‘Clean Freaks’

By Taylor Dressel 

How clean is too clean? How dirty is too dirty?

Chester Cooper, a professor in the biology department at Youngstown State University, defines clean freaks as someone “who is obsessed with cleanliness and responds to this obsession by performing continuous, and perhaps excessive, activity involving sanitization of items, surfaces, etc., in their living/working environment.”

But the question is, are the people that refer to themselves as clean freaks really much healthier than someone who doesn’t define themselves as one?

“Exposure to microbes is important for the development of a healthy immune system. A lack of exposure to microbes may cause allergies and autoimmune diseases,” Jonathan Caguiat, a biology professor at YSU, said. “If clean is defined by the absence of microbes, then, yes, some things can be too clean.”

Cooper agrees.

“Excessive use of agents to reduce the presence of ‘germs’ is not always helpful in keeping the proper balance of microbial species that typically inhabit the human body,” Cooper said. “This imbalance can lead to adverse health events.”

Not everything has to be dirty to be healthy, Caguiat said. Handwashing is still the least expensive and best strategy for preventing the spread of disease.

Senior Brooke Lazar defines herself as a clean freak.

“I have a fear of germs, so I’m constantly using hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available,” Lazar said. “Being at YSU is difficult for me, because I have a hard time even wanting to touch the doorknobs on campus for fear of picking up some sort of sickness.”

However, Lazar does agree that there is such a thing as too clean.

“It sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but there, absolutely, is such a thing as ‘too clean,’ however my brain chooses not to focus on that,” Lazar said. “Part of me knows deep down that everything cannot always be clean, and that we need dirt and germs.”

Lazar does agree that clean freaks are not healthier than those who aren’t. However, she still thinks being a clean freak is the way to go.

“I would love to suggest that we all be clean freaks! I like to think that we are healthier than ‘non-clean’ freaks,” Lazar said. “But there’s been some contradicting studies showing that, in all reality, people who face germs regularly are healthier, because their body has learned to fight them off. To me, it’s just too risky.”