I am reading At Home by Bill Bryson, a room-by-room history of the house. I’m not done with the book but I can already say that I recommend it. It is exhaustively researched and manages to cover great swaths of human history and facts I haven’t heard before.
For example, did you know that before modern lighting, the total amount of light in the average home at night would be equal to the amount of light you get when you open your refrigerator door? As Bryson said, “The world at night, for much of history, was a very dark place indeed.”
One of the most interesting chapters in the book is the “Study” chapter, where Bryson talks about the pests that live in a house, including lice, mites, and bacteria. The information he gives about these creatures is perfectly timed with spring cleaning, which I’m about to start around here. Here are some tips I came up with:
Replace Your Pillows—By the time a pillow is six years old, about 1/10th of its weight is made up of dead skin, living and dead mites, and mite dung. Yuck
Turn Your Mattress—The average mattress is home to 2 million tiny bed mites. To counteract this, clean your mattress and flip it regularly—it will help the mattress to wear evenly and last longer, too.
Rethink the Cold Water Wash–The increase of body and head lice in this country may have to do with people washing their clothes in cold water–the cool temperature doesn’t kill the bugs. “If you wash lousy clothing in low temperature, all you get is cleaner lice,” Bryson quotes someone as saying. This is probably true with others bugs as well.
Use Kitchen Rags Only Once–“Most kitchen cloths are drenched in bacteria, and using them to wipe counters (or plates of breadboards or greasy china or any other surface) merely transfers microbes from one place to another, affording them new chances to breed and proliferate.”
Flush the Toilet With The Lid Down–When you flush with the lid up, “billions of microbes” spew into the air and float around, waiting for your to breathe them in or landing on your toothbrush.
Yeah. Pretty nasty stuff.
Here’s an interview with Bryson if you would like to know more about At Home.