Bathroom politics 

Bathroom politics

A simple question for a friend of mine who is studying to become a foodservice health "expert".

Here at home, my partner insists on using Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach. The stuff is amazingly effective, I'll give it that. I sprayed some in the bathroom sink, where my partner has an awful habit of conserving water to the point that I find caked-up post-consumer toothpaste foam, some odd species of growth I don't recognize for its color, and what I would swear are ashes or flakes of automotive grease. See, I hate cleaning certain things. Ugly bathrooms and hideous kitchens are among my nightmares. So I went outside, because I hate the cleaning solution, let it sit, and came back to clean up the sink.

The basin sparkled. The cleaner had eaten away all of the muck and put it somewhere. Where? I don't know. But there was no cloud of smoke or steam, there was no buildup in the drain; the basin simply gleamed. So I tried some in the shower, where the first hints of curious pink growth began to colonize. Gone. You could watch the little buggers die and dissolve.

Now, this is all amazing, but the simple fact is that I hate this cleaner, which is recommended by my friend studying foodservice health. Bleach in general kills more germs, and this is a particularly effective one.

Except, I hate bleach fumes. I can tolerate Comet and other scouring agents because the bleach is almost as faint as an outdoor swimming pool's chlorine smell. But this ... the cleaner sprays, but if you collect it, it's thick. And it reeks of a perfume-bleach smell that seems hyperconcentrated to me. Instant headache; instant skewed frame of perspective; instant dysfunction. Hell will smell like this, all the time.

But strangely, I can tolerate ammonia. Straight ammonia like you can buy for household cleaning. My old cleaning method in a bathroom was to simply throw Parsons' ammonia all over the place, turn on the fan, vacate for fifteen minutes, and then go in and start mopping up. This worked well for linoleum floors, the toilet, and the bathtub.

Of course, as my partner points out, our foodservice friend doesn't use ammonia at work because ammonia isn't strong enough. So if there's a mess in our house, we use this strangely alien bleach solution.

But as I cleaned the bathroom counter this morning with isopropyl alcohol (it really takes up some of the strange stuff we get all over the formica) it occurred to me that I was actually cleaning the bathroom more often if I wasn't using that bleach.

And so a simple question:

- Sure, the bleach works better, but if I'm cleaning more often with other chemicals, well, what about the cumulative exposure to germs in the environment?

Anyway ... you see what years of shock- and scare-advertising have done? For all the years humanity evolved without soap, and for all the years we've had soap, how is it that I've come to dislike bars of hand soap in a dish because of the muck? I can tell you directly that it's because of the antibacterial pump-soap commercials combined with the paranoia of working a couple years in crummy foodservice after high school.

But cleaning with bleach ... I only do heavy cleaning when I have to. With chemicals I'm more used to, I tend to clean something when it irritates me, a scary difference in terms of time and appearance.

But what is the difference between the genocidal power of one chemical and the next? And does that difference really compensate for the varying frequencies of cleaning adventures?

I don't think so.

But a household strike to expel the bleach cleaner and mushy bars of soap in ugly dishes just seems tacky.

Nonetheless, fight the power.

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