Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why I Don't Use Sponges

What follows is a wandering, unfocused rant about germs, and the way we're taught to deal with them.

In America, we're always told to avoid raw meat. Of course, since sushi has gotten so popular over the past decade, the rule is, "Avoid raw meat... except fresh fish."

I ate raw cookie dough/cake batter/brownie mix any chance I could when I was a kid. Now that I'm an adult, I give these things to my kids, too. Another thing we're supposed to avoid.

Also, you need to cook your beef thoroughly, to an internal temperature of 300,000 degrees. Of course, you can have your steak rare, so rare that it actually contains pieces of chewey fully-raw beef, and you don't even have to sign a waiver.

But be careful with ground beef... unless you happen to be eating steak tartare. Then you're safe, because it has a somewhat fancy-sounding name.

And always refrigerate your food. Unless there is a potluck. Then you can just leave it out all day.

And what's the result of all of this garbage? I have absolutely no idea what is safe. I used to have a friend that, for whatever reason, ate a lot of raw hamburger, and my fiance's grandmother enjoys raw hamburger as well. If a nutritionist is on my left telling me that raw hamburger will kill you, and some guy is on my right eating the stuff with a fork, like he's been doing for years, why in the world would I listen to the nutritionist?

I'm not saying go eat raw hamburger. I'm just saying that when the experts' advice doesn't mesh with reality, you should usually listen to reality, and tell the experts to check again.

Note: It takes 140 degrees farenheit to kill salmonella. An egg yolk begins to harden at 146 degrees. How often does your runny egg yolk hit that six-degree range of safe runnyness?

     A Clean Home

Lysol kills 99.9 percent of the bacteria on your counter. An important question to ask Lysol is, if you were to wash your counter with plain water on a rag, how long would it take you to get sick from all those bacteria?

Frankly, I don't think you ever would. This was exactly how I cleaned my kitchen when as a bachelor in my early twenties.

Here is something that we all already know, whether we've put the thought to words or not: Dryness is one of the best disinfectants. A surface that is completely dry is not going to grow bacteria. If a surface stays wet, though, and sits that way for a week, even if it's covered in Lysol, it's going to be a three-ring circus of bacteria. It's going to smell like Death's big brother (no, I'm not talking about the Sandman). You know that smell when water's leaking under the sink, or around the hot water heater? That's the smell of a bacteria colony that is throwing a wild party at your expense. And, of course, mold and fungus are the same way. They love it wet.

One time, not so long ago, I thought it would be a clever idea to put a high concentration of cleaner in a bucket of water, and leave a rag in it for when the puppy peed on the floor. I figured the cleaner would keep the bacteria out. It did not work out this way. A week later, my big idea smelled the way a fart might smell in a nightmare about farts.

Water is necessary for life on Earth. This is just as true for microscopic life.

Also, this is why I don't use sponges.

You don't have to throw on the rubber gloves and bleach the whole house. The areas that stay wet (like the shower, or around single-pane windows in moist areas) could use some attention, and the rest of it just needs to stay clean and dry, Lysol be damned.

   Your Defenses

We're given vaccinations to build our immunity to certain diseases. The way they work--the simple version--is that they contain beat-up versions of the disease, and gives your immune system a chance to practice on it. You want your immune system well-prepared, so it can stab any invaders while you go about your day.

I'm going to let George Carlin say my point about keeping your immune system strong. We tend to shrug off truths said by comedians, but a truth is a truth.

I'll leave it at that.

Fun fact: There are more bacteria in your body than actual cells that you're made out of.

So take off your rubber gloves.


I lifted the "don't spread germs" image above from another blog, where the author was making the point:

"I’ve been telling people about this for over ten years, but nobody listens to me. When you flush the toilet, a plume/flume of about 750,000 germs get sprayed into the air in an invisible, aerosolized spray, and they land on every surface in the bathroom."

Whether it's a plume or a... flume (a channel, usually filled with water, sometimes used to transport logs), this blogger makes a good point. Our bathrooms are utterly coated in bacteria. But how often do we get sick from using the bathroom? Generally, when you're sick, you know how you got that way. Stanley at work was pressured into coming in, even though he was feeling ill. Or the kids brought it home from daycare. Or that chicken did smell a little off. Has the doctor ever asked you, "Do you flush your toilet and then immediately leave, or do you stick around?"

And don't get me started on port-a-potties.

The point I'm making is that the presence of germs almost never leads to illness. But, every once in a while, it does.


  1. gooooood writing good sir! i really enjoyed it.

  2. back to the toilet thing... where do you store your tooth brush, lol you still put that in your mouth several times aday