I Grew Up In The 80s With A Mom Whose Favorite Scent Was Bleach

So my natural question now, in 2022, is: was she right?

by Angela Hatem
Originally Published: 
A grandmother who cleans everything with bleach
Sladic/E+/Getty Images

You know the ole saying, “God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt”? I’m a super fan. My mother on the hand, not so much. In her world, “God made dirt, and dirt makes germs.”

My mom is germ-aversive in a big way. Bleach is her favorite scent and disinfectant wipes are her favorite accessory.

For years I have been warned about the dangers of unlaundered pillows, the perils of unwashed chicken, and the most vicious germ causing agent of all, going to bed with wet hair.

Pre-pandemic, her cleaning maneuvers seemed a bit One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest to me, but when COVID hit, she seemed like a trooper who had been preparing battle for a lifetime. Thanks to the pandemic I may have upped my germ vigilance, but I still call shenanigans surrounding some my mother’s claims.

In an attempt at fairness, and in an even larger attempt at definitely and hilariously proving my mom wrong, I wanted to present her theories to science, and then have science shoot them down like one of those cartoon birds in “Duck Hunt”.

So here we go, science meet mom. Mom, meet science, aka Indianapolis, IN-based Family Nurse Practitioner, Susan Kohlhaas, whom I reached out to to get the down low on some of my mom’s most risk-averse behaviors.

Do I need to wash a pillow as soon as I bring it home from Target?

Susan Kohlhaas: This is a hard one! The standard answer is yes! New doesn’t mean clean or free of irritants. Considering that you will lay your head on it every night, it is probably best to wash a new pillow before first use, and then roughly four times yearly. If you are looking to decrease how often you need to wash your pillows, consider a pillow protector that goes over your pillow but under your pillowcase.

Mom 1, Angela 0

Do I need to bathe my toddler every day?

Kohlhaas: Unless you have certain skin conditions, this is unnecessary and potentially detrimental. Bathing or showering every day reduces the good bacteria that inhibits the skin as well as natural moisturizers. The same is true of washing hair every day: it can make it more dry and brittle. With certain exceptions, bathing two or three times weekly is sufficient. If you struggle with body odor, excessive sweating, or certain other skin conditions, your dermatologist may recommend that you shower regularly. If you need to or choose to shower daily, consider taking short five minute showers, using lukewarm rather than steaming hot water, avoid antibacterial soaps.

Angela 1, Mom 1

Back in the 80’s, the word on the street was to wash uncooked chicken prior to cooking. What’s science got on that?

Kohlhaas: Chicken definitely does not need to be washed before cooking. Not only does rinsing chicken not remove or prevent bacteria such as salmonella, it increases the risk of spreading that bacteria over the kitchen. The best way to prevent bacteria in chicken is to store it and cook it properly.

Advantage Angela, Mom 1

Does going to bed with wet hair make you sick?!

Kohlhaas: Being cold or going outside or to bed with wet hair does not make you sick. Viruses and bacteria make you sick. The idea of ‘colds’ or that getting too cold can cause sickness is probably related to the fact that many common viruses are more prominent in cold weather seasons. But this is most likely due to the fact that in the winter we are more confined indoors and in closer exposure to others with contagious diseases. So nope, it’s not wet hair that gets you sick.

So the results are in, science sides with me. Like all victories, this win draws out a wonderful feeling of triumph and glory, it would be easy to see how some would feel the need to rub this one in, to really pour salt in the icky wound, but not me, never me. I intend to be a good sportsman. I will be appreciative of my mother who takes her time to worry about all the things that I don’t have the time to worry about.

I will be grateful for how much my mom loves me and my son, and of how she only wants what is best for us, to keep us safe, healthy, and clean. So I end this piece from a place of warmth and gratitude. It is from here that I declare, with all the love in my heart and all the warmth and genuine appreciation in the world, “Suck it mom.”

Angela Hatem enjoys piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and obviously soft rock. Born and raised in Homestead, FL and adopted by Indianapolis, IN, Angela enjoys her single life with her son, alongside all of her not so single friends and family. She tries to find the funny when it’s possible, when she can’t find that she looks for money under couch cushions.

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