433 comments

Are You Cleaning Out Your Own Wallet?

Little MM and a friend from the neighborhood engage in healthy dirtplay.

Little MM and a friend from the neighborhood demonstrate better living through dirt.

I’m pretty sure we’re all being scammed.

I have been collecting evidence on this for over 15 years now, and it’s starting to look pretty compelling. If you’re skeptical, see what you think of these stories:

1997: Mr. Money Mustache, Mr. Frugal Toque, and two other friends move into a house together, all of us newly graduated tech workers ready to begin our careers. Between the parties and late nights of work, we notice that one of those other roommates appears to be running an underground laundromat: when he is home, the washer and dryer are always running simultaneously, and he is running up and down the stairs with bags and baskets full of clothes. The rest of us, of similar age, stature, and occupation, find we only need to do laundry every week or two, often sharing a load.

2000: Several homes later and in a new country by now, I rent a room from a woman named Carrie in Boulder, Colorado. She has a “chore wheel” which has all of us devoting every Sunday morning to cleaning the house. I find myself missing hours of precious Rocky Mountain morning sunshine, crouched under the pedestal sink of my personal bathroom, spraying and wiping tiles that I just wiped last week, with no discernible result: Why am I cleaning this bathroom?, I wondered, I can’t even tell which part I have just re-washed, and which part was “dirty”.

2013: In the comments section of this very blog, I heard from one woman who spends $5200 per year on a housekeeper, because it “Saves me five hours a week of cleaning”, and a man whose family of five does 30 loads of laundry per week (with a corresponding $300 per month electric bill), because, “Five showers a day yields five towels – that’s one load per day right there, isn’t it?”

Happily Oblivious

In my own life, I’ve rarely had much occasion to think about cleaning. Sure, if a surface or an object looks or smells inappropriately dirty, I’ll wash it. But this is a tiny part of life – I dump the laundry basket into the machine when it gets full every week or two, and press “Start”. When it beeps, I enjoy a meditative 2-5 minutes while hanging up those clothes.

I sweep the wood and tile floors when I notice leaves or dust accumulating and maybe run the vacuum cleaner through the carpeted areas every month or so. When guests are coming for an extended stay, we might even treat ourselves to some sparkly bathrooms by getting out the sponge and bucket and cleaning everything to like-new condition. Our family secret to the weekly laundry is “reusable clothing”. Sure, underwear may only be good for a single day on your active buttocks, but T-shirts often survive two, and my button-up outer shirts can be reused 5-10 times before it looks grubby. My jeans are usually good for a similar number of uses, because I wear the fancy ones only around my clean house and city, and always change to the dusty heavy-duty Carhartt pair when heading to the construction site.

And as for those bathroom towels: I don’t even know how often I wash mine. In the cool, dry winters I might need a shower every 2-3 days. With careful re-hanging, my towel will last at least 10 showers before it smells anything less than perfectly fresh. So, once a month would be my own towel-washing schedule, on the high side. In the summer, more frequent showers are offset by the open windows which will dry the bathroom and the towel even more quickly*.

But that is it. Even in a 2600 square foot with an energetic 7-year-old in residence, this adds to perhaps one workday of cleaning per year. And the bottles of cleaning products get used so slowly that their graphic design becomes noticeably obsolete by the time you’re tossing the empty bottle into the recycling bin.

I’m sure cleaning is not such a small deal to everyone. Every single grocery store has an entire aisle devoted to the collection of brightly-colored hazardous wastes that people use in the interest of maintaining “cleanliness”. Many of the purported functions are completely alien to me, like “Rinsing Agent”, “Sanitizing Wipes, and “Febreeze”. Worldwide, this is millions of square feet and millions or billions of dollars per day being spent on these bizarre cocktails that did not even exist for well over 99% of our species’ time on this planet. What gives?

Evolutionary Roots

Whenever you notice yourself doing anything ridiculous as a human, it is good to ponder where that behavior might have come from in the first place. Sexual attraction has an obvious benefit to a selfish gene looking to replicate itself. A desire for social status could be boiled down to just a fancier way of making yourself attractive to others. A desire for cleanliness, in the sense of “Don’t Shit Where you Eat”, is perfectly sensible when you look at it as a mechanism for preventing disease. But when you are inhaling Chlorine ions as you spray bleach onto each of your child’s toys after having a few kids over for a birthday party, or idling in a line of SUVs on a fine weekend morning waiting for admittance to the automated car wash, I’d say it is time to go back to the biology textbooks.

A Revolutionary Thought

The answer? Fuck Artificial Cleanliness!

It is time to discard the marketing message that has been programmed into us since the days of the 1950s stay-at-home housewife. Back then, advertising for cleaning products became so prevalent that the cheap dramas that stitched together the advertisements were called “Soap Operas”. To complete the circle, the grocery stores started stocking magazines about the soap operas and related celebrities, to sell to the people who were there buying the soap.

It is also time to open up a watchful eye against the “germophobe” compulsion that creeps into highly sterilized societies like our own. You do not need to wipe the handle of your grocery cart with a “sanitizing wipe”, and you do need to pick up your food if you accidentally drop it on the floor, and continue to eat it. Instead of being afraid of germs, I like to imagine myself gleefully plowing through a sea of them every day, getting a daily workout for my immune system.

Let Them Eat Dirt

A friend of mine is a successful physician who runs a family practice clinic with several other doctors. His medical office sees more coughs and illnesses every day than I will see in a lifetime, which is why a comment he made during a recent trip together really struck me:

“My favorite name for a practice specializing in children would be ‘Let them Eat Dirt Pediatrics’.”

Hearing that from a doctor really piqued my interest, because my own less-educated instincts pointed the same way. I have always ignored germs and sanitation, and always enjoyed excellent health. The germophobes and the see-a-doctor-as-soon-as-I-have-a-sniffle crowd I have know seem to be less fortunate in the health department. Is this correlation or causation? I asked him if adopting a more Badass attitude towards germs and sanitation really is good for general health, and here was his response:

Yes! Exposure to bacteria and viruses in the environment educates our immune systems so they will be ready to fend off attack as we go through life and encounter real pathogens. Excessive avoidance of the normal bugs in the environment may leave you more vulnerable to infection. And, there are indications that kids who grow up in pet-loving households, likely exposed to more interesting molecules early in life, have lower rates of suffering allergies and asthma. A well educated immune system is a strong immune system–bring on the mud pies!

 Dirty is the New Clean

Thus we have our counter-cultural lesson for the day. Rather than seeking to avoid germs and maximize your cleanliness, it is much more profitable to seek out Training for your Immune System, and optimize your life so that things get cleaned the minimum amount that allows you to maintain a functional and prosperous household. The reward is thousands of dollars and countless hours saved, and if you’re lucky, dozens of illnesses prevented.

By all means, keep things happily minimalist, decluttered, and organized – a simplified physical environment is good for the mind. You can also wash your hands with normal soap after a big day out and cook your food properly. But in your own home where no babies are delivered and no surgeries performed, you can safely let yourself off the hook when it comes to wiping, sterilizing, washing, drying, and polishing. You and I were made to live in a forest, and while even Mr. Money Mustache can appreciate a nice clean wood floor as an upgrade over soil and rocks, the earlier you draw the line, the further ahead you will be.

 

*Before any complaints come in about “But I don’t live in a dry high-elevation place like Colorado!”, I should note that this pattern also worked just fine where I grew up in the humid Great Lakes region, as well as during extended stays in Hawaii, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Australia, Austin, Guadalajara, and Miami – even while using bikes and feet instead of cars to get around! Excessive cleaning is driven by mental, rather than physical, constraints.

Epilogue: Wow, it looks like this is really a hot-button topic, as almost 300 comments have piled on within the first two days. Whenever something is emotionally charged and related to time, money, and effort, you know it is worth looking into very closely so you can challenge any brainwashing. While you’ll see lots of badass innovation and enthusiasm in the comments below, you’ll also enjoy some truly amazing counterpoint, like this one that just came in:

“While MMM has provided many great pearls of wisdom in past posts, this particular post has turned our stomachs. It is obvious that the average household wastes hundreds of dollars a year on unnecessary cleaning products. It is great advice to switch from expensive cleaners to bleach, ammonia, etc. But to take it a step further by showering less, giving clothes the “sniff” test, washing sheets and towels infrequently, etc. is not being frugal, it’s being CHEAP. Reusing towels for weeks on end is UNSANITARY. Not cleaning your toilets on a weekly basis is UNSANITARY. Crawling between the sheets when you’re covered in sweat, bacteria and even just body oils on a daily basis, and washing them on the same infrequent schedule as your bath towels is UNSANITARY. There is a huge difference between being “overclean” and “dirt phobic” and maintaining basic sanitary living conditions in a home — not to mention basic human dignity!! What is next? A recommendation that we switch from toilet paper to leaves and newsprint to save even more money? We all have the right to live how we want in our own homes, but I am also free NOT to associate with people I encounter who believe that throwing on some extra deodorant is a substitute for taking a shower.”

This amazes me, that so many people can make a moral issue out aligning one’s shower schedule with the rotation of the Earth. The funny part is, it has nothing at all to do with cheapness – we make no decisions based on money these days, because money is not limited. This is about health, logic, and free time. Responsible use of water and energy is important too, but even with a magic solar-powered rainwater shower I would not bother to shower on days when I hadn’t become dirty. I’d rather spend the extra five minutes writing to you.

  • Done by Forty December 30, 2013, 9:56 am

    Thanks for getting me off the hook of chores this week! ;)

    The doctor’s argument for exposure to germs makes logical sense. Like with everything, you need a little bit of resistance if you’re going to truly get stronger.

    Reply
    • Free Money Minute December 30, 2013, 4:34 pm

      This also goes for training and excessive. You are wearing your body down so it gets stronger and is more prepared for harsher conditions. If your body never has to fight off a germ, it will be very weak and will not know what to do when it really has to put up a fight.

      Reply
    • M December 30, 2013, 5:35 pm

      Sounds like his MD friend follows the Hygiene Hypothesis. And having a pet in childhood not only builds immunity, but empathy and responsibility. The line I draw here is when parents lick a dropped pacifier. Yuck. You are inoculating your kids mouth with your oral flora, which might contain quite cavity-inducing bacteria.

      Reply
      • Dr Beard December 30, 2013, 7:42 pm

        I’m a pediatrician and a mom. I just think that’s nasty, because I never wanted all that dirt and dog hair and lint and crap from the floor in my own mouth. Gross. Rinse that shit off in the sink (or pick it off with my fingers) pop it back in the spawn’s little trap.

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        • BWrites December 31, 2013, 8:32 am

          Yeah, one of my parenting rules was never do anything that made me a little bit nauseous – the stuff the kid did sometimes took care of that for me. I did plenty of stuff to build up her immune system, no way I’d lick that thing. (Not judging parents who do it, but for me? Oh hell no.)

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          • adrianm December 31, 2013, 2:43 pm

            Took my 21 month old fishing, She thought it would be cool to eat a live worm. So i didn’t stop her.

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            • Frannie January 7, 2014, 6:30 pm

              I’m a pediatrician and a mom as well and that’s actually not the worst thing. I ate lots of bugs, worms, spiders, etc as a kid playing by the streams and I can only remember getting very sick a few times. I think even adults should go out of their way to eat a few little crawlies every once in awhile. French eat snails, rich people eat escargo, lobsters were once considered to be the rats of the ocean but are now delicacies. Get out there and enjoy!

              Disclaimer: Don’t eat random bugs, spiders, etc if you have no idea what they are or what harm they can do. Consult experts first.

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      • Sheila Cason January 1, 2014, 2:33 pm

        I’m also a pediatrician and mom and used to shudder when I saw parents clean their baby’s pacifier in that manner! That is until I read the study that showed it boosted their immune system! A little dirt won’t hurt!

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      • TR321 January 21, 2014, 4:07 pm

        Sorry you are grossed out by it but the parents’ saliva is likely beneficial for the kiddo’s immunity:

        http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/05/06/180817114/parents-saliva-on-pacifiers-could-ward-off-babys-allergies

        Reply
  • BeatTheSeasons December 30, 2013, 9:58 am

    True up to a point but food hygiene is critically important. Playing in dirt as a child won’t protect you from e-coli for example. Our evolutionary roots had very high levels of infant mortality and we now take sanitary conditions for granted.

    But you are definitely right about it being driven by marketing. Most cleaning can be achieved using vinegar, bicarb of soda and lemon juice – and this also happens to be far cheaper and better for the environment as well.

    Reply
    • Nicole December 30, 2013, 10:03 am

      And “elbow grease!”

      Reply
    • Cindy December 30, 2013, 11:28 am

      The same rule actually applies to “food hygiene” as well; The more bacteria you are exposed to throughout life, the less likely it is to make you sick. The person who has thawed their chicken on the counter their entire life is unlikely to get sick from it. Whereas if they serve the same chicken to someone who is not accustomed to this, they’ll likely make them sick. True, some degrees or types of bacteria will make everyone sick. And that isn’t to say that people shouldn’t be cautious. But yes, exposure to small degrees of food-borne bacteria on a regular basis does help you build an immunity.

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      • theFIREstarter December 30, 2013, 12:25 pm

        That also rings true in my experience Cindy.

        I hate throwing food away so often eat things way past their sell by date and have been doing so for the last 3 or 4 years.

        I’ve only been caught out once so far (some cured meat that I’d left open in the fridge for about 3 weeks if you wanted to know… the results… not so pretty!)

        Anyway apart from that I feel like I’ve actually developed a bit of an “iron stomach” as it’s been trained up, so that I can take anything now without any problems (within reason of course, if its hairy and crawling it gets chucked!)

        On the other hand, I know a few people fall into the “ultra clean” camp who always seem to have “a bit of a dodgy tum”.

        @MMM – It’s funny but I felt like I’ve read this article before, although obviously not! Since I started reading your blog I have started moving away from over-cleanliness and definitely now do the eating the food off the floor thing (never would have done that 5 years ago! Now I just look at kids and think… meh if it doesn’t hurt them then why not)

        I think as the MMM philosophy starts to permeate through our lives we just naturally start doing these things, so when you finally get round to writing an article on the subject… we are like… “Oh yea, I already do that!” – which is pretty cool :)

        Reply
        • Belcat December 31, 2013, 9:11 am

          Don’t try your luck with cured meats or other stuff preserved with sodium nitrate. Our bodies have some sort of resistance to natural bacteria that grow on food as it goes bad (hint: just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there… in fact there were probably half as many the day before you said it was “bad”). Cured meats are an exception to this: The pathogens that grow on them are quite nasty and can make you substantially sicker than others, at least according to one article that noted that stuff past it’s “expiry” wasn’t actually bad.

          For bacteria, quantity matters. 4x more may mean 12x more powerful.

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      • William Lee December 30, 2013, 12:30 pm

        If you don’t properly handle that raw chicken, there is a chance of salmonella which is going to have the same impact on either one of you.

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        • jeff December 31, 2013, 12:40 am

          you should try chicken sashimi in japan. yes. raw chicken strips. no problem. i know lots of people that tried it. every one of them called their moms and got an earful about being careful – that they were going to be sick. i don’t know a single person who got sick eating it.

          that being said – i cook my chicken. just saying…
          be reasonable – but don’t be ridiculous!

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          • Janel January 2, 2014, 9:07 pm

            Of course the source of the chicken plays the biggest part in whether you might pick up salmonella from the chicken. If you buy chicken from a small farm operation where the chickens were pasture-raised and slaughtered on site, it’s much less likely that you could potentially contract salmonella as opposed to some sort of chicken from a CAFO and then an industrialized processing plant.

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      • kiwano January 6, 2014, 1:02 pm

        It’s probably also worth noting that a few tens of thousands of years ago, humans developed this fantastic technology for dealing with questionable foods: cooking. Whether they’re loaded with phytotoxins to inhibit nutrient absorption, or covered in nasty germs, we can FIX IT WITH FIRE!

        On top of this, a lot of questionable texture that arises as food ages and goes off can be addressed by simply making it into a soup/stew. As long as it’s not visibly mouldy, it’s probably quite edible after being boiled for a couple of hours.

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    • CTY December 30, 2013, 12:04 pm

      Yep. Vinegar will clean/disinfect anything (but granite counters) add a little lemon juice for more muscle. For those who say they cannot stand the smell of vinegar, I say your cleaning chemicals have truly eaten some layers of your brain away if you prefer the smell of bleach,or ammonia etc. with artificial “spring waterfall” scents. Just what is the difference between winter & spring waterfalls?
      Also the only equipment you need is a broom, mop, a few rags in a bucket and a vacuum if you have carpet. I went all out & bought a dust pan.

