But we do, we all do. There are even kids’ books with titles like “Everyone Poops”. How ridiculous is that? That we have to convince our young, with picture no less, that their bodily functions are not only normal but that it’s alright to talk about it. We should be talking about it. More so, we should be talking about the correct hygiene practices that accompany our daily toilet visits.

Everyone knows that they should wash their hands after using the toilet, and yet a tenth of people simply don’t. Even more shocking is that a third of people don’t even use soap. What good is that? Water is hydrating, it is cleansing but it cannot clean you completely unaided.

Every person should be washing their hands, every time they have used the toilet. They should wash them for a period of no less than 45 seconds and they must use soap and water. If timing is the issue, sing happy birthday to yourself in your head while you wash up.

10. Shower after a good work-out at the gym

No one wants to be unhealthy. Everyone desires a healthy body that not only feels but looks good. The question of what exactly is good looking is a very complicated and controversial topic. Massive amounts of shame and loathing have been directed at the media for perpetuating unattainable beauty standards for men and women alike. People have been driven to the precipice of starvation and malnutrition, all in the hope of attaining that perfect body. The diet-pill industry completely survives on the low self-esteem of the public.

This is not the route to health. This is the route to bankruptcy, illness and body shame. The key to longevity and health is exercise and mindful eating. As this truth is being propagated across the globe, the gyms are amassing a hoard of faithful followers.

Enter any gym, and you will find row upon row of grunting, sweating faces who are lifting incredible loads with any part of their body that can boast a muscle. This ritual leaves one high on endorphins, quite sore, very hungry and obviously drenched in sweat. If done correctly and not in excess, working out and sweating it out is beneficial to your health. Leaving that sweat on your body for the rest of the day is not.

A post-workout shower should always accompany that post workout shake. It leaves one smelling good, and it removes the opportunity for bacteria to thrive. If, for whatever reason, you are not able to shower or bath after a workout, then make sure that you change out of the soggy clothes that you were exercising in. This is only a temporary fix, but it should hold you over until you are able to wash up later in the day. 

11. Makeup brushes are not immortal

Women love their makeup, and so they should. They should not love it because of the way people treat them when they are beautified. They should love it because of the way it makes them feel. A killer outfit can leave one feeling on top of the world. The perfect makeup can make a woman feel like the goddess she is. They spend countless hours shopping for the perfect product, invest well-earned money on a quality brand and slave away in front of the mirror until every brushstroke is artfully applied.

This tradition has been alive for literally thousands of years. The pyramids are not only what the Egyptians are famous for. While their archaeological and historical significance is well-known, their reputation regarding cosmetics is not. By the 1st century BC, Egyptian women had a whole range of vibrant make-up options to choose from.

These were made from ground minerals or rocks. Even Cleopatra wore make-up. The renowned queen would adorn herself with kohl, lapis lazuli, and gold pyrite pastes. She did this for its visual appeal but also because the application of dark colors around the eye would protect her eyes from the dangers of the noon-day sun.

Women around the world should feel proud of continuing this ancient tradition. They should also be aware of the health hazards which may be involved. Makeup brushes need to be washed. They spend a lot of time being in contact with skin and therefore pick up a lot of bacteria. These brushes can be gently cleaned with baby shampoo. This should be done until the water runs clear, and then leave the brushes to dry in the sun. This is a sure-fire way to avoid a nasty eye infection.

12. Never share contact lens solution

The gift of perfect sight is not one that all people are given. In an evolutionary sense, this could have caused quite a problem. In times gone by, having faulty eyesight could quite frankly have been a death warrant. Imagine being alive in 14th century England and being recruited for some king or others war. Guaranteed, the far or short-sighted person in the troop is definitely going down first.

The human race as a whole has far surpassed evolution at this point. With the soaring medical and technological advancements, we are able to keep people alive for decades longer, reverse or even treat infertility and we are able to gift people with sight. Obviously, that last one does have certain limitations. Blindness is still unfortunately incurable, but poor vision is quite an easy fix. This is done with the novelty which is glasses. Or, in this case, contact lenses.

