Though the belief in the merit of dirt was long-lived, dirt has no longer been regarded as a nice neighbor ever since the 18 century. Scientifically speaking, cleaning away dirt is good to health. Clean water supply and hard washing are practical means of preventing disease. Yet, it seems that standards of cleanliness have moved beyond science since World War II. Advertisements repeatedly sell the idea: clothes need to be whiter than white, cloth ever softer, surfaces to shine. Has the hate for dirt, however, gone too far?
Attitudes to dirt still differ hugely nowadays. Many first-time parents nervously try to warn their children off touching dirt, which might be responsible for the spread of disease. On the contrary, Mary Ruebush, an American immunologist, encourages children to play in the dirt to build up a strong immune system. And the latter position is gaining some ground.