      Reply
      • mable hastings December 30, 2013, 1:24 pm

        If you don’t like the smell of cleaning vinegar, start putting your orange peels into the bottle. Within a week, the vinegar will smell more like the oranges (or lemons). Filter them out if you want to, or just leave them in until the bottle is used up…

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        • Red December 30, 2013, 4:56 pm

          Ooh… great idea, thanks!!

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        • miamoo December 31, 2013, 10:43 am

          Ooooo! Great idea! Gotta try this!

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        • Gerard January 2, 2014, 1:49 pm

          Thanks, Mable, I’m totally doing this. I also use vinegar to keep my scalp nice and ph-balanced, so that’s gonna be way nicer with the citrus peel smell.

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        • Rebecca January 3, 2014, 8:20 am

          I have some lemon-eucalyptus essential oil and I put that in the vinegar water cleaner. WOW that smells so good and clean.

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        • kiwano January 6, 2014, 1:06 pm

          Also makes it a more effective cleaner (some of the most powerful industrial degreasing solvents are extracted from citrus rinds). While it may be possible to overdo it on this suggestion, I doubt it’s that serious a concern.

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      • Holly December 30, 2013, 3:52 pm

        I clean all my floors with a steam mop my MIL got me for Christmas a few years ago. It cleans thoroughly and effectively with no chemicals.

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      • sara December 31, 2013, 12:12 pm

        Presumably the difference between spring and winter waterfalls is that the spring one is running and the winter is frozen :) I don’t think either is something I’d particularly want my house to smell like.

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    • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 12:25 pm

      Why wouldn’t playing in dirt help to protect you from E. Coli? E. Coli is bacterial, so the sort of thing the body deals with regularly, and often ends up in dirt, so you probably ingested small amounts of it regularly in your dirt playing, especially if you grew up playing in farm dirt! People have varying reactions to exposure to the harmful forms of E. Coli and surely that would be partly because of the varying level of capability of their immune systems. So I think playing in dirt as a child would definitely help to protect you from E. Coli.

      Don’t forget that you’re not just strengthening your response to specific pathogens – you’re strengthening your immune system as a whole. Many components of your immune system are not pathogen-specific (i.e. the innate immune system vs. the adaptive immune system).

      Reply
      • Janel January 2, 2014, 9:13 pm

        Remember that it is a particular strain of e.coli that is harmful. There are multiple strains of e.coli, but only 1 that is pathogenic to humans. In fact, the best protection against the pathogenic strain is a healthy amount of non-pathogenic e.coli in your gut. (Yes, you carry strains of e.coli inside of you! Not all bacteria are bad for you – most of them are good for you!)

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    • Miss Growing Green December 30, 2013, 12:36 pm

      Very much agreed! It’s amazing what you can make from home- and save on trips to the grocery store, plastic packaging, and marked up prices for commercial products with “scary” stuff in them.
      Using combinations of baking soda, vinegar, salt, castile soap, and citrus peels I make my own everything- dish soap, laundry soap, all purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, soft scrub… all for a fraction of the cost of store-bought cleaners.

      If anyone else wants to jump on the wagon I posted all the recipes here: http://www.thegrowinggreen.com/replace-household-cleaners-5-ingredients/

      Reply
      • Kay December 30, 2013, 3:41 pm

        In agreement with Miss Growing Green. I make all of my cleaning products now and couldn’t be happier. If you feel as though you need a disinfectant (for that nasty salmonella perhaps) you can spray the surface first with vinegar and then with hydrogen peroxide. A perfect natural disinfectant and no strange chemicals that you can’t pronounce.

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      • Will Murphey December 30, 2013, 8:30 pm

        I have used baking soda as a deodorant for a long time. Be careful with the amount, your body will tell you how much to use.

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      • T Schmidt December 30, 2013, 9:00 pm

        Love the ingredients for your posted recipes and they make total sense. I am fairly frugal on that stuff so it won’t make a big dent financially but it will make me much happier to not be smelling chemicals when I clean!

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      • Indio December 31, 2013, 7:09 am

        I put a few drops of tea tree oil into the vinegar to marinate with the citrus peels. When I need it, i pour it into a spray bottle and add 3:1 ratio of water. It smells great and disinfects.

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        • Kelsey January 3, 2014, 10:04 am

          This sounds awesome, great idea!

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      • Mrs. GreenPennyGardener December 31, 2013, 9:33 am

        Wow- I am definately going to try to start making my own cleaning products! These sound great!
        Last week, I decided to do something about our slowly-draining bathroom sink (it had not been cleaned out for the 2.5 years we have lived here). It was first suggested to me to buy a bottle of Drano, but there was no way I was going to go all the way out to the store and spend money on a bottle of chemicals! I was very proud of myself for figuring out how to take the stopper out, clean out all the gunk, and then finish it off with a fizzing bath of baking soda and vinegar. Now it drains perfectly, and it was so easy I did baking soda and vinegar for all the rest of the drains in my house. Small victory, I know – I am still in the early stages of becoming lean and green in my cleaning products, but I am learning! Thanks for the tips!

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      • Ellie January 6, 2014, 8:27 am

        I made the laundry soap and the baking soda clumped up terribly and did not want to dissolve. How does one avoid that happening?

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    • BWrites December 31, 2013, 8:33 am

      And it smells better! My allergies used to kill me every time I cleaned the bathroom. Now I use diluted vinegar and stuff looks just as good…and I can breathe.

      Reply
  • Nicole December 30, 2013, 10:01 am

    Definitely true! I think the most important point in your article is that there’s an correlation between an uncluttered, minimalist, appropriately sized living space and the amount of time and energy spent keeping it in order (including the minimum/ appropriate level of “clean.”).

    When you only have 6 linear feet of counter top to clean, it’s super simple to wipe down counter tops to remove crumbs to keep ants out of the house. Having company and want to make things look really nice? A simple flower in a single vase on a cleaned off table looks so much nicer and “cleaner” than a jumble of books, papers, mail, plates, and doo-hickeys.

    I’ve never understood people with a closet full of cleaning supplies, yet had so much junk in front of the closet door that they couldn’t find or reach the fifth half-used bottle of windex.

    I’d take a simple, uncluttered, “dirty” (i.e. not sanitized) home over “clean” yet cluttered!

    Reply
  • Mrs PoP December 30, 2013, 10:03 am

    For me, I think I find balance in trying to design my life in a way that doesn’t necessitate excessive cleaning.
    - when you have fewer things, there’s not as much clutter to deal with
    - when your belongings have spaces that are convenient and designated as their own, it’s easy to put them where they belong
    - when your furniture is dark colored, you don’t stress about a couple of cat hairs =)

    Pretty much every change we make to the house goes through the “how much cleaning will this require” test…

    Reply
    • Pura Vida Nick December 30, 2013, 10:19 am

      Well said! My wife and I are working on decluttering our house after we just got married – combining both our households left of with lots of stuff to sell on craiglist and lots of donations.

      Reply
    • Ajay December 30, 2013, 10:56 am

      Unless your cat is white ; )

      Reply
  • Eli December 30, 2013, 10:03 am

    There’s a difference between being frugal and being cheap. Reusing towels is being frugal. Not showering for several days- that’s being cheap. And if you’re biking and DIYing on those days? That’s just nasty. Do a favor to those around you and spend a tiny bit more on bathing.

    Reply
    • Miss Growing Green December 30, 2013, 10:37 am

      There is definitely a difference between being frugal and being cheap.
      But, I disagree that showering less than every day is being “cheap”.

      I only shower twice a week and no one has ever noticed or commented. In fact, when I tell friends / family, they are usually shocked and can’t understand why my hair never looks greasy and I never smell.

      The body is an amazingly adaptive system and pretty much adjusts to whatever environment it’s exposed to. As you start showering less, your body adjusts and instead of getting oily after one day, your hair gets oily after four.

      I have really sensitive skin, and showering less has done wonders for it. Frequent, hot showers really strip your skin of it’s natural moisture barrier and make it much more susceptible to drying out, infection, etc.

      But you’re right, if you ruin a marathon or work out for 8 hours it’s probably best to shower after :)

      Reply
      • WageSlave December 30, 2013, 11:56 am

        How long does it take for your body to adapt to less frequent showers?

        For a few months, I tried showering every other day instead of daily. Maybe there wasn’t a long enough period in-between showers, but my hair definitely got greasy after 24 hours. I have short, fine, ruler-straight hair; maybe that has something to do with it?

        I could also smell myself: not body odor, but what I assume is my natural “human” smell. Nobody ever said anything, but I it made me self-conscious.

        And at the risk of taking things too far off-color… there are certain highly-pleasurable intimate bedroom activities that are far more likely to occur if the “recipient” has showered recently. Just sayin’.

        Reply
        • Miss Growing Green December 30, 2013, 12:27 pm

          It only took me about a month to adjust, but what I did to acclimate was shower even less frequently than my target (i.e., if you want to shower every two days, shower every three days for a month).
          It’s easier being a girl, because if your hair gets oily you can just wear it in a ponytail for a day. Guys have less options.

          In response to your “off-color” comment, at the risk of taking things even further in that direction- I agree and recommend what I’ve always called a “bird bath” before engaging in such activities ;)

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          • Kim December 31, 2013, 6:35 am

            Agreed – I got used to not showering daily as an engineering student, and recently got back into the lack-of-showering habit as a new mom. I really don’t feel like I’m missing much, and my skin is nice and moisturized too :)

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        • Anne December 30, 2013, 1:25 pm

          I did daily for a few months in college and hated it (not sure why I started), but when I went back to every-other-day showers I would use a little baby powder to absorb the extra grease that seemed to form the second morning. As my body adjusted I needed it less and less, and then none at all.

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        • jamface10 December 30, 2013, 4:31 pm

          I have gone from washing my hair daily, to now every 5-7 days. It definitely required some dedication and dry shampoo. It took about 1.5 months, and at the start I stretched it as far as I could and looked pretty disgusting some days. It’s worth it in the long run :)

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        • Belcat December 31, 2013, 9:15 am

          Actually, some light BO may enhance bedroom experience.. it’s been proven women (and gay men) react to a component of men’s sweat. If you’ve just showered then you don’t have any – though you may work up some ;)
          The key here is light BO… and hopefully your partner will be honest enough to tell you.

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          • Grant January 2, 2014, 3:12 am

            I live in a fairly humid climate, and I sweat a LOT. I don’t use a deoderant (my wife is particularly sensitive to chemical smells, and I can’t say I’m a fan), but do sometimes use an anti-persperant. However, my sweat generally does not smell bad. Bad BO is usually a result of poor diet (or eating a particularly large quantity of meat, mmmm brazillian bbq…) and/or stale sweat – so if I have a particularly sweaty day, I can’t really wear the shirt again the next day.

            Reply
        • Belcat December 31, 2013, 9:18 am

          If you can’t do the shower every 2nd day, you might want to try washing your hair every 2nd shower, I find this prevents the scalp from drying up too much. You should still rinse it though.

          Reply
        • kiwano January 6, 2014, 2:45 pm

          Following the off-colour thread, I’ve had a few partners over time who have preferred the way I smell and taste when I bathe less frequently, and due to their influence, my shower frequency has dropped from daily in summers (sometimes twice a day if it’s particularly hot and humid, or I’m particularly active) and every other day in winters, to about half that.

          I’d also like to point out that diet and general health have a huge impact on body odour. Repulsive body odour is usually a sign of poor health (and our bodies are smart enough not to want to mate with sick people). If you’ve got the rest of your badassity sorted out, then cooking your own meals full of produce and whole grains, and biking everywhere will be keeping you in fine health, and your unwashed body will actually smell attractive. Of course if you’re struggling to build your frugality muscles, then those drive-thru meals will make you smell as bad as they make you look, and you should be focusing your efforts on the biking and the cooking, rather than on skipping showers and abandoning deodorant.

          Reply
      • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 12:33 pm

        Me too, my skin gets really dry in winter and showering every day would not be good for it! I find every 2-3 days works well for me. Of course everyone has a different natural level of oil they produce, regardless of how often you shower. I think the point is to shower when you need a shower, not “I must shower every single day because otherwise the glowering angry eyebrows of Society will pronounce me Dirty and condemn me as an outcast!!”

        Reply
      • HealthyWealthyExpat December 30, 2013, 8:33 pm

        Thanks for the tip, Miss Growing Green. My wife has a skin problem that she can’t seem to eradicate through dietary changes, but she does like to take hot showers (much hotter than I can stand!) and can’t do without one every morning. I will direct her to this article – maybe making the change to fewer showers will be the solution.

        Reply
        • Miss Growing Green December 30, 2013, 9:07 pm

          Yeah, I’d definitely have her give it a try and see how she responds. I’m in a similar boat- eczema and contact dermatitis that don’t really seem to follow any dietary patterns. Showering less has done wonders for my skin. I hope it helps her too!

          Reply
          • Lynda January 5, 2014, 12:44 pm

            I had eczema as a child at age 10. Over the years I had other symptoms, feeling colder than others around me, tiring more quickly than many of my friends, and not the best memory. I succeeded in life, and became a professional with a good salary, and now have an adequate pension. I was not diagnosed with hypothyroidism until I was past 50, when I had muscle and joint pain way beyond what the x-rays showed for arthritis. My doctor ordered blood tests for T3, and T4. The tests are expensive enough that some doctors resist. Fortunately I have a good doctor in the little town I retired to a few years ago. A bit of synthroid, and I am feeling much better. Within a week I did not need my cane — no bad side effects, and the prescription only cost $12.00 per month. My Mother suffered most of her life with no proper diagnosis or treatment, and we knew thyroid problems were in her family going back to a Grandmother who had a goiter. I hope that someone else reading this, who needs to be tested, may realize that, and get help.

            Reply
        • Belcat December 31, 2013, 9:22 am

          If she can’t do without showering, perhaps try skipping the soap, or just soaping specific locations (groin, face, armpits). Also I hope she is using unscented soap! Scented soaps are such a chemical stew we do not need! I would recommend Aveno unscented body wash, it has a minimum amount of chemicals. There are also unscented bar soaps which may be cheaper (but check the ingredients – Dove at one point put out an “unscented” soap that still had perfume in the ingredients… DUH!!!).

          Reply
          • Dia January 1, 2014, 5:19 am

            It’s unfortunate how confusing labels are. In the United States, “unscented” just means something like the product doesn’t have a specific smell most people would find identifiable, which very often means there is a “masking” fragrance added to make the product smell neutral. “Fragrance free” mean there’s no fragrance at all (although there can still be other yucky things, so depending on how sensitive someone is I would recommend looking at organic soaps to find something that works for them).

            Reply
          • Sofie January 3, 2014, 9:31 am

            I haven’t used soap on my body for years. It’s much better for my skin. Warm water does most of the cleaning; unless you fell into a vat of fish oil or something soap shouldn’t be necessary, and can be harmful. I do wash my armpits with vinegar occasionally, which stops smell. Ironically enough anti-perspirants & deodorants would always make me more sweaty.

            Reply
        • Julia December 31, 2013, 9:36 am

          Oh yeah, hot water strips oils from your skin. If you are itchy, the hot water feels great for a bit because it sort of overwhelms the itch feeling, but you’ve set yourself up for more itching later.

          I recommend applying oil (your pick) after a bath or shower rather than a lotion. I actually use Bag Balm on my hands feet and shins (my itchy spot) in the winter time, but that’s pretty hard core. Most people are grossed out by how greasy Bag Balm looks, but that’s why it works.

          Reply
          • Songbird December 31, 2013, 10:30 am

            I’ve found that Eucerin has a similar effect. Goes on really thick, feels slimy until your skin absorbs it, but once it does, it is great for eczema.

            Reply
          • KarenInPittsburgh January 2, 2014, 7:32 am

            I’ve finally accepted that my love of hot water -and up to two longish showers a day (I am addicted to brisk long walks at all times of the year.) just might have been one of the reasons for the ferocious itching that was driving me a bit wild. Cutting down to one very brief shower followed by a slathering of Aveeno has almost totally disappeared the itching. Uh, it’s a miracle.

            Reply
        • Jaclyn January 13, 2014, 2:19 pm

          A $20 chlorine shower filter from Home Depot (brand: Sprite) solved my dry skin problems. Also switch to carbon filtered water away from reverse osmosis, reverse osmosis is less hydrating

          Reply
      • Doug December 31, 2013, 12:45 pm

        Should you shower every day or not? That depends on the person, if you have dry skin you can probably get away with every second or third day. However, if you have oily skin as I do, every day is best. Doing so, however, need not cost a fortune in hot water use. Just buy one of those valves that attaches above the shower head, and shut it to a trickle while applying soap or shampoo, then on again for rinse. I had a place with an electric water heater and noticed a big difference in my energy bill when I started using this device, and even better with one of those low flow shower heads. The idea behind being frugal is to get the most utility for the least cost without depriving yourself.

