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The Real Cost of Being Clean

By Lewis Braham - 2013-07-16T19:53:16Z

Photograph by Lius Real/Getty Images

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Out, Damned Spot!

If Lady Macbeth had washed with Ivory and carried around Purell, maybe she wouldn’t have cried “Out, damned spot!” America’s obsession with cleanliness is the stuff of (marketing) legend. To look at us wringing away with the Purell, you'd think we had blood on our hands. Despite the worst recession since the Great Depression, U.S. soap, bath and shower product sales grew 25 percent to $5 billion from 2007 through 2012, according to market research firm Mintel. Here's a look at what our molysmophobia (yes, that's what the morbid fear of germs is called) costs us.