2010.04.07 Spring cleaning reveals my normalcy or lack thereof

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

 Now that winter appears to finally be behind us, it’s time to start thinking about spring cleaning. Note that I said thinking about cleaning, not actually tackling the job itself. Heck, after reading an AOL survey about home and personal cleanliness, I’m no longer sure where to start...or stop.

Having a good-sized, empty trash can might seem like a good place to begin, but not if I’m required to clean it, too. According to AOL’s cleaning expert, Dr. Philip Tierno, who is New York University’s Director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, we should be cleaning our trash cans on a weekly basis.

Tierno recommends that we rinse the can with soap and water or a sanitizer such as bleach. Not doing so weekly may eventually leave you dealing with E. coli and salmonella. I’d think using a bag would eliminate the need for can cleaning, but apparently not.

When I moved to Fayette, I didn’t have room for the 30-gallon trash can I had used for 19+ years without benefit of cleaning (just a thousand or so new trash bags, replaced when full), so I passed it on to a friend. After checking with the can’s current owner, I confirmed it has now served for over 25 years and is still waiting for that first cleaning. I’m sure the doctor wouldn’t be happy about that, or the 15 percent of those surveyed who agree with my can cleaning schedule (or should I say, lack of one).

On the other hand, Dr. Tierno allows you to accumulate dirty dishes for two or three days before he starts getting nervous. That wouldn’t happen at my apartment. Not only would I not let dirty dishes sit that long, I’d run out of some items before that much time passed. Eighty-six percent of people surveyed by AOL do their dishes within a day. I guess Tierno is more concerned with the cleanliness of his trash can than his dishes. 
His food, though, that’s another matter. Tierno recommends that all fresh produce should, at a minimum, be soaked in a solution of water and citric acid. Only seven percent of those AOL surveyed always wash produce. 36 percent do sometimes and 57 percent never do. And where would we buy citric acid, even if we wanted to?

Now that Tierno’s food is clean, you wouldn’t see a great need to clean the refrigerator, would you? Not so fast. He thinks you should clean it every two weeks, unless you’ve had a spill. But if you clean up after spills and wash your food before you put it inside, I’d think you could go quite some time, couldn’t you? About 63 percent of us wait longer than Tierno recommends before cleaning. So there, doc.

I do agree with the doctor on how often to clean the tub (or shower) and toilet, namely weekly in both cases. But for the two percent of respondents who never clean their tub, and one percent who have never cleaned their toilet, pray they never invite you to their home. Come visit mine instead, as long as you don’t mind a little dust. Or maybe a lot.

Tierno recommends that you dust weekly or even every few days if you have allergies. Count me among the 71 percent who don’t do it that often. Sorry, doctor, some of us are too busy washing our dishes.

What really got my attention was Tierno’s comments about pillows. According to him, 10 percent of the weight of a five-year-old bed pillow is dust mites and dust mite debris. Tierno suggests throwing out the pillow at that point and covering the new ones with allergen-impermeable covers. Another suggestion was to buy washable pillows and wash them in hot water weekly.

A couple of years ago, I got one of those fancy, weirdly-shaped pillows designed to help you sleep better as a gift. I like it a lot. The survivor mate to the pillow it replaced is now something like 15 years old, perhaps 20. No wonder it seems to feel so heavy. If Doctor Tierno is right, by weight it’s about one half dust mites (or their dreaded debris).

I guess that means I should be disposing of it soon. It certainly sounds like a good idea. But if I do that, then I suppose I’ll have to scrub the newly-contaminated trash can afterward. It seems the more spring cleaning you do, the higher the likelihood the consequences will keep you busy until summer. Maybe I’ll just wait until fall. Sound good, doctor?

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