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More dirt about germs

Yesterday, Chuck wrote about germs and resistance. Since contamination OCD is the most common subtype, here’s a great study that adds a little more to his thoughts about germs.

Scientists at the Columbia University in New York City wanted to know if antibacterial cleaning supplies actually decreased the number of infectious diseases among the people who use them. Well, everyone wants free stuff so they cleverly designed an experiment that involved giving away household cleaning supplies, hand-washing products, and laundry detergent. People in the study knew that they were getting either supplies with or without antibacterial properties. But, they didn’t know which ones they had. All of the brand and ingredient labels were removed.  

In research, this design methodology is referred to as a double blind, placebo controlled procedure. Double blind means that both the recepients of a treatment and the people providing the treatment are unaware of whether the intervention (e.g. medication, therapy, or cleaning supplies) is a placebo or a real treatment. In this case, the intervention consisted of the antibacterial properties of the cleaning supplies.

The persistent researchers from Columbia University kept track for a whole year while 1,178 people in Manhattan enjoyed using their free cleaning products. They documented the numbers of colds, runny noses, fever, sore throats, vomiting, diarrhea, boils, and conjunctivitis  among all of the participants. They found no differences in the rate of infectious diseases among those who used the antibacterial products and those who used the regular soaps.

So, save your money and buy green. Don’t worry too much about killing every germ. In fact, if you kill too many, scientists speculate that you may inadvertently foster the development of new resistant strains of bacteria. So, once again, try to relax and breathe.

We also realize that if you have OCD, our advice is easier to give than to follow. We plan to provide you with additional ideas about tackling OCD related issues in blogs to come. And if you have a serious case of OCD, you should seek the assistance of a mental health professional with specific expertise in the treatment of OCD.

More dirt about germs

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D.

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of adults and children with obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as personality disorders, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and learning disorders. Dr. Smith is a widely published author of articles and books to the profession and the public, including: Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies (2E), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies, Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, Depression For Dummies, Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth, and Why Can’t I Be the Parent I Want to Be? Her website is:

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APA Reference
Smith, L. (2009). More dirt about germs. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Mar 2009
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