        Reply
        • GregK January 2, 2014, 7:45 pm

          It MAY be the case that your skin would be less oily if you didn’t wash it every day. Same to those talking about hair getting greasy after one day without washing it. Often, the body reacts to the stripping of oils by over-producing oils.

          Just something to ponder.

          Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 10:56 am

      Eli: Nope. I’d say you are viewing my lifestyle and my judgement of my own cleanliness level through your own artificial lens of what is “nasty” -despite the fact that we have never even met!

      I would of course shower immediately if I ever smelled funky (and believe me, my friends and wife would not be afraid to point this out). Luckily my own nose works fine so I can detect this before anyone else does, because I can aim it right into my own armpits.

      Cleaning yourself more than necessary is actually bad for your skin and health. Conversely, you adjust better to your climate and to less-frequent washing if you don’t do it every day. I don’t get sweaty from biking, and basic carpentry, plumbing, and wiring doesn’t instantly make a man filthy either.

      Reply
      • Stephen December 30, 2013, 11:17 am

        Lots of non-cyclists get exposed to that one smelly guy who never showers or even wears deodorant. I’d say that is part of where the issues come from. But not all need to shower after cycling and can finish without sweating much.

        It can of course go the other way. I’m showering twice, sometimes three times a day, but my cycling is training, so I can sweat quite a bit. Even with that, a towel lasts a week and it’d probably last longer if it wasn’t such a habit of changing things around at the weekend.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 2:10 pm

          Yeah, deodorant is a big key in all of this. Although I respect those who can live without it (and those who can train their noses to be around the stinkier practitioners of this method), I personally love the shower-reducing qualities of a good stick of underarm armor.

          It is a minor compromise on the low-chemical ethos of this article, or you can always get some Tom’s of Maine stuff, which I find works well even without weird isotopes of Chromium and Aluminum.

          Reply
          • Nick December 30, 2013, 4:49 pm

            Have you tried baking soda? I used to use Degree antiperspirant since it was the only thing that stopped by pits from sweating and stinking. However, I eventually tired of the yellow stains on my undershirts and tried a tip I read online–baking soda.

            Now instead of deoderant/antiperspirant, I’ll moisten two fingers and dip them into a can of baking soda and apply to my under arms. As a result, my body can sweat if necessary and my pits never stink. It’s more effective and it’s cheaper (plus no more stains on my undershirts).

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 6:09 pm

              Yeah, that worked fairly well for me too when I tried it a year or two ago. But I’m not a very B.O.-prone person – other readers and some local friends tried it with less success. Nowadays I’m back on the pre-made stuff just because it lasts longer and I am a lazy consumer in this area, but I think I’ll try soda again because of your inspiration.

              Reply
              • Jacob December 30, 2013, 10:55 pm

                Even better: My wife made this DIY deodorant and we’ve been using it for years. She sticks it in a small tupperware (like 2×2″) with a lid, and we share it. No smell except a hint of coconut, and it absolutely KILLS odors. Easy to make AND easy to use. Boom.

                http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2013/01/homemade-all-natural-deodorant.html

              • phred December 31, 2013, 11:45 am

                Some people have better results using corn starch rather than the good ol’ Arm & Hammer

              • Tammy January 2, 2014, 9:33 am

                This is the deodorant recipe I use- I call it 2-day deodorant! Better than anything I’ve ever bought, and it only takes about 2 minutes to make.

              • Brundlefly January 2, 2014, 10:03 am

                You should check out sea salt crystal deoderants. Or even better, dissolve some in a small spray bottle with water and have a sea salt spray. Like you, I’m lazy in this area now and just buy the crystal stick. Lucky me I’ve been using the same one for over a year. My dad has been telling me for 10 years to switch over and I only just did a few years ago. I can only hope to offset the major shit I put into my body by using “clinical anti-antiperspirants” :/

              • SLP April 30, 2014, 6:51 pm

                For the smelly bike riders out there: I agree that Febreze is basically a waste of money and Mr. Money mustache is right, there is no need for it, but a spray after a sweaty bike ride to work does wonders. You can’t put deodorant on your pants but you can spray them and avoid washing for another week.

            • T Schmidt December 30, 2013, 9:13 pm

              That’s a great solution and it works because it lowers the pH. What I have found is when I let my pH get low (acidic) is when I get funky. Baking soda is a base in chemical terms and raises pH.

              So short answer, drink more water and less coffee! Trite answer but in general eat more foods that raise pH and less foods that lower it (to a certain extent).

              Lots of caveats, but in general avoiding acidic foods and embracing foods that lower it will help your general
              “odor”!

              Reply
              • lurker January 1, 2014, 3:03 pm

                less coffee!!!!!! now those are fighting words!!!
                happy new year to all who read and comment here and to the MMM family! thanks for the awesome blog

              • Sofie January 3, 2014, 9:17 am

                What you eat has no effect on your pH. Putting stuff on your skin can change the pH there, but your body pH stays constant. Specific foods cause smell because specific chemicals resulting from the food smells (like asparagus pee).

          • Harriet December 30, 2013, 5:20 pm

            @MMM – I found exposing my under arms to the sun every week means I don’t need deodorant because although I sweat – a lot – it doesn’t smell unless the bacteria are rampant. The sun kills the bacteria. Though of course be sensible and don’t burn the underarm. The sun also kills shoe smells if you have an inner sole you can remove. Its a bit difficult in winter in some climates, though.

            Reply
          • Spoonman. December 31, 2013, 9:11 am

            Minor correction: you mean odd valencies of chromium and aluminum, not odd isotopes.

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache December 31, 2013, 9:51 am

              Blast! I knew I was taking a risk when I wrote that, since I didn’t even remember the difference between “Isotopes” and “Valences” until you forced me to look it up just now. Thanks for chopping down my chemistry bluff, it was well-deserved :-)

              Reply
          • Belcat December 31, 2013, 9:31 am

            I’ve never felt the need for deodorant, unless I was going to do a sweaty job, in which case I’d probably need a shower anyway.
            But, I find it hard to not shower every day. And if I will be close to people, I will have a shower after the gym as well.

            Reply
          • Maddie December 31, 2013, 1:00 pm

            Hi MMM

            If you want to go natural another option is to make your own. We do this and it works better than any bought stuff. Here is the link: http://www.revivedkitchen.com/2013/03/homemade-deodorant/

            Although if you don’t want to buy bees wax, shea butter and essential oils, then we have also tried just a mix of coconut oil and baking soda (in an old glass jar). This worked brilliantly too, we just prefer having a deodorant stick to scoping the stuff out of a jar.

            Reply
        • LL December 30, 2013, 5:34 pm

          Deodorant is a fancy thing. I have a stick of deodorant and rarely use it. A dab of baking soda under each armpit has proved more effective and works for about 48 hours.

          Reply
          • phred December 31, 2013, 11:47 am

            or a splash of rubbing alcohol

            Reply
        • BWrites December 31, 2013, 8:38 am

          Yeah, I think this is also a case of individual differences. My ex needed to wash his hair (with shampoo) a lot more often than I ever do, because his hair and body chemistry was different. I think we run into trouble if we insist someone will/won’t smell depending on the number of showers they take, because everyone has individual differences. And for some of us, that hot shower is what we need to stay awake in the morning…:P

          Reply
    • Andrew December 30, 2013, 11:27 pm

      Actually, I used to shower every other day until I became a vegan and simultaneously stopped eating processed crap. I noticed that I wouldn’t emit any funky body odor with a weekly shower! So, I shower once a week and continue to enjoy the benefits of a healthy diet. Any more than that is just wasteful.

      Reply
      • Aaron January 2, 2014, 11:14 am

        For anyone that may be turned off by the “vegan” part of this comment don’t dismiss it. Cutting out the processed stuff can help, and cutting it out doesn’t mean vegan only. Paleo/primal styles of eating emphasize non-processed foods too.

        Reply
      • Sofie January 3, 2014, 9:50 am

        Short-term nothing animal can be good, like a fast, but it’s very unhealthy long-term. There are several vitamins only found in animal foods, and supplements don’t work well enough. Adding some nutrient dense stuff like oysters, liver, eggs etc would make it fine. Clams in general seem pretty perfect for a vegan to me, as they’re completely eco-friendly to grow and have about as much mind as plants. Insects are another, but with much bigger ick-factor.

        Reply
        • Louisa January 6, 2014, 4:13 am

          I’m 62 and have not eaten meat in over 30 years. By all appearances, I seem to be doing fine, and am in better shape than most people half my age. So please, no sweeping generalizations about how you can’t be healthy without meat. It’s simply BS.

          Reply
        • No February 4, 2014, 7:13 pm

          Nonsense….It’s been 15+ years since I consumed anything containing anything animal based/derived at all, and my children never have (12 and 9).

          We’re as healthy as anyone we know, and healthier than most, with not a hint of any of the plagues (obesity, diabetes, etc) that appear to be so pervasive in the broader U.S. population.

          Consume meat if you prefer, but stop the pseudo-science claptrap…

          Reply
  • FI Pilgrim December 30, 2013, 10:12 am

    Counter-cultural thinking is why I visit your blog regularly. Happy New Year MMM!

    Reply
  • Joe December 30, 2013, 10:13 am

    Jr. is taking a bath every 2-3 days this winter. He always put it off until tomorrow whenever we ask him. It’s too cold!
    We don’t wash hands obsessively. Just when we get back inside from a day out and after going to the bathroom. We also introduced all kind of food early. I’m sure all the food allergies we see these days are due to over cleanliness. A little dirt is just fine.
    I vacuum every few days though. We have cats and their litter tend to get around.

    Reply
  • bobwerner December 30, 2013, 10:18 am

    Nice one! Please add how to shower. 1. Wet self nicely. 2. Turn off water. 3. Lather head, face, underarms, private parts for 3 minutes. Skip other 80 % of naturally oiled skin. 4. Rinse. 5. Repeat every few days or as . Total water usage less than 2 gallons.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 10:59 am

      Excellent – always nice to have someone show me up to remind me how excessive my own lifestyle is (I have been leaving the shower ON while I apply soap!)

      Reply
      • bobwerner December 30, 2013, 2:45 pm

        If you use the simple “navy shower” method, you can install a 5 gallon 110 water htr or natgas next to shower. Your 40 gallon unit is then only turned on when guests are staying. Gets your annual hot water cost below $ 25.

        Reply
      • L'Ingenieure December 31, 2013, 9:20 am

        Yes, this is the European method, out of necessity. Hot water boilers are heated with electricity, very expensive, as there is no natural gas service for many areas, so boilers are smaller and live in the washroom, No one runs the shower the whole time there. As a North American, you learn pretty quickly, when you run out of hot water.

        Similarly, there will be a small boiler in the kitchen, usually hidden in a kitchen cupboard, for dish washing.

        Reply
        • Andreas January 4, 2014, 6:31 am

          Wouldn’t pin it to European vs. North American. I would call it “sensible” vs. “wasteful.” Where I live, there are people leaving the shower on the whole time (sometimes 30 minutes), and there are others who are done in 5 mins, letting the shower run for maybe 45 secs.

          Reply
    • Maggie December 30, 2013, 1:37 pm

      Great post! And I agree wholeheartedly, bobwerner. Especially in the arid climate WE live in, water is too precious to waste.

      Reply
    • Accidental Miser December 30, 2013, 3:14 pm

      Well said, Bob. When I was in the US Navy on a submarine, we were strictly limited on water usage. All shower heads had little valves so you could wet down, shut off the flow, soap up, start the flow and rinse.

      Didn’t want to get caught taking a “Hollywood” shower. It was all reinforced using peer pressure which was incredibly effective!

      Reply
      • Aaron January 2, 2014, 11:24 am

        I remember these all too well. I had a shipmate taking a “Hollywood” shower and got on his ass about it. My comments didn’t affect him though. He stood the watch on the evaporator that was used to make the fresh water, so he said he was just using a small part of the fresh water that he had made. :)

        Reply
    • Maria December 30, 2013, 5:37 pm

      Great reminder! I just got an energy meter for Christmas, and it’s confirmed my suspicion that hot water heating is one of our biggest energy expenses. I’m not ready to give up a hot morning shower, but I’m happy to try this out for the rest of the week!

      Reply
    • JD December 31, 2013, 11:07 am

      This is how I used to shower in the FEMA trailer after Katrina because the tank was so small! I also would wake up, press the bottom to warm the water, then have to wait 15min. Thanks for reminding me about that. It wasn’t a huge deal.

      Reply
  • Heath December 30, 2013, 10:19 am

    An EXCELLENT post! This pretty much follows my philosophy: If I can’t tell that it’s dirty/smelly, and it’s not bothering anyone, then ignore it’s ‘clean’ factor.

    Now if I could only get others on board…

    Reply
    • Belcat December 31, 2013, 9:35 am

      The only problem is: You can’t smell your own BO nearly as well as others can… your nose tunes out smells it’s used to (really annoying for perfume wearers, since they put on enough so they can smell it, and this amount tends to increase)…
      Never the less, if you have someone whom you can trust, they can tell you if you smell. Not family in the same house as you though – same problem…

      Reply
  • David W December 30, 2013, 10:24 am

    You forgot to mention a little sand in the dirt helps with digestion as an additional benefit.

    Reply
  • Executioner December 30, 2013, 10:27 am

    Ha, your comment about the towel washing ritual reminded me of this old classic:

    http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1995-11-24/

    Reply
    • Dillon December 30, 2013, 3:30 pm

      Haha, I wasn’t familiar with that particular cartoon but my thinking was along similar lines when reading this article. As long as you have a good place to dry your bath towels and do not use them prior to your shower/bath, they should last awhile if their only contact is with clean skin/hair. Bed sheets, on the other hand, I wash more frequently.

      Reply
    • Miser Mom December 30, 2013, 6:33 pm

      I can’t believe that *no one* has used the phrase “filthy rich” yet! Anybody?

      I’ll add to the chorus of cheers for decluttering that allows a body to do all the rest of good stuff in life. And cleaning things that are still perfectly wholesome isn’t the good stuff. Better to save time and money to become filthy rich . . . but of course without being filthy.

      Reply
  • Miss Growing Green December 30, 2013, 10:31 am

    Hmm, interesting post. I agree that the average American spends *way* too much time and money cleaning and investing in cleaning products and services.

    …But… is your estimate of 1 workday a year really accurate? We are two people and a dog in an 1,100 sq. ft. house and I clean for 15 minutes each day, and Mr. GG does the dishes (no dishwasher). My share alone works out almost to about a workday (7.5 hours) a MONTH. Why am I cleaning 10x more than you?! I’m not germ-obsessed by any means. I shower 2x a week (and no, it’s not gross) and do a small load of laundry about once a week.

    I find that keeping the number of possessions down really reduces cleaning time- no dusting ‘junk’, or under and around that ‘junk’. No moving tons of furniture to vacuum the living room.

    Simplifying your cleaning supply brigade also makes cleaning easier and soo much cheaper. I make all my own cleaning supplies at home with gentle, safe ingredients for a fraction of the cost of commercial ones: http://www.thegrowinggreen.com/replace-household-cleaners-5-ingredients/

    Reply
    • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 12:45 pm

      I spend a lot more time than that cleaning, too, unfortunately, but it really depends on your lifestyle. The dog would make a big difference for you . I have two cats and a woodshop that you walk through every time you enter/exit the house which means the house is always getting full of wood dust and shavings, and cat hair/whatever else the cats track around. Plus in the summer we spend a lot of time out in the garden getting covered in dirt and bringing it back into the house, and we start seeds indoors in late winter which means a lot of mucking around with dirt inside. And we spend a lot of time canning in summer and making maple syrup in spring, which results in a lot of cleaning spills and splatters off of stoves and counters. But if I didn’t spend a lot of time in the dirt and have pets and messy hobbies I can see how it would take much less time. ;)

      Reply
      • Indio December 31, 2013, 8:43 am

        We always take our shoes off and leave them at the entranceways so we dont track mud, pine needles, tar and whatever else might be on the bottom of our shoes into the house. This saves a huge amount of time on floor and rug maintenance.

        Reply
        • Kenoryn January 1, 2014, 5:41 pm

          If it were confined to our shoes, that would work well. :) But working in a garden (or a woodshop) you have a tendency to get dirty (or dusty/shaving-y) all over.

