In 2019, if you had used a pen to push the lift button or washed your hands 10 times a day, you would have been laughed at for being overly fastidious.
This year, nobody blinks if you do that. In fact, you’re encouraged to clean and sanitise as much as possible: after meals, on pulling out a chair, and even after holding on to the rail in public transport.
I’ve now become hyper-aware of the surfaces I come into contact with when I’m out, and I’m not alone. It used to be that we didn’t give a hoot about touching even bathroom doors, but now people are washing their hands and disinfecting like there’s no tomorrow.
The good news for the cleanliness-obsessed is that there is now a whole army of furniture and products, all hygiene-focused. There’s a modular sofa that can be taken apart for safe distancing. There are also devices purported to make sanitiser from tap water, and even a wardrobe that cleans clothes on its own. It seems like everyone is joining in the fight against the pandemic.
I guess the question is: are such products going to be a permanent new part of our lives, or will this turn out to be a fad that will die down as the world gradually returns to normal?
It’s hard to tell.
The cleanliness craze also raises other questions: is there such a thing as being too clean? Will it be bad for our immune system and mental health in the long run? And, in a world where practically every surface is being sanitised, will bacteria and viruses eventually evolve to a point where our usual remedies will no longer be able to fight them?
While these answers seem a long way off, we can moderate things somewhat by keeping a cool head when it comes to fighting the virus with purchases. In a world where “antibacterial” and “antiviral” have become the most frequently used words on product packaging, it’s more essential than ever to think about what we truly need versus what may just be hype.
After all, the most effective way to keep the virus at bay still lies in the practices of washing hands and social distancing – and these are free of charge. And then there’s the mask. Can’t afford to forget that.