- a blog about food and value

A stupid solution to a problem that never existed

Bacteria: Don't believe the hype. They're just not that into you.

Bacteria: Don't believe the hype. They're just not that into you.

I knew watching TV was a bad idea. Dettol have just released the No-Touch hand wash system, a new, utterly pointless product to add to your eerily clean and soulless home. Specially designed to play on the  fear and ignorance of unsuspecting, never-ending consumers, the No-Touch system promises that you don’t even need to touch germs again (you see, they might race up your hand into your mouth and kill you before you have a chance to scrub them off). Now you can live in a sterile bubble!

I wonder which hideous product development lackey saw this particular market niche. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

“We need a new kind of soap. It’s not enough that they kill 99.99 per cent of all bacteria. It’s an inefficient kill rate.”

“Hmmm, I know. But we can’t produce a soap that kills 100 per cent of bacteria. The little blighters just won’t comply with our profit targets; they keep mutating. They’re so unreasonable.”

“But people seem to buy into this very profitable idea that all bacteria, without exception, are bad and must be eliminated. There’s a market niche somewhere, if only we could find a way to fill it.”

“I know!” pops up the marketing boy. “Don’t you just hate touching the soap pump? Ugh, I mean that’s what people touch with their dirty hands. It must be crawling with bacteria. What if the soap dispenser in your home had an automatic sensor?”

“Yes! Good boy, you’re very smart. That way, you wouldn’t have to touch the filthy pump-”

“- and get bacteria on your hands, just before you scrub them with our highly efficient bacteria-killing soap!

Oh.  Dear. Lord. Yes, you should wipe your counter after handling raw meat or fish – and wash your hands thoroughly. For anything else, you should of course wash your hands, but regular soap and water works just fine. Remember: when you disinfect your entire life all day, you’re going to get sick.

If you’re dumb enough to get sucked in by this ridiculous, cynical product from Dettol, then you deserve to ripped off. You also (a) need psychiatric help for your chronic OCD and inability to touch any surface without disinfecting it, a la Howard Hughes, (b) deserve the billions of resistant, disease causing bacteria that are coming your way or (c) need to engage your brain and stop believing the lies you see on TV.

Take your pick.

Which ridiculous ads or household products drive you demented?


  1. “BANG!! and the dirt is gone” features pretty highly on my list. . . Grrrrrrrr!

  2. Hear, hear! It always amazes me the amount of money people spend on these kind of useless products that you’re instructed to by for no good reason!

  3. thats funny my sister and i were giving out about this new product the other night when we saw it on TV!! makes me soo mad, why not just wrap us all in cotton wool and be done with it?! grrr >:(

  4. Why do we need to put colouring agents in cleaning products and toilet paper? Such nonsense.

  5. What was wrong with good ol’ soap and water. It worked for centuries.

  6. That stupid ad with the mind-numbingly boring woman showing her equally dull friends her pebble collection. But one of them is a sneaky disgusting air freshner! Ho ho kill me.

  7. Air fresheners drive me crackers as well – especially the electronic ones that use energy to pump chemicals into the air. They’re the ultimate symbol, to me, of mindless waste. Just open a damn window or light a candle.

    Plus they smell gack as well. My favourite writer Lynda Barry did a great comic strip about them:

  8. Jean, that comic strip is truly beautiful. What a gorgeous story, in every way.

  9. Any ad that uses a cutesy child to explain how products are made (HB I’m looking at you) drives me demented. No, raspberry ripple is not made by cows escaping from a field and getting into the raspberry patch, agggghh.
    And Sarah is dead right about that ridiculous pebble air freshener ad.
    Saw the no touch dettol monstrosity ad recently and realised that stupidity is contagious.

  10. The articles here are usually great and very informative, but this one was unnecessarily condescending. Reducing spread of bacteria through contact is a good thing, and these dispensers reduce the amount of soap you end up using, saving you money.

    I wouldn’t bother buying one though as I just wrap rubber bands around the pumps on my soap bottles to reduce the amount you can use, I also fitted my taps with a foot pedal which reduces contact in a much better way considering that the taps are a much bigger worry than the soap bottle.

  11. That Vanish ad, when the woman – with an almost hysterical look on her face (bulging eyes etc.) – repeats several times, that she “has to get rid of these stains” …

  12. I’m going to take the opinion of the (probably) the most qualified commenter on this thread: one of these writers is a microbiologist, and he agrees with me so :p

  13. I love that ad, it gives me the opportunity to shout at the telly ‘but you are washing the germs off!’.

  14. Peter – that’s just the tip of the Lynda Barry awesomeness iceberg. You should read the rest of the 100 Demons strips on, they’re fantastic.

    Belles – love that sketch! Have you seen Sarah Haskins’ Target Women?

  15. Reminds me of those awful ‘no touch’ washing systems which are becoming more and more common in airports and other public bathrooms. OK, I know that if you think about it too much, there is something a tad icky about touching the same tap that’s been touched by the bacteria laden hands of countless strangers. But still, I’d prefer that than dealing with those taps that never flow when you want them to, and then you accidentally get your hands too close to them and they start flowing again, wasting tons of water. Give me a good old-fashioned tap any day, germs and all!

  16. This made me laugh so hard, I couldn’t agree more. I had my first daughter in the US and our pediatrician told me to quit sterilising things once she hit a month old so that she would build up a natural immunity. When I had my second daughter here they told me to sterilise everything until she was 18 months. I thought that was preposterous considering babies essentially live in bacteria from three months on. Crawling on the floor, chewing anything they can get their hands on. No point sterilising their dody, while they’re chewing on your shoe!

    Fact is, dirt is good for you, yeah you don’t want to be leaving raw meat around, but you pretty much hit the nail on the head here. Soap and water and a little less paranoia, we’re not in an operating theatre!

  17. I am so thankful to my Mom today that I was allowed to grow up in a household, where you can clean everything with only a few cleaners, none being a disinfectant…and on top of that being allowed to savour getting dirty whenever possible, incl the typical handful of “I-know-who-was-in-here-and-eat-it-anyway”-playground sand.

    And oh yes, that pebbles ad drives me right back into my ocb. Not only the fact that you have to cope with an absolutely unimaginative ad, but also that we have to cope with a badly dubbed version here in Germany. Okay, studying linguistics, cultures and all I am a bit sensitive to things like seeing what the badly paid actors really say and uni-culturalized ads…

  18. My 12-year-old son hates the new soap ad too… Even he can see how silly the whole notion is!
    I hate ads for cleaning products in general… everything “wipes off’ magically, drives me mad…

  19. I can’t believe there wasn’t a meeting in Dettol whereat some sane person said, “Wait, are we not showing a decided lack of faith in our own product if we basically suggest that it isn’t capable of killing any harmful bacteria that’s on the dispenser?”. C’mon Dettol you numskulls!

  20. “Wash it with Febreeze!” Great jingle, but can someone explain to me how spraying chemicals on top of the dirt/odour is actually washing, isn’t it just layering a smell on top of the problem?