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The History of Cleaning & How it has Impacted the World

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

By Grace Reynolds, owner of HANDMAID® from the American House Cleaners Association's Professional Cleaning Provider Course and Blog Post.

The History of Cleaning & How it has Impacted the World In the 1840s, germs/ microbes were finally recognized by leading scientists to cause the spread of disease transmission and infection.

With this new-found knowledge, society rapidly entered into a period of increasing efforts to combat infectious germs in both everyday living environments and in medical care facilities on a large scale in western society. “Over the last 200 years, U.S. life expectancy has more than doubled to almost 80 years (78.8 in 2015), with vast improvements in health and quality of life. However, while most people imagine medical advancements to be the reason for this increase, the largest gain in life expectancy occurred between 1880 and 1920 due to public health improvements. This period is actually referred to as the ‘First Public Health Revolution’ and it occurred before the medical interventions of antibiotics and advanced surgical techniques were in place.

Historians have concluded that improved sanitation, public water treatment, sewage management, food inspection and municipal garbage collection almost eliminated the aforementioned causes of death.” - Claire Ninde, APC Director, San Juan Public Health*

There are many reasons why our life expectancy continues to climb in more advanced societies, but what has provided a foundation for this unprecedented increase is the higher level of understanding and implementation of cleaning and sanitation practices in every aspect of daily life.

Sanitation has been recognized as the "greatest medical advancement since 1840" according to the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), which was voted on by 11,000 participants consisting of mostly medical doctors. Site here. These changes made in society to approach daily living environments and medical assistance, has since given humanity a major boost in the ability to live out our natural life-span and this increase in life expectancy has exponentially contributed to the further advancement of our society.

Merriam Webster Dictionary Reference Definitions: Clean(ing): (verb) to rid of dirt, impurities, or extraneous (foreign or non-essential) matter.

Sanitation: (noun) 1: the act or process of making sanitary, 2: the promotion of hygiene and prevention of disease by maintenance of sanitary conditions (as removal of sewage and trash). Sanitary: (adjective) relating to health, characterized by or readily kept in cleanliness.

In recent years, business and professional house cleaning services have become increasingly more in demand. One major contributing factor is the increase in two income households, where there continues to be a significant increase in the demand for outsourcing this necessary work.

The demand for professional cleaning of businesses and buildings has also increased due to higher expectations to keep businesses as safe and healthy as possible. There is also ongoing research proving the impactful benefits of providing a cleaner store front, work environment and how vital it is to a business's overall success.

Despite the increase in demand for cleaning services, our society is still running far behind when it comes to understanding the necessity and skill of this trade. These continued misconceptions have remained in large part to how recent the discovery of its necessity to our lives has been; in comparison to how long cleaning has been practiced throughout history.

Because of this, whole civilizations have been and continue to be held back due to the lack of sanitary living and medical facility conditions. These unhealthy living conditions are a major factor in shorter life expectancy among the less advanced populations.

Throughout history and across most cultures, people have seen cleaning and sanitation practices as a “luxury”, “fashion” or “ritualistic” practice, and one of the most (if not the most) unskilled and menial labors. In the 1600s, personal hygiene was recognized to decrease the risk of disease and infection.

Even after this discovery, many countries still charged luxury taxes for personal soaps and hygiene products, because this is how personal hygiene had been viewed up to that point in history.

We are still seeing these same misconceptions linger in our society’s understanding of environmental cleaning today, that maintaining a home’s cleanliness is a luxury, and not necessary for a healthy life.

With the increase in demand for cleaning services across western society, and the available knowledge of how sanitation is necessary to our lives, there has never been a better time to uplift and increase awareness for the necessity and skill of this trade.

This is why it is so important for everyone in our society to understand how cleaning has fundamentally contributed to the development of modern society. The American House Cleaner’s Association (AHCA) was formed in 2019 with the vision, mission, and purpose of fundamentally changing the way this trade is understood and related to.

This effort has required setting new standards for the industry as a whole. AHCA started this mission by first bringing thousands of cleaning providers together in the AHCA's Professional Cleaner's Community, to educate, support, and to instill a new and much needed sense of pride for the work they do.

In 2019, the AHCA also founded Professional House Cleaners Day with the National Day Calendar, which is celebrated on September 17th of each year. The AHCA also provides and continues to build many helpful and professionalizing resources, as well as educational materials at little to no cost for cleaning professionals.

The AHCA also runs ads that are created specifically to help raise awareness and respect for the skill and necessity of this trade - perhaps how you found us! Lesson from the American House Cleaners Association © 2021 PCP Certification Course

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