          Reply
    • Bill Kiele December 30, 2013, 1:08 pm

      He never mentions the work Mrs MMM and JrMM do….HA!

      Reply
      • Amy January 1, 2014, 1:02 pm

        I was thinking the same thing! I find it funny that everyone is focused on the cost of cleaning supplies or the frequency of showers, when all I could think about was whether Mrs. Money Mustache would agree that so little cleaning is getting done. It takes a while to clean up after a home-cooked meal, no matter what products you use to do so. Also, even if you don’t shower every day, plenty of hair and dust (from towels? toilet paper? not sure exactly) accumulates on the floor and every other horizontal surface. Someone is probably doing more wiping up than others realize.

        Reply
  • Mr. 1500 December 30, 2013, 10:43 am

    Way back in college, I had a class taught by a physician. He said something that stuck with me to this day. It went like this:

    When you’re sick, you have two options:
    Option #1: Run to the doctor for antibiotics: There is a good chance that your sickness is of viral origin, so antibiotics will do nothing for you. If you do have a bacterial infection and the antibiotics take care of it, your body has learned nothing.

    Option #2: Let your body fight it off: As your doctor friend stated, the immune system if ever changing, If you let it take care of the bug, it has now built up a defense and that bug won’t make you sick again. You may have an extra couple days of sneezing, but just like a broken bone, you’ll be stronger afterwards.

    So, save the antibiotics for the young, the old and those with compromised immune systems.

    Reply
    • Brad December 30, 2013, 3:42 pm

      If you get sick and the snot turns green and chunky then go to the minute clinic and get checked out and follow all instructions.

      Do not take medical advice from Mr. 1500, infections are not a chance for you to show how tough you are.

      Also get a tetanus booster every 10 years even though Clostridium tetani is *just a bacteria*, people in Africa are just dying to get that shot.

      Reply
      • CALL 911 December 30, 2013, 4:18 pm

        Don’t take medical advice from Brad either. The “minute clinic” is generally staffed by Nurse Practitioners who usually don’t know what they don’t know. They are trained to throw antibiotics at everything, so the patient knows that they “did something”. Clostridium tetani IS just a bacteria. Not a particularly virulent one at that. The problem is the toxin it produces – it causes muscle tetany which makes breathing a bit problematic.

        Reply
        • dude December 30, 2013, 7:02 pm

          I’ll agree partially with both of you. Serious infections are nothing to ignore. On the other hand, the comment about PAs/NPs overprescribing antibiotics is confirmed by my own experience. I caught a nasty bout of campylobacter that was 3 days in by the time I could get to the clinic, and the NP prescribed Cipro (a nuclear option antibiotic) prophylactically for “traveler’s diarrhea.” I refused to take it until I knew exactly what I had. Results from the stool samples came back two days later giving the campylobacter diagnosis, and the NP still recommended Cipro. However, I learned from my own research that this bacteria is self-limiting and runs its course in 7 days with 95% of patients. Sure enough, the next day, it was like a switch was thrown and I was back to normal — without having taken an antibiotic that has some very nasty side effects, including ruptured tendons!

          Reply
          • Jamesqf December 31, 2013, 2:30 pm

            The larger problem here is that bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics,. When you take an antibiotic for a viral disease, or for a non-serious bacterial infection, you’r helping them do just that. There are now bacteria such as MRSA that have evolved resistance to just about every antibiotic in existence.

            Antibiotics are also pretty non-selective: along with killing the particular bacterium that’s making you sick, it also kills off many of your symbiotic intestinal bacteria. Search under ‘fecal transplant’ if you want to know more.

            Reply
      • Jen January 1, 2014, 4:02 pm

        Just anecdotally, I am a healthy 30 something woman, and I had runny nose, cough, etc. for a week or so and never went to the clinic to get antibiotics, just kept thinking it will fight itself off, and then suddenly my small cold turned into pneumonia and I was totally sick. Soon after getting antibiotics, I got much better.

        Reply
        • Kenoryn January 1, 2014, 5:50 pm

          A cold is viral so there is no possible way antibiotics could help you – so certainly what you did made perfect sense! It would be quite silly to get antibiotics for a runny nose, cough etc.; a waste of antibiotics, and much more importantly, contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can be extremely dangerous! Pneumonia, however, is a different creature and can be either viral or bacterial in nature.

          In fact, your reaction was precisely what everyone should do. For a minor infection or illness, do not immediately go to the doctor for antibiotics; give your body a chance to defeat it on its own. If the infection/illness does not go away or gets worse, then go to the doctor or seek treatment.

          If antibiotic resistance continues to take off the way it is doing now due to foolish antibiotic use, pneumonia will become a serious killer again the way it was in the 19th century before the advent of antibiotics, along with many other diseases that we thought had been relegated to the history books.

          Reply
    • Mary U December 30, 2013, 8:50 pm

      So agree with you! But it’s amazing how people try to make you feel guilty for not running right to the doctor!

      Reply
  • Rachel Erin December 30, 2013, 10:49 am

    Another note on the towels – our big, fluffy, American towels take forever to dry. I recently made a bunch of waffle fabric towels of the sort that are common in Europe (especially Italy), and Japan. They are still expensive to buy here as they are considered a luxurious spa item. They dry in about 15 minutes, no matter what the weather, even in a poorly ventilated old bathroom in a humid Northeastern climate. They also take up far less space – five of these oversized towels are still only 1/4 of a load. But I have to remind myself to wash them every few weeks because they never start to smell.

    I also have to second Miss Growing Green. Hot daily showers are not normal in pretty much the rest of the world. They can be very hard on skin and hair. My skin and curly hair are about 10 times nicer now that I wash them less (and I mostly wash my skin with oil). I water wash my hair a couple times a week by just sticking my head under the faucet, and with no-poo shampoo every week or so. My dad who’s a stone mason recently started showering less, and using less soap when he does because of his skin, and still smells the same.

    And the only clothing that gets worn once are undies and socks. Everything else is submitted to inspection – any food or dirt? any smell? If the answer is no, back in the closet it goes.

    Reply
    • Chara December 30, 2013, 2:06 pm

      Your towels sound great. Where did you get the fabric to make them? What size did you make them? Thanks!

      Reply
      • Rachel Erin December 30, 2013, 5:27 pm

        I got the fabric off of fabric.com for about $5 a yard. It doesn’t work out to the cheapest towels ever, as they do need to be bigger than the big fluffy standard towels. The ones we used in Italy were enormous, almost 6 feet long. Ours are about 4 x 3.5 feet. I’ll make the next batch bigger. The cost for fabric worked out to about $12 a towel. Online you can buy them for about $25 dollars a towel (or more if you want fancy Lituanian linen).

        I know JoAnn’s also carries the waffle fabric. I made hand towels and wash clothes too. The sewing is easy, it’s just hemming, but ironing all the edges to make the hems nice takes forever.

        The towels are also much easier on the hair, which is important for people with curly hair, especially really curly hair.

        We love how space efficient they are, both in terms of storage (we have no closets in the halls or bathroom) and in terms of laundry.

        Reply
        • Chara December 30, 2013, 9:59 pm

          Thanks very much for all the details, Rachel Erin! Very helpful. I’ll definitely make some soon.

          Reply
        • Sandy January 11, 2014, 11:40 am

          For bath towels I am totally hooked on the 16 x 29 size aka many hand towels. My personal wash cloths are a regular size wash cloth that I cut into two and hand-hem. I am 5″8″ and these work just fine for me. Why waste (or maintain) any more material than needed? It also makes them so much easier to hand launder as my washer died in 1994 and I have not replaced it nor ever will. (Sold the stupid gas dryer practically the next day. Hooray for sunshine.)

          Comfortably living below the poverty level off this wasteful culture.

          Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 2:15 pm

      Brilliant comment Rachel! It had never occurred to me that even our towel design is part of the problem.

      It makes sense that you would want to use the thinnest and lightest towel that still does the job, because that will dry more quickly (and use less energy to wash when it finally does need cleaning).

      With my hair always military-short, I can dry fully from a shower with only a little facecloth and some help from good ol’ Evaporation, which I have done occasionally when stuck without real towels.

      Reply
      • Ellen December 30, 2013, 8:37 pm

        Great point! After moving to the middle of the ocean in the southernmost regions of Florida I quickly grew frustrated that no matter how hard I tried I could NOT make our bath towels last more than a day or two (I can’t even keep shoes in the back of the closet without growing mold). But it turned out to be a great opportunity to rethink one of those things that had just “always been”. Why did we need such huge bath towels? I now easily remove the necessary water from my body with my little face towel and because my boyfriend is decidedly less mustachian I “splurged” (less than $20 each) for his birthday and bought him two fancy “yoga” towels that are similar to a chamois. Now washing all of them weekly only adds up to the same amount as about 5 or 6 t shirts. This has saved us so much in Laundromat costs that I now occasionally splurge and sip on a cafe con leche while I watch my tiny towels spin round and round in the washer (with home made laundry soap of course).

        Reply
        • GoCubsGo December 31, 2013, 9:56 am

          To the point about drying off efficiently.. When I wash my car I use a car squeegee (california car blade). You swipe the car with it and it takes 85% of the water off so you don’t have to use multiple towels. I then took the same approach in the shower. I quickly “squeegee” my body and knock off most of the water. I can do the rest of the work with a much smaller towel. I also bend over the tub and wash my hair every morning using sulfate free shampoo/conditioner which leaves in the natural oils. Shower every other day.

          Reply
      • Matthew December 31, 2013, 8:40 am

        In college, I started using quick-dry pack towel with no ill effects. Probably should have washed it slightly more often than never, but it dried bone stiff in just a couple of hours and I never had a problem drying my hair. I still have it and break it out at the gym.

        Reply
      • Alix December 31, 2013, 11:44 am

        Some of the best money I ever spent was on two huge linen beach towels that I also use as bath towels. They dry in a snap and rarely need laundering. And, being linen, they are incredibly strong and long-lasting. (Unfortunately, the price on these has gone up so much since I bought the original two that buying a third is unlikely.)

        I’ll never understand why people consider “dirty” a damp towel that has just recently dried off a freshly washed body. Don’t get it.

        Reply
      • dunny January 8, 2014, 9:40 pm

        My towels were not drying in my basement bathroom so I bought some linen towels and problem solved. They are sooo nice to use, and dry really fast and never smell.

        My tenants upstairs (different ones over the years) all do many loads of laundry per week. I agree that there is a lot of excessive cleaning and laundry going on in a lot of houses.

        Reading these posts reminds me of how we had summer kitchens back on the prairies, and all the dirty jobs were done out there. The house stayed clean and cool and no animals were allowed indoors then. The dogs and cats kept warm in the barn or basement. Life has changed but I do miss the summer kitchen.

        No showers in those days, but we’d use a bowl of warm soapy water to sponge off and outside and pour it over us to rinse.

        Reply
    • Accidental Miser December 30, 2013, 3:18 pm

      I’ve got a waffle towel I use to dry my car. Maybe I should get another for the bath!

      Reply
      • alistair December 31, 2013, 8:36 am

        look up camping towels, they are super light and dry really fast. and take up almost no room in the washing machine

        Reply
        • shadowmoss January 1, 2014, 3:27 am

          Look for the same towel in the auto department as a chamois to dry your auto. It is the same stuff, and no dye to leach onto clothes if you use it to wring water out of hand laundry. About $3 or $4.

          Reply
    • Farmer's Daughter January 2, 2014, 3:21 pm

      Totally agreed. On the frequency of towel washings — though caveat two things: 1) though you are “clean” when you dry off, you are still taking off the “loosened” dead skin cells and they do accumulate on the towels… eventually leading to the need for washing, but seriously? I change my towels only 2 months or so; and 2) I once had an aunt who, when my family would visit would put all the wet towels in the drier together? thus mixing all of our dried, dead skin cells with each other, which we all found to be more gross than just not washing the towels… or even drying off with damp towels the next day. SO don’t do that. That’s two face punches in one family visit, wow (using the drier and towel dirty-ing).

      Also agreed with the article and many of the commenters about showering – it really is body tolerance. And, I will say — I pushed the limit on washing hair… I have long, fine hair, and went from daily washing and thinning, terrible hair to once going on a minimalist trip and while had enough water for bathing, not for washing hair. So I ended up going 8 days without washing hair. When got back to civilization, realized my hair was not really “greasy” but just had tons of product, etc. in it. I took it from there, slowly extended the time, and now can easily go 10 to 14 days without washing hair (no soak in between, or use “dry shampoo” very occasionally). I just put it up at night (so curls stay tight and not pulled out/frizzy by pillow case).
      –>The REMARKABLE thing about it is though, and why I am sharing: My girlfriends have since commented to me how GREAT my hair is, and how did I go from scraggly, damaged hair to my highly desirable locks? Even at day 14, people CANNOT believe it, because it actually looks good! When I tell them my “secret” they crumple their noses and schreak, “Oh, it must be so greasy!” I told my one girlfriend to feel it, and when she put her fingers into the back of my hair? She couldn’t believe it, saying “mine has more oil in it and I just washed it today!” This is after doing farm chores, being under a riding helmet, going dancing twice all in that period of time (and daily, sometimes twice daily showers with shower cap on, to get farm “dirt” off face and neck, etc.). Your body really does get used to and regulate the much more natural condition of natural body oils.

      Last, on the note of bed sheets? Since I shower at night (after farm days, exercise, etc.), and wear PJ’s, my body, oils, sweat are not actually in contact with the sheets. So, just like you don’t wash blankets often, I don’t wash the actual sheets nearly as often*. I DO change and wash the pillowcases weekly though, since I do have skin contact on them. Just thought I’d throw this idea out there, to just wash smaller items like pillow cases, and not wash the big stuff as often, thus wearing them out unnecessarily too.

      *Note, to the “off-color” activities referenced earlier, when the bottom sheet gets “soiled” by these activities, yes of course that gets washed as needed. However, most frequently there is an old baby blanket being used/place down first — if you are cold and jumping in bed with sweats/PJ’s every night because you are doing your part to reduce impact on the planet, you have to plan when you are not putting those bulky clothes on (), and the fuzzy blanket is small (easier to wash) and feels nice on skin. And the S.O. is ALWAYS happy to see me pull the fuzzy blanket out… ;)

      Reply
  • Otis December 30, 2013, 10:52 am

    For you, maybe your system works. But there are probably a lot of really dirty surfaces in your house you’re missing. As far as the towel and rag situation go, I use a new one every shower (every day). If I don’t I develop boils and a lot of staph infections.

    Seems like you do a lot of judging of other people’s lifestyles on this site. You have no idea why that man hires a housecleaner. He could be a lawyer who holds a lot of meetings/parties and/or has spontaneous guests and NEEDS a squeaky clean house for business purposes. If not, maybe he loses clients and obviously since he is a lawyer the $5200 lost for the year is nothing compared to the money he made instead of cleaning his own home.

    I was told to re-use the same towels 5-6 times when I was a child. You know the result? MRSA, a hospital visit, and nearly a blood infection. I’m a big advocate of when you get sick with a stomach virus or the flu, let your body fight it off, and mine does. But when there are steps that can be taken to prevent those things from happening, why wouldn’t you use them?

    Reply
    • Katy December 30, 2013, 11:21 am

      I agree completely. I was getting fungal skin infections on my legs. I went to using a new towel each day and the infections stopped. No more Dr. visits, prescriptions. Some of us don’t have good immune systems and have to do what we have to do. My boyfriend grew up on a farm and NEVER gets sick. He used to swim in a nasty mudhole as a kid. They didn’t have running water either. He washes his towels twice a month. He does just fine. Maybe my city water is not as good as the city says.

      Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque December 30, 2013, 11:21 am

      That’s actually incredible.
      How can one person get severe infections from using a towel twice while I can get away with using the same towel repeatedly for at least two weeks?
      And I’m showering almost every day due to the amount of running, martial arts and severe-sweat-inducing snow fort building I do.
      I suppose if you have a particular hygienic condition or situation, you’d just have to go through a lot of towels, but it seems really damned odd to me that it could be the case that your towels instantly become biological weapons after a single use.

      Reply
      • GayleRN December 30, 2013, 12:39 pm

        When you are dealing with MRSA, particularly on skin, it is considered to be basically a permanent state of infection as far as a hospital is concerned. The reason he needs to use a fresh towel every day is that when he dries himself he is inoculating that towel. That damp towel breeds more bugs as it sits around for 24 hours. If he reuses that towel he is reapplying all the bugs he initially attempted to wash away plus all the ones that reproduced on that damp towel. Hospital standards for this call for isolation on admission, swabbing for lab confirmation, twice a day bathing with surgical scrub, and fresh bedding and gown after each bath. Forever. MRSA is relatively common. There are others far worse.

