Mike Rowe Isn’t Sure Which Job is the Dirtiest, But This One’s In the Running

by Amy Myers

For years, Mike Rowe has been the face of some of the oddest and downright smelliest jobs. And though he can’t be sure which job takes the cake, he did name one that was worst than most. Rowe has been everywhere from landfills to sewers, but the one job that truly stuck with him over the years was making bone black, or bone char.

Making bone char is exactly how it sounds – charring bones. Companies take animal bones and burn them so that they can then mash the remains into a fine powder. The worker places the bones into a crucible, surrounds them with burning coals and then covers them. During the process, there’s an absence of air that helps drive off any volatile substances, making it safe to use in cosmetics.

While in theory, the bone black process doesn’t sound all that dirty, Mike Rowe quickly found out that in practice, it’s one of the dirtiest jobs ever created. In a past interview with Good Magazine, Rowe explained just how filthy this task was.

“Lately, I’ve been reminiscing about bone black, a process whereby cow bones are turned into a fine black powder and then sold to cosmetics companies,” Rowe shared. “The substance is like black baby powder, and gets deep into your pores and lungs and pretty much anything else. I was unrecognizable by lunch, and not much better after three showers. A week later, I still looked like Adam Lambert.”

Mike Rowe Shares One Dirty Job He’d Like to Have

Mike Rowe chases after the dirtiest jobs in the country not so much for the filth but rather for the pride associated with it. The dirt that the workers acquire underneath their fingernails is a sign of a hard day’s work. Not to mention, they almost always see the result of their efforts, whether in the form of a product or a service. That’s something an office job just doesn’t have in that manner.

While Rowe respects all of the dirty jobs he visits, there is one occupation that would win his vote if he had to pick between the ones on his show: wine barrel making.

“I wouldn’t mind making wine barrels. Coopers in Napa Valley build barrels the old-fashioned way—hammers, fire, iron bands, and no real supervision,” Mike Rowe recalled. “There’s a real sense of completion, and a nice mix of physicality, craftsmanship, tradition, and booze.”

Rowe cherishes the chance to share some of the nation’s most hardworking men and women at their jobs. These unsung heroes often provide the means to our clean lives and ensure that no one else has to get their hands dirty – well, not unless they want to.