Ruth Hancock used to be so scared of germs that she suffered chemical burns up to her elbows as a result of scrubbing her home with bleach so often.
She mopped her ceilings in a bid to make sure every inch of her home was spotless, and had to quit her job as she was so scared to leave the house – leaving her in £12,000 of debt.
The 42-year-old was diagnosed with OCD and anxiety in 2003, and the conditions made her life unbearable.
But Ruth has now turned her life around and is running a successful business selling soaps.
Ruth, from Rumney in Cardiff, says: “I was trapped in a downward spiral. I would get up at 5am and scrub my whole house.
“I removed each smoke alarm to clean it, I scrubbed every door handle, every light switch. I had to wash the walls and mop the ceilings and make sure that everything was clinically clean.
“I wore gloves and a hairnet just to cook at home for my family. It made my life very miserable, and I was desperate for help.
“I could not function if there was a single speck of dust in my house. I had to have every dial in my home on an even number – or I would be become convinced that disaster would strike.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t leave the house. My husband had to do all the shopping and I had to give up my job.”
Ruth received mental health support, and, with the help of her husband, Alun, 45, and son Rhys, 13, she began to change her behaviour. She also uses meditation to keep calm.
Though she still has a daily cleaning routine, it no longer dominates her life.
Over the years, Ruth has become an expert on cleaning and on cleaning products – and in May last year, she launched her own business, making artisan and environmentally friendly soaps under the brand Scentsational Cottage.
She says: “I had been making soaps for a couple of years just for my family, really to distract me from cleaning.
“But by last year, I was £12 000 in debt because I couldn’t work.
“It was a big leap, but I decided to start my own business and approached Purple Shoots, a charity which helps entrepreneurs.
“I did more research on soaps and applied for the correct assessment and certification.
“I come up with a lot of my own recipes – sometimes I will have an idea for ingredients in the middle of the night and I write it in a notepad on my bedside table.
“I now work in my own purpose-built studio, which Alun has built for me at home. I am so busy with orders that I have paid off my debts.
“I have premises for a for a boutique in Barry, near my home, ready for when the pandemic is over.
“My work keeps me really focussed; sometimes, I am making soap for ten hours a day. And of course, that leaves me no time to clean! I work in a clinically clean environment, so it’s a seventh heaven for me.”