Your Tidy Home: How Clean is Too Clean?


A number of adults have memories of a hyper-clean relative who asked visitors to take off shoes, maintained a pristine household, and had rugs crossed with vacuum marks.

However, despite the appearance and supposed good health that goes along with a tidy household, could such neat compulsions actually pose a threat to children?

Researchers were surprised to discover that kids who were exposed to rodents, pet dander, and other common allergens within their first year of life had fewer to no allergies, asthma, and wheezing fits.

Rural, Urban and Allergy Free

Researchers were surprised to link the good health of rural and urban-raised children, raised in homes rich in bacteria and exposed to animal dander, rodent droppings, and allergens.  41 percent of allergy-free children were raised in rural and urban surroundings.  Those raised on farms since birth and exposed to animal hair, bacteria from droppings, and microbes, showed less allergic symptoms later in life.  However, 8 percent of those without allergies were raised in cleaner environments.

Immune Muscles

The immune system, entirely different from the body’s musculatory system, hosts similarity regarding how it wards off allergens.  Building muscle requires an initial breakdown, thus making the muscle fibers stronger upon regrowth.  Similarly, the immune system’s exposure to bacteria and allergens makes it stronger in protecting the body from future contact.

Therefore, a super neat mother or father actually deprives newborns of the exposure to bacteria, and ironically make babies more susceptible to allergies.  Likewise, those who are not raised in a house with pets are more likely to experience allergic reactions and wheezing fits when around them in the future.  Their immune ‘muscles’ were never strongly developed.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Clean?

It’s well known being noticed for maintaining a clean environment is a compliment yet research shows asthma, one of the leading pediatric illnesses, is associated with environment.  There is such a thing as too clean when it comes to protecting a child from future wheezing fits and asthma.

Children who grew up without mouse and cat dander (and cockroach droppings) were three times more likely to experience wheezing fits.  However, just 17 percent of peers showed similar symptoms when raised in ‘dirtier’ surroundings.

More Pets and Less Scrubbing

The research presents opportunity for a number of moms and dads to reconsider getting rid of a family pet or adopting a pet before the arrival of a newborn.  Additionally, children free of wheezing and allergies at age 3, who were most likely to grow up in environments with the richest amount of bacteria and allergens, give moms and dads reason to scrub and clean less.  Of course, doctors assume normalcy takes precedence upon hearing of the findings.  As one pediatrician jokes, “Please don’t intentionally infest your home…”

To Vacuum or Not to Vacuum

Researchers urge parents continue with addressing dirt, debris, and odor as regular, but to consider the environment of a newborn, and to especially reconsider getting rid of or not wanting a pet.  High end vacuums present a nice compromise for a tidy-minded parent who decides to house a number of pets.  Go to for more information regarding models efficient in addressing pet dander and multiple surfaces.

OCD Cleaning


Obsessive-compulsive disorder  (OCD) involves recurring thoughts and subsequent rituals or actions to satiate an ongoing belief or to avoid an unwanted state or result.  For example, those who are exceptionally obsessed with cleaning host a fear of contamination and use continuous cycles of thought and action to maintain a pristine environment.  Since the result, a clean environment, is not immediately threatening, most OCD behaviors are dismissed and effects welcomed by family members and friends who champion a clean environment.

While OCD is a serious disorder, and its diagnosis reserved for professionals, be aware of the behaviors of loved ones and those around you.  From an evolutionary perspective, researchers believe obsessive cleaning or becoming ‘too clean’ stems from an adaptive behavior that has become broken, gone wrong, or no longer advantageous in today’s environment.  As reflected by the research related to exposure to dirt and bacteria, being too clean can be an evolutionary disadvantage.

Is there such a thing as too clean?  It seems that, on the extreme level, it is up to licensed professionals, yet research has given the masses something to consider…or reconsider.

Pets and a (healthy) dose of bacteria are good for newborns.  Actually, depriving children of pets, dirt, and microbes could inspire future health complications.  The debate regarding clean versus too clean continues.  Which side of the vacuum tracks do your thoughts reside?

Helen Turner taught home economics for many years. Now retired, she stills enjoys sharing her insights with others. You can read her articles on a variety of websites and blogs.

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Your Tidy Home: How Clean is Too Clean?