Conceptualizing hygiene is still very traditional: we call something „un-hygienic“ if it crawls with microbes, and we call something „hygienic“ if it is as sterile as possible – no microbes, germs, bacteria or viruses should cling to it. While this absolutely makes sense in a medicinal context, especially when operating on patients, it also helps making brands like „Sagrotan“ (or „Dettol“ if you live outside of Germany) a ton of money by catering to consumers‘ needs for sterility in the household and their everyday lives.
I wonder how long it will take until recent changes in the hygiene discourse of the human body will be reflected in the mainstream thinking: for slowly we realize that sterility is not necessarily healthy, and that in order to be healthy, the human body has to cohabitate with trillions of microbes – be it in the colon or on its skin. (A recent bestseller in Germany is the book „Darm mit Charme“ which embraces the idea that you should consciously nourish the right kind of microbe composition in your colon, and even the Economist chimes in by saying that people should be more open towards fecal transplants. Yuck.)
Yet still all I see on supermarket shelves are sanitizers and microbe killers with their good old sterility benefit („99.9% bacteria free“). I wonder: when will we see a completely new range of products, perhaps sprays or creams containing a healthy mix of bacteria for skin care, or kitchen cleaning products that don’t sterilize surfaces, but contain bacteria that make surfaces more „resistant“ against e.coli infections (eg from chicken parts) ?
As I write this, I realize how alien this idea still is from a mainstream consumer’s perspective, but I think the time is ripe for some niche players to toy with the idea and start marketing it to progressive segments…