        Reply
        • CALL 911 December 30, 2013, 4:23 pm

          Everybody who works in a hospital is a MRSA carrier. It is common, just as you say. When I started hospital work, I was tested. In 2003. I was negative. How many MRSA positive patients have I seen since? At least 500. Probably 2500. I have never been retested. Neither have any of my colleagues. If you don’t believe we’re all carriers, you may need to recheck your premises.

          Reply
      • OTIS December 30, 2013, 1:05 pm

        It’s actually incredible how you defend your buddy without doing any research. You don’t have MRSA. Look it up, I’m sure you know of the condition, I’ve read your articles and you’re pretty bright so I’m sure you have heard of it and know what the most mild cases entail (wiping down surfaces, no shoes in the house, frequent bedding changes, NO REUSING TOWELS). Believe me I have tried to re use towels over and over again and the same thing happens, I know exactly how much money I am wasting washing clothes, but the point is MMM shouldn’t judge people’s lifestyles when in reality he has no idea WHY they make the financial decision they do.

        I ride a bike every single day to work and to wherever else I can. I can’t be a no vehicle household, you know why? My Girlfriend who I live with HAS to have a car. She can’t ride a bike 6 miles every day to her workplace because she had MAJOR Scoliosis surgery and now has pounds of metal rods in her back. She is beginning clinicals and will have to be at the hospital VERY early and while the prospect of public transportation is enlightening, again, do research on the public
        transportation systems in Louisiana.

        This entire blog is “do this, and do that” and when people physically can’t, it’s because they have excuses. You have been lucky enough to have a family that is physically able and has a great immune system, for whatever the reasons. You also can’t seem to wrap your head around the fact that many people DON’T WANT TO RIDE A FUCKING BIKE.

        Reply
        • Mr. Frugal Toque December 30, 2013, 1:31 pm

          Well, that escalated quickly.
          So, no, I hadn’t heard of MRSA before reading your comment and I didn’t realize that, once caught, it becomes a chronic infection.
          So there’s that, and I’m sorry for pissing you off.
          Obviously, the comments about reusing towels don’t apply to someone who has an actual medical condition that prohibits it.
          My comment, in case it still matters, refers to the fact that you were able to catch MRSA from towel reuse while most of us are able to go many hundreds of towel reuses throughout our lives without getting it.
          But you’re right about one other thing. This blog is about “do this, and not that”. We are trying to make the world less crazy, after all, and the gentle approach will not always be appropriate.
          As for cycling?
          If you can, you should. If your health prevents it, then don’t.
          But if you “don’t want to”, you’re going to meet with limited sympathy here. We have too many people who “don’t want to” spend less than they earn, or “don’t want to” plan for their retirements. We don’t let excuses get in the way there, either.
          Reasons, sure.
          Excuses, no.

          Reply
          • otis December 30, 2013, 1:43 pm

            As stated I already said I do cycle. I don’t have a car. My GF on the other hand CAN NOT cycle. Her doctor recommends NOT cycling unless it is for leisure around her neighborhood on a recumbent for short periods of time.

            I didn’t catch MRSA just from re using a towel, I was in the USMC and if you didn’t already know, they are notoriously frugal, and you wash your towel once every week. Never had any problems with it before then, now if I re use a towel or wear the same clothes for more than 2 days I am going to end up with a nasty boil or infection on my person.

            Reply
            • sarah December 31, 2013, 8:32 am

              MRSA and Staff are from the same bio family. I have two kids with MRSA. Do you know why? Poor immune system. Sine we started vitamins abd changed our diet ~ no MRSA for 2 years. TRY 10,000 IU of D3 daily, and 2 ~ 4 Tbsp od Codliver oil. Stop eatting sugar and processed wheat. If people suffer from MRSA they probably also suffer from bad teeth and being sick. Also, our cleaning products are crap. One of the chemicals used in the laundry soap could be setting off the MRSA try washing laundry with baking soda and a bit of shaved soap.

              Reply
            • Kenoryn January 1, 2014, 6:08 pm

              The irony here is that MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That means it has evolved due to excessive “cleanliness” and stupid antibiotic use. If everyone followed the advice in this post, you wouldn’t have MRSA.

              Otis, why do you feel that MMM’s articles are all a personal critique of your lifestyle? Don’t you think it’s possible that these articles are aimed at the majority of the general public, for whom taking this advice could be life-changing, and not the tiny minority of people for whom the advice is not practical? Do you really believe that all the followers of this blog would deride, for example, a paraplegic for not cycling to work? If you assume that’s true, I think that’s a really foolish assumption. The articles here are designed to help people. If you are able to ride a bike, your life will be improved by it. If you perfectly capable but just “DON’T WANT TO RIDE A FUCKING BIKE”, as you say, you’re free to not ride a bike. Your life will just be a little bit worse as a result (and your choice to drive a car will harm others through environmental degradation). If you believe that MMM is insulting you personally by suggesting that the world would be better off if everyone rode bikes, perhaps this is not the blog for you.

              Reply
              • Aaron January 2, 2014, 12:57 pm

                What are you talking about? This is a blog, meant to be advice to millions or possibly billions of people?

                I thought this was a personal email MMM sent to me, about my specific life and lifestyle and everyone else here was just listening in on that. I didn’t know I could read what was written and try to reinterpret it to my own personal experiences and needs. I thought everything had to be spoon fed to me. Or that this personal “email” to just me had to have every possible caveat in it so that it could apply to every single possible situation.

                /rant

                Thank you Kenoryn for pointing out the extremely obvious that some people still don’t seem to get.

                This blog is about making you “wake up”. It’s about making you aware that the “status quo” doesn’t need to be. It’s not really telling you to do this or that, it’s telling you to question whether this or that is really necessary. That it could be costing you more money (and money is basically time, and time is your life) than is needed. Take it how you will. Don’t demand that an article written for billions needs to have your special exception written into it. And if you think it does, if you think what is done here isn’t sufficient an that many people could benefit more greatly from the info you could provide, then you’ve found a great opportunity for starting your own blog!

              • Trish January 5, 2014, 4:34 pm

                that is a very interesting point – we created this antibiotic resistant bacteria from our own weird hypersensitivity to ‘germs’. I get very annoyed at advertising aimed at people’s ‘germ’ phobia, as advertisers point out just how germy surfaces in your house can get. or how dirty in general your house can be and you won’t even realize it until you use a Swiffer! I have a friend who is a germophobe and I watch how her fear negatively impacts and complicates her life, and how her actions end up generating so much waste, as she hyper cleans each surface in her house.

      • phred December 31, 2013, 11:58 am

        Do schools still require gym class? A shower was required, the towel was stored in the gym locker for a week; it was taken home every friday to the washing machine and brought back on monday

        Reply
    • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 1:05 pm

      I suspect MMM is not intending to say that every aspect of his life should apply to all others even when they have rare circumstances in their lives which make it unfeasible for them. His advice is aimed at the average person. Yes, you may be an exception: don’t take MMM’s advice as a personal judgment on you. Obviously it has nothing to do with you. The advice given here is part of a broader life philosophy of doing things yourself, where possible, and analyzing your own lifestyle in order to optimize it rather than blindly conforming to ridiculous societal conventions. It is not an edict saying “no human being must ever wash a towel more than every other week, no matter what the circumstances!!”

      “But there are probably a lot of really dirty surfaces in your house you’re missing.”
      The point of this article was that, if you’re ‘missing’ them, i.e. you can’t even tell they’re dirty, then there is absolutely no reason to clean them. For most people, excessive cleaning makes you less healthy, not more. For example, the use of antibacterial products causes antibiotic resistant pathogens, like MRSA.

      Reply
      • Sara January 1, 2014, 11:17 pm

        Kenoryn, your comment is very well-put. Mature and sensible interpretation that applies to any advice — that one should do one’s best to take the good parts, and not worry too much about what doesn’t apply, especially not out loud!

        Reply
    • Miss Growing Green December 30, 2013, 4:33 pm

      I think you’re being a little harsh on Mr. MM. He doesn’t “judge other peoples’ lifestyles” so much as “question what the 99% accept as normal”. Without questioning the silly, wasteful things we all do, how can we ever improve our situations?

      I find it hard to believe that re-using a towel resulted in MRSA and a blood infection, but hey, maybe you have a really compromised immune system. For nearly everyone though (maybe not you) reusing towels and clothes before automatically washing them is a great way to save money and resources.

      We could fill our days with millions of steps to prevent potential future negatives, but where would that leave us? MMM has a great post about fear and your circle of control that you should check out. Very worth reading.

      Reply
    • Jen January 1, 2014, 4:06 pm

      You obviously have some sort of problem, because developing a severe skin condition from reusing a towel is NOT normal. In your case, yes, I would recommend not reusing a towel, but I think 90% of us will be okay.

      Reply
  • Michelle G. December 30, 2013, 10:55 am

    When I was pregnant with my son, I had odd cravings and would sometimes crave dirt. Occasionally, I would see a pile of dirt at a construction site and my mouth would start watering.

    I wonder what your doctor friend would say about that. Maybe I should have indulged…

    Reply
    • Rebecca Stapler December 30, 2013, 11:05 am

      I think MMM’s dr friend would probably diagnose that as pica and suggest that you were suffering from an iron deficiency. :(

      Reply
    • Reepekg December 30, 2013, 11:43 am

      Geophagy is surprisingly common. Let’s hope it’s not because your body needed to neutralize harmful alkaloids like some native people have been shown to do…

      Reply
    • Mark Curtis December 30, 2013, 11:55 pm

      In my opinion, YES you should have indulged.

      I have an organic garden, I always eat the baby carrots and potatoes, indeed most all produce straight from the ground, ….. mild scrub with the palm of my hand to get rid of any grit, (don’t like the feel of sand on my teeth). This will induce good bacteria into your colon. Which will also help tremendously in protecting you from e coli.

      Sterilization has gone way too far.

      Reply
    • Alison January 1, 2014, 6:33 am

      That’s called pica and was probably a sign that you were deficient in some mineral…

      Reply
  • Rebecca Stapler December 30, 2013, 11:02 am

    The antibiotic soap is what bugs me. At this point, it’s hard to find non-antibiotic soap. But the truth of the matter is that the heavy-lifter in the hand-washing process is the friction from scrubbing your hands. Antibiotic soap is such overkill.

    Anecdotaly, we have noticed that I am usually able to avoid getting a puke bug when it visits our house. I think it might be due to the various “bugs” I got in the Peace Corps and somehow developing a stronger stomach that way (although, I’m pretty sure you can’t develop an immunity to those particular bugs).

    Reply
    • Mrs PoP December 30, 2013, 1:34 pm

      I don’t believe dove bar soap is anti-bacterial. That’s what we like the best for showers.
      Alternatively for my face I’ve recently begun using oil based soap (I like coconut oil the best) that’s mixed with hemp. Try googling “dope on a rope”. I have sensitive skin and am prone to cystic acne and this stuff is better than just about anything else I’ve used.

      Reply
      • Aaron January 2, 2014, 1:08 pm

        I use Kirk’s Original Coco Castile Bar Soap, it’s coconut oil based and available at Walmart.

        Reply
    • Ms. Must-Stash December 30, 2013, 10:06 pm

      I agree! Antibacterial soap is ridiculous – if you kill 99% of bacteria on your hands or a surface it will regrow quickly, and stronger. Glad to hear the recent news that FDA is currently evaluating the claims that are posted on antibacterial soap & related products.

      Reply
      • CTY December 30, 2013, 11:37 pm

        Ivory is a great soap that is not anti-bacterial.

        Reply
      • Dave December 31, 2013, 12:33 pm

        While there is a time and place for it (such as those with medical conditions, touching truly nasty things, or a surgeon scrubbing in), I too think it is overused. While it does kill the majority of bacteria, that mean it kills the good and the bad, which in turn can weaken your immune system and cause other medical conditions.

        Reply
    • Miser Mom December 31, 2013, 4:56 am

      If you really want *liquid* soap that’s antibiotic, try bubble bath. At the last store I checked, a large bottle of that was cheaper than the same-size bottle of soap, and it seems to work just as well.

      Reply
      • Nina December 31, 2013, 8:56 am

        Read past the price and please the ingredients. While often the chemicals are indiscernable, I was less than thrilled to read the familiar formaldehyde on the list of one of the conventional brands of liquid soap/bubble bath. Can you believe it? I guess it’s totally legal to expose the unsuspecting to this crap and have them rub it all over themselves. I sure felt stupid.

        Thanks to other commenters who shared recipes – the coconut oil & baking soda deodorant recipe sounds fabulous. Maybe I’m not minimalist enough, but I do like nice scents and I can imagine the coconut oil making it extra fabulous.

        Reply
    • BWrites December 31, 2013, 8:42 am

      The cheaper hand soap is often not antibacterial. Thank goodness.

      Reply
    • Maddie December 31, 2013, 1:20 pm

      You can make your own too (liquid hand soap). We use this recipe and just multiply the ingredients so we only need to make it a couple of times a year at most):

      250 ml boiling water
      2 Tbs grated Sunlight or castile (hard) soap
      2 tsp glycerine or glycerol (from the chemist or supermarket)
      2 tsp rosewater (from the chemist of the specialty food stores)

      Melt the grated soap in the boiling water and then stir in the glycerine and rosewater. Pour into the soap dispenser while still warm, as it sets as a jelly.

      This is from “Wendylsgreen goddess” dot co dot nz site

      Reply
    • MMMonSteriods April 15, 2014, 7:12 pm

      You could just buy really green liquid soaps from companies like Method. They seem to be doing things right. They even recycle ocean plastics and use them in their containers [although even better is a soap with no residual packaging]

      Reply
  • thelamb December 30, 2013, 11:15 am

    Good post, in complete agreement about almost everything; I do enjoy a daily five-minute shower though. One thing where I’m OCD and constantly aggravated… I got this rug, a big honking rug bought on overstock.com, on an even bigger, dark hardwood floor (that I installed). The rug constantly sheds these little, light brown fibers that go everywhere and sometimes clump and it drives me up a wall. I vacuum or sweep at least twice a week and often follow up with a wet (water/vinegar) cleanup. I know that replacing the rug will solve this problem, but don’t want to buy another one just yet as it seems like a stupid, wasteful expense. Makes me wonder: learn to deal with it more, invest in a new rug, or keep on obsessively cleaning…

    Seriously though, what’s up with people that wash their towels after each use? You’re drying off a “clean” body.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque December 30, 2013, 12:24 pm

      You installed a nice hardwood floor, of your own choosing, with your own time and energy?
      And you’re covering it with a big honking rug that pisses you off?
      Hmm.
      If only there were a solution to this problem that involved increased enjoyment of the wooden products of your labour while also reducing your housework.

      Reply
      • Janel January 3, 2014, 4:57 am

        Note that multi family units generally require a majority of hard floors to be covered with rugs or carpet to abate noise.

        Reply
      • kiwano January 6, 2014, 3:11 pm

        I’ve got a winter carpet for my wooden floor (actually sole, owing to the whole living on a boat thing). Between the extra insulation of a carpet, slippers, long underwear, etc., I got my typical energy consumption down below 30A of 120V (including my heat and deicing), allowing me to ditch my second shore power outlet in winters and save $680/yr (well buying a used generator to be able to handle the occasional cold snap also helped–but mostly with willpower; the genny’s been on loan to a friend who lost power in the Christmas ice storm, and I haven’t bothered getting it back, though there have been 2 cold snaps since then).

        Reply
    • wendi1 December 31, 2013, 11:19 am

      Your carpet is shedding the fibres that were either picked up in the rug factory, or were left on it when it was trimmed.

      They will go away eventually (sucked up in the vacuum, or pounded over the back fence – however you prefer).

      This is a hazard of new stuff – if you had bought your carpet used, you would have no little fibres (just the possibility of bedbugs..) ;)

      Reply
  • Cujo December 30, 2013, 11:19 am

    You vacuum once a month? Huh. We vacuum the entire house every weekend, and it needs it every weekend. We have three kids, and they all have friends, and we’re all outdoorsy people, and despite every effort to wipe our feet and to take off our shoes at the front door, there is generally visible dirt on the carpet within a few days of vacuuming. Aside from looking bad, if left unvacuumed, that will get ground into the carpet and ultimately shorten its life; clearly unmustachian behavior.

    Similarly, we sweep the kitchen floor at least once a day.

