99.999% Effective

Here in the UK, we have a television programme called Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners; a programme that I didn’t pay any attention to until the other day. As someone who wants to go into a media and television career, I like to think that I have a pretty good knowledge of what makes good television – good cinematography, plot etc. But despite this somewhat objective schema of ‘good television’, my personal, subjective experience would state that a good watching experience comes from simplicity. The crummier programmes that last no longer than 30 minutes and involve a whole range of characters with an even wider range of characteristics makes for easy, entertaining television. Programmes like Come Dine With Me, Dinner Date, and even OCD Cleaners come under this category of simple, and because of this I love them all.

Anyway, this isn’t about my TV programme preferences. I wanted to talk about something that I started thinking about whilst watching OCD-C, but not before some context. So from what I’ve seen, it’s about people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder cleaning the houses of those who are contrastingly dirty, like hoarders and other such people who don’t take their domestic hygiene too seriously. I’ve seen two or three episodes and what is most memorable about it is the reactions and behaviour of the OCD sufferers when faced with such disgusting homes and settings. They act as if they have a God-given duty to cleanse and clean, a duty that their lives seem to depend on…

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And what I find most interesting about these people is the absolute, unbreakable faith that they have in the cleaning products that they wield for hours on end; when for all they know, the liquid they’re blasting all over their houses do absolutely nothing. Some of them go through dozens of bottles of surface cleaner a week because they feel the need to scrub their microwave three times a day like some perverse ritual. I’m not judging, questioning, or mocking those with the condition; but it’s made me wonder, especially in the past weeks when I, myself have done a lot of cleaning around my houses, whether some forms of OCD and ‘Germaphobia’ have been created by us in our polished, glimmering world of sanitation…

Because let’s face it, we’re a society that has surrendered all of its power over to corporate brands. We no longer fend for ourselves. If we want to rid our clothes of a stain, we don’t whip up a batch of cornstarch and brush it away thusly (real method by the way), we reach for our friend Persil. No longer do we save orange and lemon peels as a shoe deodoriser when Febreeze can make them smell like honey and happiness. My point being that all of these products are all good and convenient for the most part, but who’s to say that they actually do what is stated on the label. I’ll use myself for an example:

When it comes to me cleaning, if the mood and music is right and I’m not stopped within the first few minutes of completing the task I was given, I will (almost unknowingly) carry on with everything else that could be done in the room; windows, walls – washing begins to take over. And say there’s a really good splodge of something that just isn’t for moving, I’ll grab my trusty Elbow Grease surface cleaner and drown it in the stuff. I do this because I’ve been told by its label that it is superior to most other products of its kind.

So before the birth of trusted home cleaners that Dettol and Flash, did some Germaphobes still have a need to clean things? Or is it our solvent, germ-massacring chemical weapons of mass destruction that has accentuated this? No longer are some satisfied with a cleaning product’s effectiveness unless it is 99.999% effective. But do we know what that means? Or has the smell of an artificial sea breeze and a high percentage fooled us all?

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