The New York Times, which boldly inquires where others fear to ask, has given us an entirely new perspective on germ warfare. It arrived via an essay by radio producer and essayist Julia Scott in the paper's May 22 magazine in which she said she went 22 days without showering with soap or shampoo. Something about checking out bacteria in the human skin. She said she also wanted to find out what she smelled like when the test ended.
What a cue for folks who are trying everything short of sandpaper to clean up the germs. Here are what some readers told the Times:
Eat a vegan diet to minimize body odor; sit in a Dead Sea salt bath weekly; only rinse in warm water; wash with spring water; use natural salts; use organic soaps ,"like Dr.Bronner's".
One reader commented on the importance of washing hands, noting that "soap saves lives".
Wrote another: "Yes, the hands carry bad germs, but plain old soap and water or ethyl alcohol take care of that."
Even in his day, King Louis X1V was quite aware of the evils of dirty skin. He is said to have rubbed spirits and alcohol on his body. Of course, body odor was around in epidemic proportion in those days, which drove the upper classes to soak up extraordinary amounts of perfume.
Next, we have been told that billionaire Howard Hughes was so obsessive about germs that he even wore tissue boxes on his feet to ward off the evil germs. A former University of Alabama psychology professor, Raymond D. Fowler, wrote that Hughes was phobic about germs throughout his life. Fowler said Hughes wrote a staff manual on how to open a can of peaches - including directions for removing the label, scrubbing the can down until it was bare metal, washing it again and pouring the content without touching the can to the bowl."
Maybe nobody had told Hughes about the miracle of Lysol.
I prefer the Roman remedies to healthier skin. Their engineers created the remarkable Baths of Caracalla, an enormous five-year project. It had hot and cold water and attracted 6,000 Romans a day. Problem solved.