    We’re not germophobes, but we do try to avoid having visible, obvious dirt on our floors.

    Reply
    • Barb December 30, 2013, 9:43 pm

      I cannot, in this life time, imagine vacuuming once a month. My house gets vacuumed at least three times a week, and I should do more. Three canines live in this house. For years, when I had carpet, I vacuumed maybe once a week. Then I had no carpet and realized excacly what had been burying itself in the carpet. One size does not fit all.

      I also dust at least weekly with a duster. I also sweep my floors at least once a week. I realize that other folks may not have pets and their need is not as great. But even the neatest people spill and crumb. What do youdo, Ignore them?

      That said, I shower every other day for three quarter of the year. During a texas summer, with minimal air condition, an quick shower before bed is a must. On the other hand, my son has skin issues and a daily shower is a requirement. He should probably take an am or a pm in reality.

      Reply
  • Kelly December 30, 2013, 11:31 am

    Thank. you. so. much.
    My friends and coworkers seem to have this bizarre obsession with making their homes look like a showroom at all times, whereas I think it’s been probably 4 months since I cleaned my bathroom (other than obvious sanitary tasks like cleaning the toilet bowl and wiping out the sink which I do regularly). I also re-use towels 4-5 times before washing and will usually wear the same pair of pants 3-4 times before washing. And only shower every 2-3 days. I’ve just never seen the point of spending so much time and money making everything *pristine*. I finally feel like less of a freak show. Seriously, thank you so much for this post.

    Reply
  • Sharon December 30, 2013, 11:34 am

    I had to cringe at the thought of only washing a bath towel once a month, and here’s why. Sure, you’re using the bath towel to dry a clean body, but as you briskly towel yourself off, you’re shedding dead skin cells onto that towel. Even if that bath towel dries quickly, it’s going to become a nice little haven for dust mites (who love dead skin cells) within a week or two.

    That said, I agree that it’s not necessary to wash a bath towel every time you use it, and perhaps the towel’s life could be extended by shaking it out and hanging it in the sunshine to dry (since sunshine kills dust mites as well as mold spores).

    Reply
    • Leo December 30, 2013, 11:43 am

      I am pretty sure he met that they only do a load of towels a month. According to the post I would estimate he uses 1 towel for 10 days in the winter. I would be on par with that.

      Reply
    • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 1:14 pm

      Leo, I think he did mean once a month: showering every 3 days, using a towel for 10 uses = 30 days.

      But since dust mites are harmless and invisible (unless you have asthma or allergies), why would getting dust mites on your towel be a problem?

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 2:25 pm

        Exactly, and thanks Kenoryn.. I didn’t even know about these scary “Dust Mites” before Sharon wrote that story and made me suddenly afraid of them.

        And yet somehow I remain healthy and happy? Weird!

        Which is really what this is about: marketing and the resulting ripple of repeating scary stories has turned us into a nation of people who worry about things that you really don’t need to worry about.

        Meanwhile, the much riskier activities go overlooked.. such as “sitting down in one position for eight hours” or spending an entire day indoors without going out for a walk in the fresh air. Both infinitely more dangerous than dust mites.

        Reply
        • Sharon December 31, 2013, 8:58 pm

          Dust mite allergies are actually pretty common. If you’re not allergic, more power to ya, but if you find that your towel (or your pillow, or your winter coat, or whatever) makes you sneeze, I think it’s useful to know that it could be dust mites, and that they’re easily dealt with via a hot wash and/or some sunshine. Sunning linens is a very old practice, something our great-grandparents did–and it’s certainly more Mustachian than running to the doctor for allergy meds, right? :)

          Reply
    • CanuckExpat December 30, 2013, 9:42 pm

      I thought MMM’s towel washing schedule was fairly frequent, even luxurious almost. My own bath towel gets a cleaning when I notice, or think, it might need one, which could be a month or two, or more frankly. I never suffered any deleterious effects (that I know of), nor has anybody complained about my hygiene. But to each their own.

      As an aside, washing your towels in excessive detergent (and any fabric softener) will make them less absorbent and start to smell sooner:
      http://lifehacker.com/5362234/use-vinegar-and-baking-soda-to-recharge-your-towels
      http://turkishtowelcompany.com/about/towel-care

      So that’s kind of a vicious cycle: you wash your towels extra because you are worried about the smell, but that just makes them smell faster..

      Reply
  • Alex December 30, 2013, 11:38 am

    That’s the way to do it! We probably change our bedsheets just a couple times a year (we shower upon waking up anyway), dust and vacuum maybe a handful of times a year, clean the bathroom relatively thoroughly once every month or two, pantry and fridge maybe once a year.

    The only cleaning that’s rather routine are the dishes and the laundry. And even then, it’s maybe one load of laundry per week, primarily with socks, underwear, and the innermost layer of shirts. Outer layers and jeans and such get washed much less frequently, maybe once every month. And I totally agree with you on towels too – the same towel can be used for a half-dozen showers easily (after a shower you should be squeaky-clean anyway!).

    I’m sure a lot of these are different for those with pets or kids, but maybe people develop their cleaning habits in such situations and forget to re-assess once the kids are a bit older.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a good number of the allergies and intolerances that seem so prevalent these days result from people being over-vigilant and excessively antibacterial, not to mention the very real danger posed by overuse of antibiotics in helping evolve antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Our bodies are made to handle much less spotless conditions than are common in the developed world these days. So just as one-day-past “best before” yogurt is usually fine to eat and drinking water from the same glass more than once is usually fine to drink, I think people are overdoing it with the cleaning too. And that’s not even getting started with the overuse of disposable packaging, even for groceries and leftovers (that sweet potato grows in the dirt – do you really need to wrap it in a bag that you’ll just throw out when you eat it?).

    Reply
    • L'Ingenieure December 31, 2013, 9:26 am

      The bed sheets comment made me go “ew!” at first. Then I remembered my husband’s family home. Here, we have to change the sheets once a week. Even in winter, this is our climate, environment… what we eat?. But at my husband’s former home, geez, we were fine for a month, sheets smelled good – so different from here.

      Reply
  • MonicaOnMoney December 30, 2013, 11:40 am

    This is an excellent perspective! I agree that we spend a lot to stay clean and to clean our houses. I usually shower daily and don’t even think about it. Thanks for an interesting perspective and happy new year!

    Reply
  • Leo December 30, 2013, 11:41 am

    THANK YOU!

    So many things about this makes sense. I would also like to add that our baby was born in our home. Everything went fine.

    I grew up on a farm, we would swim in mud puddles… the idea that we need to be sterile is crazy. Plus the thought of paying someone to do the little cleaning required is foolish.

    I think you are going to get a lot of complainy pants on this one. based on my recent poll in the forums (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/welcome-to-the-forum/how-much-does-everyone-make/) MMM readers tend to make closer to 100k a year. My hypothesis is people with more income value things differently than those with lower incomes. Therefore the willingness of the richer person to spend based on ‘how much they value x’ it much greater that the poor person. Cleanliness falls into a value category because it takes time, effort and money. The richer see it as extremely important while the poorer see it as a basic necessity. As a result the both people obtain a level of cleanliness, but both are at different levels.

    I think this kind of thing it extremely interesting because the entire time the poor often tries to act as the rich (I have personally done this in the past). While the rich often try to minimize and act like the poor.

    Reply
  • CTY December 30, 2013, 11:44 am

    And don’t forget about the special cleaning equipment: dusting mop, washing mop, buckets, dusting paraphernalia, sponges, scrubbie sponges, toilet brush, sink brush, mini brush, squeezee, micro cloths, polishing cloth, dish cloth, special towels galore, telescoping items abound & scads of brooms. Then there are the “power’ tools: vacuum ( & every imaginable special nozzle), mini vac, stick vac, battery scrubber, shampooer, steam mop. Oh & the disposables: toilet brushes, paper towels, duster refills, mop refills, disinfecting wipes, meat cutting boards–I’m sure there’s more. Let’s not get started on laundry–sufficient to say there is a product for better smelling clothes that promises no cleaning, softening or static control or disinfecting qualities–it just smells nice,
    The quantity of these items is astounding, I was at that great big discount store not too long ago and found 3 aisles of cleaners & equipment. Big money is made in these aisles–even the DIY home stores and dollar markets have huge sections,
    Around here there are four things that factor into cleaning, 1. health: mainly the food prep areas 2. safety: things that can catch fire or slippery floors etc 3.space factor–clutter begets clutter 4. maintenance: to maximize job performance/longevity.
    Our motto:
    Clean enough to be healthy;
    Dirty enough to be happy.

    Reply
    • Sarah December 30, 2013, 1:08 pm

      Oh my gosh yes! The cleaning paraphernalia can get out of control! I was just visiting my parents for the holidays and they have 7 vacuums of various sizes and functions, at least 4 Swiffers and brooms, and bottles upon bottles of cleaning solutions. It blew my mind!

      Reply
  • bdonney December 30, 2013, 11:45 am

    I agree with everything, I have a desk job, shower probably once every 2 to 3 days, wash my towel after 5 – 10 times when they start smelling a bit. certain clothes, especially sweaters I don’t wash after every wear. A lot has to do with what your doing, I used to have a job I would sweat profusely and shower every day if not twice. and go through a lot of clothes.
    If your working with grease and oil and sweating a lot, yeah obviously shower and clean your clothes. The only area I’m very conscious of is washing my hands after I go to the bathroom, those bacteria can be pretty nasty, surprising number of people don’t. and I wash my hands a lot when i cook with any meat.

    Otherwise I’m not a clean freak, I get sick maybe once a year usually very short 2 day cold or flu. I think getting some exposure is important as well as eating healthy, and I mean actually healthy food, not what the media tells us is healthy. Luckily people are becoming more aware of the BS the media and false advertising has been pushing as nutritious foods for decades now.

    10 days was too long of a break for blogging lol. hope you enjoyed your christmas, happy new years!

    Reply
  • AlabamaHicks December 30, 2013, 11:47 am

    More anecdotal evidence and another doctor’s comment: My mother is allergic to many odd things, in addition to several common things. Common: Livestock. Odd: Silk. Hops. All fish. Her childhood occurred during the germophobic ’50s, and her mother had been a hospital dietician, was a person who kept a Perfect House, and remembered how fearful she had been about germs and her baby.
    My mother grew up to be a medical librarian, and kept a very Imperfect House. No allergies in either myself or my sister.

    Recently I changed doctors since we moved. “On a farm, you should be healthier,” she said. “You’ll get exposed to everything.” So far, so good!

    Reply
  • Cindy December 30, 2013, 11:48 am

    I’ll admit, I’m not the greatest house keeper. I try to keep things at least uncluttered, as it does make it look cleaner. I find the setup of a house makes a HUGE difference in how often things like cleaning the floors need done. At my house, the grass basically butts up to the back door, so we track a lot of dirt, leaves, etc. into the house, so it looks dirty a lot quicker. The boyfriend has a patio out back, and a paved parking area in front, so there isn’t as much tracking. Something we’ll keep in mind for our future home!

    I maybe wash towels once a week, and typically use the same two towels all week for my daily showers. I’d like to shower less often; it’d be better on my sensitive skin, but I have to figure out the adjustment period for my super oily hair. I tend to wear everything but socks and undies more than once, yet still seem to have a ridiculous amount of laundry each week. Trying to pay more attention to this so I can cut back.

    Reply
  • Jess December 30, 2013, 11:49 am

    I agree with this post in many ways. However, i have found that frequent hand washing or use of sanitizers has greatly reduced the number of colds and other viruses I get. I’m not convinced that it would actually be better for me to be sick more often!

    Reply
    • Emmers January 3, 2014, 9:05 am

      Hand washing (with plain soap and warm water) is a very smart idea! It’s just the other stuff that can sometimes be a bit excessive.

      Reply
  • Steve December 30, 2013, 11:52 am

    I used to have a cleaning schedule setup in my task organizer that I’d religiously follow week in and out. Missing a cleaning would really stress me out. Last year I deleted all of those tasks and have been much happier. I clean things when they look/smell like they need cleaned, not when the schedule dictates. So now I have way less stress and have freed up a couple extra hours a week.

    I agree that the sanitizing and antibiotic use is out of control. I’ve come across numerous studies that link increasing allergies in kids to overly clean environments. My kids know if that food drops the ground, it’s still expected that they eat it unless it gets totally gross. And guess what, other than the occasional hay fever attack – no other allergies!

    Reply
    • Belcat December 31, 2013, 9:37 am

      Generally antibacterial additives in soap have a dubious or no effect on cleanliness, and a possible cancer link. So, uh, why? I never understood.

      Reply
  • mattp December 30, 2013, 11:52 am

    The cult of cleanliness really took root in the 1920s, where ‘personality’ replaced ‘character’ as the aspirational virtue. This change was itself an outcome of industrialised consumerism (celebrity, advertising, the professional salesman etc.). 1920s adman Alex Osborne (the ‘O’ in agency BBDO and, incidentally, the man credited with the invention of the dubious process of brainstorming) pioneered mining anxieties related to the new personality cult to sell products, especially personal hygiene ones. Check out the famous Lux Flakes ads from the 20s depicting forlorn wallflowers whose loneliness, the ads claimed, could be solved if only they used the product.

    Reply
  • Marcia December 30, 2013, 11:53 am

    Wow, 30 loads a week of laundry?? I remember getting into an argument with a woman who did that level of wash. She would only use a towel once, then wash it. “Anything that touches my booty on Monday is not touching my face on Tuesday”. Okay…then get a face towel and a body towel.

    I can understand if you have medical issues, but I don’t. I wash my towel once a week. I believe my husband does his every week or two. Our bathroom doesn’t ventilate very well so it will get moldy and we do need to clean it more often than a lot of other places (despite living in a dry climate).

    Both my kids love eating dirt or sand…

    Reply
  • Mrs. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 11:54 am

    And you barely mentioned all the chemicals in those cleaners! I recently read this article: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_279.cfm.

    I don’t know how accurate everything in this article is, but just taking one whiff of any cleaning product with a skull and crossbones on it, I know I shouldn’t be using it.

    Health-wise, it seems to make more sense to put up with a bit more dirt than to excessively use cleaning products in your home.

    Reply
    • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 1:20 pm

      I read an interesting article somewhere awhile ago about the ‘smell of clean’ – how we have come to associate the smell of cleaners with cleanliness, rather than with offgassing toxic chemicals in your house, and we need to redefine the smell of cleanliness as being no smell at all.

      Reply
      • Maddie December 31, 2013, 1:32 pm

        Interesting…. As we make all our own cleaning products at home (or just use straight vinegar as required) I feel ill if I have to go anywhere near the cleaning aisle in the supermarket…. The only scent our products have come from essential oils (if we decide to use them).

        Reply
  • May December 30, 2013, 12:00 pm

    Hallelujah! I’m not there —yet but working on it. I had a preemie and they (dr’s, nurses, random people) scared the heck out of me about germs. I used to lysol the light switches and door knobs after anyone visited our house. I don’t do that anymore but I do still wipe down the handles of the grocery carts.

    Reply
  • CMac December 30, 2013, 12:02 pm

    For a fun read on the historic relativity of cleanliness (and great dirt related trivia) sign a copy of “The Dirt on Clean- An Unsanitized History” out from the library!

    Reply
    • mariarose January 13, 2014, 7:58 am

      We own that book! Very enlightening.

      Reply
  • kathleen December 30, 2013, 12:05 pm

    I should try showering less often. My problem is that showering is the indication that it’s time to get up and get movin’! I suppose I could use another trigger.

    Reply
    • Jenn December 30, 2013, 7:39 pm

      I’m guilty of being completely indulgent on the daily bathing. I take a hot bath in a big tub every day of the winter. I justify it as my stress reliever and keeping me warmer with the thermostat set lower. The only frugal things about it: my husband uses the water after me, we leave the water in the tub for the rest of the night to heat the master suite, and I do use the same towel for a week.

      Reply
  • WageSlave December 30, 2013, 12:08 pm

    It’s been a while since I read it, but IIRC the book “Evolution RX” by William Meller resonates highly with this post. Actually, I think the book resonates highly with this blog in general, as the basic premise is: “the human body is a marvel of evolution, and can do wonderful things on its own.”

    He advocates one drink of alcohol a day, because it’s a mild toxin that “exercises” your liver daily. Same thought process as deliberately exposing yourself to more germs than our germophobe cultural norm.

    He also suggests that sunlight is the only true source of Vitamin D: it just can’t be effectively supplemented by pill. He says everyone should have at least 50% of their body exposed to sunlight for at least 10 minutes every day.

