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     Volume 4 Issue 72 | November 25, 2005|

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Straight Talk

Unwanted House Guests

Nadia Kabir Barb

A WHILE ago, my daughter and I were sitting around on the sofa, channel surfing, when we chanced upon a programme called "How Clean is Your House?" Yes, it is yet another reality programme where two formidable ladies called Aggie and Kim arm themselves with rubber gloves and a whole array of cleaning products and take it on themselves to visit the homes of people living in different parts of the UK and clean their house for them. Strange but true. They also seem to have an endless number of tips on how best to maintain the cleanliness they achieve at the end of the show. Admittedly being a clean freak myself I was transfixed by this programme and was more than a little shocked to see the extent of the filth inhabiting other people's houses. It would be more accurate to say that I was absolutely horrified at the state of some of these residences. I even thought that some of the grime had been added on for effect but according to the programme that is how the participants of the show lived. Can you imagine how incredibly brave of these people to air their dirty laundry in public --- and yes I mean that literally!

Personally, I just can't stand messiness and I have an immense aversion to dirt. My children joke that I am allergic to dirt and have dirt sensitive vision! But surprisingly what I find is that cleanliness is a very relative word. In the way that people view things differently, they also have a different perception of what is clean or dirty. Something may seem perfectly clean to one person but not to another. My children are by now, used to my regular lectures and verbal tirades on cleanliness and the importance of maintaining personal hygiene. In fact they could probably quote me verbatim!

Soon after watching "How Clean is Your House?", I mentioned it to one of my cousins and the next thing I knew she had bought me the book about the show itself. Reluctantly, I looked through it and by the end I was terrified of what other little creatures I might be sharing my home with. Aggie would take a sample of dirt from the different rooms in the house and send it to the laboratory for analysis. Amusingly enough they call it investigating the "Grime Scene". The only thing that gave me a certain level of comfort was that I seemed to be doing most of the things Aggie and Kim advise you to do to keep your home clean and pest free! I am sure you won't mind if I share some of my findings with you…

Some of the little friends we share our home with are dust mites. These happen to be microscopic creatures that live in the dust in our homes. They seem to thrive on warm and humid conditions and therefore can be found in our beds, pillows, blankets etc. Dust mites commonly feed on flakes of human skin that we shed every day. On top of that dust mite excretions have been said to be a significant cause of allergies and asthma. After reading about dust mites, I really didn't want to climb into bed knowing that they might be my bed buddies. Yuk! It doesn't end there; we also have the added worry of fleas and bed bugs. These in their turn can cause flea allergies, tapeworms and anaemia. And unlike dust mites, bed bugs bite. To give you an example, I once went to a hotel (that shall remain unnamed!) and got bitten 19 times by a bed bug. Initially the hotel staff was reluctant to believe such a thing could have happened but after I showed them my arm (which the bed bug had feasted on) they sent some experts to find the cause of the bites. After they had analysed the bed, they discovered that it was a rare Japanese bed bug that had probably been brought in by one of their Japanese guests. Needless to say that I had my whole house fumigated when we got back to make sure we did not have a little Japanese hitch hiker on our return.

If we then venture into the kitchen, we have what the two ladies refer to as "pantry pests". These are usually types of beetles that live in food products with a low moisture content such as flour, biscuits, nuts etc. I am sure many of you will have seen them in Bangladesh as they live in the rice and the daal that we buy from the bazaar. They look like miniature cockroaches and these beetles are capable of chewing into unopened paper or cardboard boxes, through cellophane, plastic, and foil wrapped packages. They then lay their eggs in the food and after the larvae are hatched, they 'tunnel through the food, build a cocoon and pupate'. Not really a very pleasant thought, is it? Sadly, there is even more. How can I not mention the creatures that inhabit our clothes and carpets, namely another type of beetle and moth. I believe, if you actually have these in your house, it is a sign of a dirty home as they have an affinity to grime and like clothes that are soiled with sweat, urine etc. They also manage to ruin the clothes or carpets they are in by making holes in them. I could go on but I have a feeling I may have already put you off your food as well as keep you from getting you into bed.

If we were to take Kim and Aggie's advice, all we need to do to keep our homes hygienic is to do the cleaning on a regular basis then it doesn't get out of hand and seem like an insurmountable task. It is also imperative that clothes are washed regularly and the beds aired and the linen changed frequently. I for one am going to stick to their instructions to the letter as I have no intention of sharing our home with unwanted house guests.

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