People opt for contact lenses over glasses for several reasons. For some, glasses are inconvenient. Others simply feel that spectacles detract from their face. Regardless of the reason, tons of people wear contact lens, and what comes with these? Well, none other than contact lens solution.

This clear liquid is used to store and preserve contact lenses. Each brand has some form of an antibacterial element. This does not mean that this solution can be shared. Sharing contact lens solution could result in a sharing of bacteria that is particular to each person’s eye. You only get one set of eyes, and while sharing is caring. It is much healthier to be a bit stingy in this regard. If you have a loved one who is always mooching off you, maybe buy an extra bottle that is specifically for them.

13. Do not wash cloth diapers with your clothes

Babies are a marvel and an absolute blessing. The choice that people make to become parents, is one enormous responsibility. They are effectively signing a contract which ties them up for at least the next 20 years of their lives. It is not a choice which should be taken lightly and while a child can bring so much joy to your life, they are wildly expensive to raise.

As a parent to have to feed, clothe, educate and entertain your child. If this weren’t expensive enough, there are also diapers to consider. These do not come cheap. Each baby product brand claims to have the winning formula. These ones keep your baby dry, these keep them warm, these don’t smell, these are easy to dispose of. The list is almost endless. All any parent can hope to do is to do their research and pick the one that is best suited to their baby’s needs. Some parents go a different route altogether.

This is none other than the cloth diaper. They are cheaper. They do not have any added chemicals and they are better for the environment. There are some downsides though. Cloth diapers are a bit more of a hassle. There is no out of sight out of mind, with a cloth diaper. Parents have to wash them.

In the short term, it may seem easy simply to toss them in the washing machine. This is a mistake. Babies do not produce toxic waste but they do produce waste. If you are going to wash your baby’s diapers in the machine, rinse them first and wash them separately. This will ensure not only your child health but also your own.

14. Do not take your smartphone to the toilet with you

We use our smartphones for everything. They bring us the news and messages from our loved ones. We can buy clothes and food with them. Some people have even managed to run entire businesses with them. Suffice to say, we are completely inseparable from our phones. It has already been mentioned that these little devices are carrying around physical specimens of our day. But, there is one other place where they are picking up untold germs.

That place is the toilet. Find a person in the modern world who says they are not guilty of this and you will have found a liar. Gone are the days where there is a newspaper or bookstand next to the porcelain throne. Who has time for books anymore, when your smartphone gives you access to any piece of writing ever published? This simple change in lifestyle could pose a very dangerous problem.

It does not matter the kind of disinfectant used in a bathroom. The fact remains that there are airborne germs floating around, and there always will be. This may not seem like such a big deal but consider how many times a day you touch your phone and then touch your eyes? The chances are, this happens a few dozen times a day.

 You cannot run your phone under the tap while you wash your hands. This means that the germs you are trying to wash away are already on your phone. Once you have cleaned your paws you pick up your phone again. Clearly, this nullifies the entire task. If you do not want the toilet going with you to lunch, keep the phone out of the bathroom. Go back to the good old days of the paperback.

15. A professional carpet cleaner is needed at least every few months

A very small amount of people like cleaning. The world is mostly filled with people who clean because they must and not because they want to. Some are even fortunate enough, that they are able to hire people to clean their houses for them. If you are not part of this small group, then you probably have a trusty vacuum cleaner at home.

This old Hoover is trundled out a few times a week and is set to work on your carpets. The salesman who convinced you to buy the thing probably promised you superior suction without the added price tag. They waxed lyrical about how this special little machine can clean literally anything. Got a kid with allergies? Have no fear, dust will be a thing of the past with this machine.

Maybe all of this wasn’t simply a sales pitch. And, maybe you do actually have a vacuum cleaner which has kept your carpets looking as good as new. Unfortunately, this is not actually enough. Commercial vacuum cleaners are simply not able to remove all the dust, germs and debris which are stomped throughout your house on a daily basis.

These machines can only remove the top layer of dirt. But carpets are thick, that is actually their selling point. Beneath the top visible layer, lies a veritable petri dish. Herein lies an area that is completely undisturbed, which is the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.  To regularly disturb this ecosystem a deep clean is needed. This can only be done by professional carpet cleaners and should be done every few months.

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