    Reply
    • HealthyWealthyExpat December 30, 2013, 8:58 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, Wage Slave. The vitamin D comment really resonates with us. We live in the desert where it’s sunny every day, and when our second daughter was born the doctors insisted that we give her vitamin D supplements. Hmmmm, I thought, how come our first daughter is fine when we never gave her any? I had a look on the bottle and saw all the other garbage in the solution, including sweetener, and balked at the idea. After some research online, I decided that our daily walks were all she needed. She is now 2 and the other 7, and they are both normal humans! It’s crazy that doctors in a desert climate are prescribing the same things as doctors in a climate where winters are long and dark.

      Reply
  • Leslie December 30, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Some contact with germs helps build the immune system. I am very wary of the antibacterial soaps because they can create newer strains that don’t respond to antibiotics. Also, making soap is easy and you can add natural ingredients that do not dry out your skin. There are actually stores on Etsy where people charge up to 6.00 for a bar of homemade soap so this is now a cottage industry.

    Reply
  • Erin December 30, 2013, 12:09 pm

    I choked on my coffee when I saw that someone washes their towels after every use! I shower every day (I just feel weird if I don’t and I sweat like crazy!) and I probably wash towels twice a month. I’m still alive, so I think it’s okay…

    I am a firm believer in eliminating the excessive hand sanitizing, etc. When swine flu broke out a few years ago, my husband used hand sanitizer constantly and I never used it. Guess who got the flu? Hint: not me :) While I get sick every once in a while, it is much less often than almost everyone I know and I attribute that to my tough immune system!

    As for cleaning, I hate doing it but it is a necessary evil. I cut it down by living in a small space and not owning much, so cleaning my entire apartment takes about 30 minutes.

    Reply
  • Jamesqf December 30, 2013, 12:09 pm

    While there’s a lot of good sense in this post, I have to – perhaps – take issue with one point: “By all means, keep things happily minimalist, decluttered, and organized – a simplified physical environment is good for the mind.” In fact, there’s some evidenve that, just as with over-cleanliness, a too-simplified physical envionment is actually bad for the mind.

    Consider for instance the “Rat Park” experiments by Bruce Alexander et al. At the time, the drug warriors were making much of the fact that rats kept in laboratory cages would choose to consume psychoactive drugs. Alexander hypothesized that this was a consequence of the barren environment rather than any innate property of the drugs, and built “Rat Park”, an enriched, stimulating, even – dare I say it? – cluttered environment, and found that rats living there didn’t become addicted. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park

    Reply
    • anon December 30, 2013, 1:01 pm

      I wouldn’t consider household consumer clutter an enriched environment. The physical environment in a variety of outdoor settings (complex and beautiful) seems more like it.

      Reply
      • Jamesqf December 31, 2013, 2:52 pm

        I think this depends on exactly what you think of as ‘clutter’. I tend to work on the ‘a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind’ principle. For instancem at any given moment I’ll have maybe a dozen books scattered around the place, in the process of being read or used for research, On my desk right now are “Anatomy of Exercise”, texts on numerical methods & neuroscience, ‘CUDA Application Design & Development’, and Terry Pratchett’s ‘Lords and Ladies’, plus a stack of research papers, two computers with periperials, and the SSD I’m going to install in one whenever I recover enough mobility in my hand. It’s all intellectual cross-fertiization, far better tha a barren ‘decluttered’ desk.

        Reply
        • L'Ingenieure January 24, 2014, 12:04 pm

          +26
          especially for “It’s all intellectual cross-fertilization, far better than a barren ‘decluttered’ desk.”

          Reply
    • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 1:26 pm

      Doesn’t that suggest that mental stimulus/a pleasant environment is good for you, not that clutter is good for you?

      Speaking of parks, there is a growing body of research now showing that spending time in nature is good for your mental health- presumably a similar idea.

      Reply
    • Heath December 30, 2013, 1:29 pm

      The “Rat Park” experiment is fantastic! :-) I love the concept that a properly ‘designed’ environment can lead to lower rates of addiction.

      However, I think if you look at the MMM household holistically, you’ll see a lot more than an oversimplified environment. They’re right next to a park, and ride their bikes constantly. If that’s not the ‘good’ kind of environmental stimulation, then I’m not sure what is :-)

      Reply
  • Brooke December 30, 2013, 12:10 pm

    I highly recommend you check out the documentary “Chemerical” when you get a chance! It inspired me to go chemical free a year ago and I haven’t looked back. Its way more mustachian! I can’t imagine how much $ I’ve saved on product since I switched, not to mention the $ I’ve saved on eventual medical expenses related to various chemical exposure side effects. http://www.chemicalnation.com/content/

    Reply
  • Kathy December 30, 2013, 12:14 pm

    I’m with you…I do laundry every 2 weeks, reuse shower towels multiple times and clean once or twice a month. I am much more bothered by the chemicals in cleaning products then the dirt from every day living. And I can’t be bothered by constant cleaning. If it starts to look dirty I take care of it, but I don’t have a cleaning schedule.

    Reply
  • Erica December 30, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Thank you for validating our lifestyle. I really hate wasting water so I take a full shower once a week and then a few shallow baths in between just to get fresh. My hair is much healthier since I stopped showering so often. I also get to sleep in a bit longer in the mornings. Our towels might get washed once a month, oops. Our son’s pediatrician always tells us that being around dirt and animals is a great thing. We don’t shy away from dirt and our one year old gets a full bath only once a week. Babies don’t really get very dirty. Our house stays really clean because we spend time outside and don’t have too much stuff. I do clean with a vinegar, baking soda and lemon mixture regularly. Also, science is really starting to discover the importance of healthy gut bacteria. Eating a little dirt with your food is a really good thing. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916122214.htm

    Reply
  • Sarah December 30, 2013, 12:38 pm

    I’m with you in general; typical American standards of cleanliness are often silly, and there are a lot of ways to arrange your life (such as not owning a lot of crap) that makes cleaning faster and easier. I think that you might not be registering how much cleaning your house requires though… I suspect your wife is doing more of it than you. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/05/24/mrs-money-mustache-routine-will-oil-the-machine/

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 2:01 pm

      Haha.. this could lead to a long and heated argument within our family :-)

      But no – there is no “secret cleaning” going on in this house – it happens rarely enough that it is trumpeted and enjoyed for many days after it happens, regardless of who does it.

      Reply
      • JBS January 5, 2014, 1:12 pm

        My household falls into the typical spouses with different standards camp. My wife does much of the weekly cleaning although I do help out. I personally find this weekly effort a meaningless exercise and a complete waste of life energy. My wife seems to enjoy it and finds it satisfying. We literally waste an entire 8 hour day a week on this activity.

        My pov is that our cleaning issues are directly related to our ownership of too much stuff: kid’s clutter and clothes.

        My wife does an enormous amount of laundry each week because she purchases and retains an enormous amount of clothes for our children. We also have an enormous amount of toys, kid’s craft activity stuff and other kid crap.

        But we disagree and appear stuck. My wife believes that this is just part of having children and a family. And believes hyper-organization is the right answer to a too much stuff problem.

        As long as we have all this crap, we will endlessly waste our life on on 8 hours of cleaning and reorganizing the same crap. 15 years of kids left. So 15 * 52 * 8 = 6240 hours.

        But on the other hand, my wife seems to get some satisfaction out of it although she complains of back pain and other ailments as a result.

        I am envious of MMM and may have secretly fallen for his wife who lets the magnificent bastard get away with such a low intensity cleaning lifestyle.

        Reply
  • BPA December 30, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Hmmmm. I need to do laundry more often because I’m not a fan of the “wet spot” or overly crusty sheets, and if they ever stop getting that way, I’ll be sad. :D But the silver lining will be less laundry.

    Reply
  • WageSlave December 30, 2013, 1:04 pm

    Since we love back-of-the-envelope math on this blog: “…I heard from one woman who spends $5200 per year on a housekeeper, because it ‘Saves me five hours a week of cleaning’…”

    Let’s give this woman the benefit of the doubt that her house does need five hours of cleaning per week (big house, lots of pets and kids, etc). She’s trading $5200/year to save 260 hours/year, implying her time is worth more than $20/hour.

    But clearly the premise here is that virtually no one needs to spend five hours/week cleaning their house. But what would you say *is* reasonable? Obviously, like most things, “it depends”, but I’d think we could come up with a reasonable factor based on house size, number (and age) of people living there, and number (and type) of pets. MMM could be the benchmark/starting factor, with a family of three, no pets, and a 2600 (soon to be 1500) ft^2 house: how much time, in aggregate, would you say you and MrsMM spend cleaning per week?

    Hold the face punches for a second, but we have a cleaning service. Looks like we spend about $3700/year. And judging by the time it takes the service, it saves us 2.5 hours/week of cleaning time. That works out to $28/hour, and my time is worth way more than that. Yes, our house is bigger than it needs to be, and my wife likes it cleaner than necessary, so there’s clearly room for improvement.

    On the other hand, the way we look at it is this: I’m lucky to be in a position where a few key luxury expenses like a cleaning service are not a financial burden—I’m still saving over 75% of my pay. But the tradeoff is that we feel extremely “time poor”: 2.5 hours/week may not seem like much to a retiree, but the only place it would fit into our “budget” is to give up time for sleep or our kids (a baby and a toddler).

    We acknowledge this as a temporary expense that will go away when FI is achieved and I can retire or at least cut back my hours dramatically (not to mention, the kids can help when they get older). Certainly, hedonistic adaptation is a slippery slope. But at the same time, the numbers don’t show any meaningful change in FI date with or without the cleaning service. I view our household finances as a business. For our business, compared to others, we allow a higher overhead (e.g. cleaning service), justified by significantly higher return-over-expenses. Clearly, any business that cuts expenses generally increases profits. But in this case, I’m willing to give up what is ultimately an inconsequential amount of profit for the perk of having more time with my children.

    Reply
    • Cujo December 30, 2013, 1:09 pm

      We spend easily 5 hours a week on the cleaning tasks that a housecleaning service would do. We do not have one. Instead, we make our kids help. Either Saturday or Sunday morning, every weekend, we all clean. With all five of us doing it, we’re done in an hour.

      That’s not a judgement. We have had housecleaners in the past.

      Reply
  • Christine December 30, 2013, 1:05 pm

    Excellent piece. I think you might enjoy this excerpt from John Steinbeck’s “The Log from the Sea of Cortez,” (1951) in the prologue “About Ed Ricketts”:

    “He found himself quite poor and with three children to take care of. In a very scholarly manner, he told the children how they must proceed.

    “We must remember three things,” he said to them. “I will tell them to you in the order of their importance. Number one and first in importance, we must have as much fun as we can and with what we have. Number two, we must eat as well as we can, because if we don’t we won’t have the health and strength to have as much fun as we might. And number three and third and last in importance, we must keep the house reasonably in order, wash the dishes and such things. But we will not let the last interfere with the other two.””

    Reply
    • Happy Little Chipmunk January 2, 2014, 7:38 pm

      Thank you so much for this quote! It sums up our approach (except for the rare occasions when I have messy house angst after hanging out with my sisters.) I have printed the quote and posted it on the fridge next to the magnet which says, “Avoid making irrevocable decisions while tired or hungry.”

      After lurking for ages, it took this post to get me to write!

      Reply
  • Andrew December 30, 2013, 1:18 pm

    Totally agree w/ this.

    I shower daily.

    But not a germophobe in any way. No need to get flu shots.

    I do some light dusting and vacuuming. I don’t like pubes that end up on the floor. Give the toilet a scrub as well w/ some powder.

    Wipe down the kitchen and that’s it. Whole house is done in 30 minutes.

    Reply
  • Christina December 30, 2013, 1:19 pm

    Love it! I would not call it dirty, though, just not obsessively clean!
    There also seems to be a movement to not use soap or any shower gel etc on your body. Many years ago I had a lover who never used soap; he was clean and smelled good. He claimed that using soap disturbes the protective layer of the skin that keeps germs that would also cause body odour at bay.

    Reply
  • SisterX December 30, 2013, 1:29 pm

    Thank you for fighting back against the Culture of Clean. I’ve always wondered about people who claim to have to do laundry every day. When we were a household of two, I did laundry every 3 weeks usually. Maybe 2 if we were running out of a particular item or, for some reason, got really dirty. Considering how few pairs of pants I own, and that I only have 2 pairs of long underwear (which I wear every day for about 7 months), I thought that was being a bit generous. I figure if things pass the smell test, they’re fine.
    Now we’re doing laundry at least twice a week, but that’s mostly because of the cloth diapers and various baby fluid expulsions.
    Could you have your pediatrician friend talk to my mother-in-law? She insists on rinsing off the pacifier every time it drops, because of dirt and “the dogs”. If it drops in a slightly questionable place (a snowbank in a parking lot), all I do is pop it in my own mouth for a few seconds to “clean” it. I figure since I’m breastfeeding, my body will produce any antibodies to fight off whatever germs are on it, and they’ll get transferred to Baby.The only times I’ve found it necessary to actually rinse it are if it drops in places like the garage. At 6 weeks, Baby’s only complaint so far has been a bit of diaper rash.

    Reply
  • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 1:30 pm

    This is also a huge public health issue, because of antibiotic resistance, which is rather terrifying.

    There’s also a potential link to asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders.

    The term I have seen for the collective is the “Hygiene Hypothesis”.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygiene_hypothesis

    Reply
  • Adam December 30, 2013, 1:42 pm

    As with everything, extremes should be avoided. In his book, “The Price of Everything: Finding Method in the Madness of What Things Cost,” Eduardo Porter tells of Mexico paying for many of its poorest citizens in Coahuila to have concrete floors poured over their dirt they had. The act of paving floors “led to a 78 percent drop in parasitic infestations among children. Diarrhea cases declined by half and … anemia plummeted four fifths.” Kids did better cognitively; moms were happier and less stressed.

    So while exposure to bacteria may be good, going full-on au naturale might not be the best.

    Reply
    • Dr. John December 30, 2013, 6:28 pm

      Ahh—this sounds like a clear case of reducing worm infestations! Three cheers for a useful public health measure. It’s all about balance, and improving the human condition through reasonable measures. I think avoiding worms is pretty reasonable, as they clearly cause harm.

      Reply
  • David Cain December 30, 2013, 1:45 pm

    I have a strange relationship towards cleanliness. I love cleaning and having everything clean, but for me it has nothing to do with germs or sanitation.

    I clean things because I notice a huge difference in my clarity of mind between my place being clean/tidy and being dirty/messy. I don’t wash my clothes until they are smelly or visibly dirty. I don’t care about germs at all and this alarms some people.

    Mental clarity is what I’m seeking, and clear surfaces really does it for me. So I really just want things to look clean. If dirt was invisible but just as dirty I would love it. I spend maybe 50 dollars a year on cleaning supplies.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 3:59 pm

      I think I’m in the same camp as you David – a fairly uncluttered living (and working) space helps my mind work better. This is one of my weaknesses, for I wish I could be just as productive even when stuck with a mess.

      For this article, I try to separate “tidiness” (which is helpful to some of us), with the whole “cleaning/germs/sterilizing” stage that often follows the tidying up and takes even more time.

      I do wipe up the bread crumbs from the countertop.. I just don’t follow that operation with a spritz of Lysol or Clorox :-)

      Reply
      • Nath December 30, 2013, 6:41 pm

        Exactly MMM.
        A Messy house clutters the mind.
        Sometimes I will clean the house for hours, go out for a bit and come home and feel a great sense of relaxation and achievement over it.

        If I came home to a messy house I feel horrible.

        If you are living in a messy house, you will probably have messy finances & messy health too.

        Same with cars… Clean car, clean driving record, no speeding fines or accidents.

        Keep everything in good condition. Buy eco cleaning products

        As for all these towel comments, I must wash my towels after every shower (which is everyday), It just feels fresh and nice.
        You wipe your bum with it, and then the next day re-use it and wipe your face? yuck!

        The bed linen wash at least once a week. There is no nicer feeling then being all showered and clean and sleeping in new sheets. You sweat the most while sleeping also

        Reply
        • BPA December 31, 2013, 9:11 am

          After a shower, the skin on your bum is as clean as the skin on your face (unless you are talking about the darker regions and don’t wipe well or wash well). :D

          Reply
        • three wolf moon December 31, 2013, 7:10 pm

          I too have a hard time of the thought of drying off the undercarriage (the parts where the sun don’t shine) and then using the towel on the rest of me the next day. That being said I only wash my towel once every 2-3 weeks, instead I have found other solutions to dry off those parts:

          1. The decadent one – use a hair dryer. Quite effective, but not very Mustachian.

          2. The more frugal solution – use toilet paper. Takes an extra fold than normal to account for the extra moisture, but ends up clean and dry!

