I came home from my library trip last night with a book titled Germ Proof Your Kids. Odd, yes, if you know me as a childless newlywed. Well, I have some things to tell you. No, I’m kidding. The book was just published this year, written by a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases, and, obviously, written for parents—but also supposed to be comprehensive enough to be a reference manual for physicians. For the rest of us, it is a primer on germs of all sorts and the available treatments for illnesses caused thereby. I married someone who has to take potent immunosuppressants for a medical condition, and thus who probably would have been better off marrying a microbiologist or someone in the medical field who could bring home her clinical cleaning habits. As, however, his decision most fortunately cannot be changed, I feel that I could stand to get a better grasp of the basics of “germ proofing,” and to keep my house in accord with my husband’s rather critical need to be shielded from disease-causing germs as much as possible.

I thankfully didn’t grow up in a pigsty, but as more women give themselves to careers rather than to the men they were created to help, the science (and art) of homemaking necessarily falls by the wayside. The standard now seems to be all about appearances: what your kitchen looks like matters more than the actual bacteria count on your counters; no one, male or female, has the time to be “obsessive” about these things, and no one has ever heard about a salmonella epidemic originating with somebody being lazy with the sponge at home. (Unless pop-ups drive you insane, just check out the comments on this article for a sample of such opinions; I was particularly sickened by the person who proudly boasted that he never washes his hands, except in the shower, and he *rarely* gets sick…!!) But since there are several not-uncommon circumstances—such as when you have a newborn, elderly person, or an otherwise immunocompromised person in the home— when the risks of superficial housekeeping are too many and too great, it makes sense to get in the habit of being an “obsessive,” i.e. a careful, housekeeper; or at least to be very familiar with what it takes to keep a house clean enough for a weakened immune system. Then, in the event that such a person visits or permanently comes into your home, you’re not dealing with the added strain of adjusting to a new and slightly more laborious mode of keeping house.

As far as the book goes, the first chapter has been quite easy to read even to my non-scientific mind. The fact that it is so well organized (and the good doctor faithfully disregards every high school English teacher’s anathema against stating ahead of time what you will proceed to demonstrate, explain, prove, etc.) probably has something to do with that. I may have to start taking notes, or just buy the book so that I can keep a dog-eared copy on hand.

Well, speaking of cleaning, I took Lauren’s advice a couple months ago and tried Bon Ami, the famous gently abrasive cleaner. I like using it now that I’ve gotten an idea of how much to pour out for an effective use, and as the label boasts, it “hasn’t scratched yet” on any of the surfaces I’ve tried: toilet, laminate countertops, and whatever the bathroom countertops are made of. . . I think it cost me a whopping $0.87, but because I am just shamefully cheap, I started wondering if the similar action of baking soda ($0.54) would suffice. I got a very helpful response from one of the Bon Ami customer service reps via e-mail that I will post here for anyone interested—not just in saving $0.33, but in understanding how the two cleaners work:

Baking Soda is not an very strong abrasive, it cleans chemically by ionizing in your tap water and creating a bit of an acid. Our Bon Ami is more abrasive than Baking Soda and also utilizes a detergent with the mechanical cleaning action.

Bon Ami Polishing Cleanser, is a formulation of feldspar, calcite, biodegradable detergent, and soda ash. The surfactant in the detergent is sodium alkyl-benzene which is also found in many other household detergents. It is better to use this product in hard water areas. We do not recommend using Cleanser on windows or mirrors.

Bon Ami products contain no chlorine, perfume, or dye. It is a mildly caustic cleaner that is non-toxic according to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations, biodegradable and do not contain phosphates, ammonia, or chlorine bleach. We recommend a thorough and complete rinsing of any surface on which Bon Ami is used to clean; however, there are no ill effects expected if ingested. Calcite and Feldspar are both inert materials derived from natural rock; the use of these minerals rates our Bon Ami products as mild abrasives. Satisfactory results are seen using Bon Ami on many surfaces; however, we do not recommend the either Bon Ami product be used on highly polished, high gloss, decorative, or grained surfaces as it is possible that the product could scratch.

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