The excessive cleanliness brigade slip up

I'm all in favour of sanitation and hygiene. But I think there is good evidence that an obsession with cleanliness is pyschologically worrying - and that if we want children to develop reasonable natural defences, they do have to be exposed to a bit of dirt now and again.

The latest weapon in the fight against dirt is a system from Dettol which provides a handwash dispenser where you don't have to touch the device to have the soap dispensed. From the manufacturers point of view it's a no-brainer. This is a way to get people to pay more for their soap, and to lock them into buying Dettol rather than cheaper supermarket own brand. (The dispenser itself is quite cheap at £9.99*, but the handwash is £2.69 per 250ml - which is decidedly expensive and where they'll make their money.)

In their advertising, Dettol claims this is a great step forward, because the plunger of a traditional handwash dispenser harbours bacteria, so when you press it you get bacteria on your fingers. However, they seem to have had a bit of a logic fail. What do you do after touching the plunger? You wash your hands. So it doesn't matter if the plunger has bacteria on it. Now if they were offering a way to turn off the tap without touching it after washing your hands, that would be different. But they aren't.

Prices from (I tried to get them from, but you have to log in before you see a product. Not very friendly, Tesco.)


  1. They already have these things in public restrooms. I like them for the following reason: in 50% of all cases the stupid soap dispenser doesn't work. If you have to touch it to find out you've pushed your hands in exactly the same spot three dozen people have pushed theirs after using a public restroom. I suspect that for that reason a lot of people don't wash their hands at all.

  2. Bee, I can absolutely see their benefit in public restroom. But it's a bit different in the home.


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