          Reply
        • KiwiBen January 5, 2014, 2:49 pm

          This problem has been innovatively solved for you – introducing the butt/face towel http://www.amazon.com/Westminster-0076-Butt-Face-Towel/dp/B0006GKKLW

          Reply
    • Nina December 31, 2013, 9:17 am

      I consider cleaning as part of taking care of our things and less so as some consumerist neuroticism. I guess I could obsess less and let things get caked on to our floors, windows, table tops. I kind of feel that if I am not able to care for my surroundings, then it’s an indication that I have too much stuff.

      I have this happy childhood memory. It involves getting a pair of good shoes and being taught how to polish them and keep them like new. And polishing those shoes every Saturday evening.

      I like hanging the laundry and reflecting on the owners of the items, what they’re growing out of, how much they love the ducky sweater.

      I get the same warm fuzzy feeling when I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to my kids and Ma made the new broom and swept their little dirt floor or did the annual stove polishing ritual. There must be some innate element to all of this – Mr. Clean and soaps didn’t exist then!

      Reply
    • Diana December 31, 2013, 9:57 am

      You and I fall into the “neat-freak” catagory. Completely seperate catagory from the “clean-freak” camp….

      Reply
  • slowth December 30, 2013, 2:00 pm

    I confess. In my youth, reckless and wanton, I used a new towel everyday. The heap of wet towels, smothering one another, haunts me to this day. Many a good towel departed prematurely from this world due to my abuse. I’m since a changed man, so I now treat my towels with thoughtful tenderness and care. But I shall never forget the shredded remains of their forefathers.

    Reply
  • Edward December 30, 2013, 2:01 pm

    Glad for this post because there’s some guy who’s been going on, and on, and on, and on, in your very own MMM forums how he “needs” to have his daily hired housekeeper and how MMM would agree with his point of view.

    Reply
  • insourcelife December 30, 2013, 2:46 pm

    We are pretty much on the same schedule as MMM when it comes to laundry, towels and cleaning in general. We are happy to let our son play in the dirt, but we were a bit scared of The Shopping Cart after a trip to Costco resulted in a 7 day vomiting session that the doctor blamed on that said Shopping Cart. As expected, he recommended wiping the handle with some disinfecting wipes. We have not started doing it yet, but I can see how that “experience” would make you paranoid.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque December 30, 2013, 6:10 pm

      I guess my question would relate to the determination of causality.
      Just because your kid got sick after touching a shopping cart doesn’t mean the shopping cart caused the sickness. Otherwise, we could believe that the absence of pirates caused nuclear proliferation.

      Reply
      • Barb in LA December 31, 2013, 8:50 am

        Thanks for a great article (again). Summers in Louisiana are difficult in the shower room (and even then, not daily and as needed), but every other time, we all cut down the bathing tremendously. I started when dry skin actually sent me to the dermatologist and it didn’t take her expensive visit to show me: hot water all the time is bad news. Plus detergents. What fools people are. Soap to strip your natural oils ($) and then lotions to try to put them back ($$). Shampoos are just as bad. All marketing, which is why the $1 bottle from Dollar Tree works fine. And really: why does anyone really need conditioner? If you don’t take the oil out in the first place?

        On a more important note: When I was a new mother, I took my son for his first visit and told the doctor, in an embarrassed tone, that (other than cleaning obviously dirty places every day) I didn’t give him a full, complete bath but once a week. And I never saw a need for all those fancy lotions and powders and such that I got as baby shower gifts. Was I doing something wrong? He laughed. He said, “Do you know the number one thing I treat with newborns and babies, in general?” I figured ear infections. He said “No. Dry skin from mothers over bathing their kids. You are doing it just right.” As a side note, neither of my sons had a single day of diaper rash.

        Our skin is just not made to be washed, completely, daily. It’s all marketing. Every bit of it.

        Reply
  • Alexandria December 30, 2013, 2:50 pm

    It’s funny because we are the same way, but I never thought about it as far as Mustachian lifestyle. Though I guess it makes sense from a waste/comsumption standpoint. & an efficiency standpoint. Other than that, thought we were just lazy.

    I grew up in drought country and so “extreme water saving measures” is just how we have always lived.

    This is the one that drove me CRAZY: Bathing small children and babies every single day. What is that?!? Not enough sleep deprivation without unecessary chores? I bathed my kids once a week, for the most part. Admittedly with age they need more. BUT, by the time they needed to bathe more they could do it themselves.

    {We don’t clean up much, have never used hand sanitizer, and we tend to generally never get sick. That’s with two half grown kids (a demographic that is usually “sick all the time”).It’s not scientific – but score one for the dirty house/healthy people side. Don’t get me wrong – it’s “clean enough” – just never been obsessive about it.}.

    Reply
  • Bayrider December 30, 2013, 3:26 pm

    Our only ironclad rule regarding cleanliness is we ABSOLUTELY MUST wash our hands after exiting Walmart and prior to busting open the large can of Planter’s Cashews that we always purchase there on our grocery runs.

    Washing your hands after contact with the general public will take you most of the distance you need to go as far as protecting your health from scary micro-organisms. As for rooting around in the dirt or handling pets and livestock we don’t worry much.

    Reply
  • Donna December 30, 2013, 3:47 pm

    Hi MMM, I agree with this, but I am surprised by your statement, “own home where no babies are delivered.”. You live here in Boulder County where lots of babies are born at home! I would think home birth would suit you…definitely less expensive, a little “uncomfortable,” requires strength, is “no-frills” and the truth is, we don’t even need to use those advertised cleaners in our homes to do it! In our home, we do birth our babies here!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2013, 6:14 pm

      True! And all of my siblings have had their babies at home in recent years as well, providing me with four healthy nephews and a healthy new niece. It is very common in Canada. I was referring more to the sanitation aspect: it is statistically very wise to have clean hands and a relatively sterile immediate area for the mother to deliver a baby, whereas in normal daily living these things are much less important.

      Reply
      • Spoonman. December 31, 2013, 9:16 am

        As a new father, I can’t endorse having the baby at home. My baby had an episode of SVT (very fast heart rate) shortly after birth which was thankfully handled immediately due to our being in a hospital.

        Reply
      • PawPrint December 31, 2013, 11:08 am

        Both babies born at home. Clean hands, sure, but “sterile” conditions? You really can’t get sterile conditions in a bedroom.

        Reply
      • Joseph December 31, 2013, 11:20 am

        Wow, I had no idea this was the case in Colorado! I’m glad to see more parts of the US progressing “back” to this natural way of doing things. Five of my siblings and my niece were born at home. My two children were both born in the hospital only after my wife labored at home and our midwife advised us to go to the hospital… which is how the hospital should be used (they were both born perfectly healthy).

        Love this post too! I remember doing cleaning chores all the time but as an adult I do far more tidying than cleaning. Wiping off the counter or sweeping up a mess sure, but as far as those hands and knees deep scrubs, they don’t seem to be required that often.

        Reply
  • ElectricMustache December 30, 2013, 3:48 pm

    Fun fact from my biology classes at University:

    Acquired immunity (the sort of thing you often think of when talking about the immune system) works a bit like a biological blacklist. You have some level of baseline immunity inherited from your mother, but beyond that you only gain resistance to disease by encountering it.

    In a simplified form, it works something like this: When your body encounters a new microbe (virus, bacteria, fungus, etc), it begins to produce antibodies which target the exact chemical signature of that microbe. Once the antibodies are in place, they never leave and let your body automatically detect that microbe right away if you ever contact it again (and promptly destroy it). You get sick because there is a delay between the first time the bug shows up and the time that your body begins to produce antibodies, but once you have them, that bug can’t make you sick anymore! A fun corollary is vaccinations, which attempt to give you the “signature” of the disease without most of the harmful effects.

    There is, of course, much more to it than that, but I think this should be an accurate description of the basics.

    Reply
  • Greg December 30, 2013, 4:00 pm

    Another great article! What is your stance on washing fruit and vegetables? My wife and I buy a lot of our fruit from Costco and I will normally just open the packaging and begin eating where my wife will say you have to wash it. I have yet to get sick from eating any unwashed fruit and was curious what your family does.

    Reply
    • Ms. Must-Stash December 30, 2013, 10:21 pm

      Do you buy organic? I typically give fruits and veggies a quick rinse before eating, but I am less concerned about that with organic produce that I buy or grow in my own garden. However, I always wash conventional produce – I most definitely want to remove as many pesticides as possible.

      Reply
      • Spoonman. December 31, 2013, 9:18 am

        Washing won’t do much about pesticides, which aren’t present in dangerous concentrations on standard produce in the first place. Washing will help to remove dangerous bacteria, which are more likely to be prevalent on organic produce.

        Reply
        • Jamesqf January 1, 2014, 11:38 am

          Consider all the critters, from bugs to bears, that eat your fruit as it hangs on the tree or grows in the garden. Do they get sick from it? So what makes H. sapiens so special?

          Reply
          • Spoonman. January 2, 2014, 11:28 am

            Yes, they do.

            Reply
        • CTY January 2, 2014, 10:11 pm

          Keep a spray bottle of equal parts vinegar & water for produce rinsing.Whether organic or not lots of hands touched that food before you bought it.

          Reply
  • Cas December 30, 2013, 4:20 pm

    Your post is timely; just had the cleaners in today to clean my carpets and upholstery! But, wait. I think it will still meet with Mr. MM’s approval. 1. It’s the first time we’ve ever used this service (in over a decade of having had the carpet), and 2. We just bought a sectional second hand but didn’t realize it reeked of animals. We could have febreezed the heck out of it, but Eco-friendly cleaning service seemed like a better idea.
    As for towels, we wash them once a week, but shower every day. We splurged on bamboo which are anti-mildew and anti-microbial (naturally, that is.)
    I have fine hair that just does not look good if it’s not washed every day. Certainly I’m allowed some vanity? ;) I use home made hemp oil soap bought from a local artisan. It’s very soothing on the skin during this cold, dry winter.
    I am against anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. I’ve never been so sick as the year that my co-worker pushed their use on me.

    Reply
    • ella December 30, 2013, 5:49 pm

      I think there are occasions a professional service makes sense. I send out my rugs for deep cleaning every few years. I get a team in once a year before the holidays to really deep clean and do things I usually don’t care about, but would distract my visitors (my mother or mother in law ) from enjoying their visit.
      I really enjoy having a simple daily and weekly routine for cleaning and keeping the house clutter under control. I am not one of those naturally organized folks, so this gets me around the whole house as needed with minimal stress year round. I know things are in working order and can find and use stuff when I need it.
      Appreciate the post, as there is cleaning for comfort and sanitation and cleaning as an obsession in our society.

      Reply
  • JayBee December 30, 2013, 4:41 pm

    Having less makes everything so much easier: capsule wardrobes and fewer linens cut down on laundry; a smaller home means less to clean; less furniture means less to clean. Our whole deal takes an hour per week.

    That hour goes as follows:

    1. take two loads of laundry to the laundry room (two washers, do both loads at once) — 5 mins;

    2. return upstairs and dust the mantel, window sills, bookshelf, and two dressers — 15 mins;

    3. vacuum the whole apartment and radiators — 15 mins;

    4. clean the bathroom — 15 minutes;

    5. return downstairs, gather laundry, bring it up and put it on the drying racks — 10 minutes.

    I do that once a week.

    You might notice that the kitchen is ‘absent’ — it’s because I use the kitchen twice a day, and when I’m finished using it, I clean the whole thing. I clean all of the dishes and set them to dry. I wipe up the counters and stovetop. And then I wipe up the floors on cleaning day, which is the day before grocery day, so the fridge gets a wipe out, too.

    Takes no time at all. :)

    Reply
  • Bob L December 30, 2013, 5:20 pm

    I will say that keeping things visually clean really makes a low budget lifestyle seem upper class. Even though my car is over a decade old, people usually think it is only 2-3 because i vacuum it once a month and wax it once per year. It’s amazing how dirty [some] people are, and therefore if people see you have a clean car/house they think you have a lot of money (even if you only spend $15k per year).

    As far as clothes go – another way to really extend times between washes is to wear wool. A wool shirt can go weeks without smelling. It’s more expensive, so it’s probably not a real net money saver, but it is more comfortable and saves time washing!

    [MMM note - I had to substitute a word for you there to avoid an income range stereotyping battle, but the rest of your points are very well made]

    Reply
  • Linda December 30, 2013, 5:29 pm

    Thank you Mr MM for validating a lifestyle trick that my husband and I already follow quite well! We don’t need our house to be 100% clean every day! We don’t need to clean the bathroom and toilet every two or three days!

    We don’t even iron our clothes – hanging them dry takes out the wrinkles well enough. I have a colleague to thank for this trick – we got into a conversation about house chores, and I bemoaned the ironing at home. He laughed and said, “Oh we don’t iron our clothes! What wrinkles is eventually tossed, and everything else is “good enough”. It blew my mind, that the chore my Mom had done every week her whole life, was not important, even not necessary.

    Sure for an interview, go ahead and crisp your clothes, but daily work – no-one has ever noticed or mentioned it to me or my husband, and my clothes look wrinkle free.

    Reply
  • Annie December 30, 2013, 5:44 pm

    Oh! My OCD! It’s working overtime here. I shower daily, wash clothes daily, tidy the house daily. I change the bedsheets once a week. I find my mind is calmer when I’m clean and my house is in order. I get fit by straightening the curtains :-)

    That aside, I use vinegar and water to clean the shower glass and baking soda to clean the kitchen sink. Just as good as any of that poisonous stuff we’re suckered into buying.

    Reply
  • John December 30, 2013, 5:56 pm

    As always, an enlightening article. Got a kick out of the “let them eat dirt” line. Unbelievable that someone would wash their bathroom towels after each use! You’re wiping off your recently cleaned body with the damn thing! Also interesting to note that people don’t realize what they are paying for when they buy the name brand cleaners at the store. All the millions done for branding and advertising have to come from somewhere! And to think, you can clean your house with very few simple ingredients. Damn fools, not for the Mustachians!

    Reply
  • Chelsea December 30, 2013, 6:20 pm

    We already practice this in our own house. We always wash hands upon coming home, but beyond that, we are pretty lax with all that “sanitizing” stuff.

    I also think people tend to over shower as well. If you are out getting very dirty on a daily basis, I get it. But working in an office or at home? You probably don’t need to wash head to toe every day.

    This is a great post to ponder :-)

    Reply
    • Elyse January 2, 2014, 6:55 am

      I used to just wash up every other day or so when I had my old office job.

      But, yeah, it is necessary when you work outside everyday. I’d shower less if it would be healthy, but I’d rather not sleep covered in lime dust and inhaling those fumes all night. Papermills are smelly.

      Reply
  • earlyretirementsg December 30, 2013, 6:20 pm

    Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve been living on this ideal for sometime already. Kids these days don’t get enough exposure to anything. I see kids who get eczema, being exposed to the sun, grass, etc. That’s freaking ridiculous. Get your kids dirty young, let them run around, get scratched, fall down etc. Of course there’s a big difference between some amount of dirt and living in a garbage truck. And the problem is many people just don’t have any common sense and don’t know where the line is drawn. It’s similar to many other things in life when many people don’t have any sense of balance. Like spanking vs child abuse, or eating vs bingeing. or saying eating carbs is unhealthy.or over eat protein. Humans need a balanced diet… Ya problem is most people don’t have enough common sense to know the difference in many situations.

    Reply
    • earlyretirementsg December 30, 2013, 10:03 pm

      I’d also like to add… Did you watch War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise?

      Not a great show but similar concept.

      Reply
  • Melissa December 30, 2013, 6:44 pm

    For those mentioning “greasy” hair if they don’t wash daily–my hairstylist said it’s the shampoo. It strips your hair of grease, so your scalp goes into overtime to replace it. I took her word for it and switched to an organic non-shampoo, and no more grease. I can go 2 days easily without washing. Some friends of mine use vinegar for hairwashing. I haven’t tried it yet. Another note, we use the cheapo walmart microfiber (8″ square) towels that are for cleaning and come in something like an 8 pack, for drying our bodies. They are great! We hang all laundry to dry (about 2 loads a wk for a family of 3). Wrinkles are few and can be smoothed out with folding-much easier than drying. We all suffer dry skin at our house and bathe minimally. I never told our friends that we bathed our baby once a week. They were bathing their kids daily, and still do as far as I know. I read recently that something like 80% of what is on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream, and to stay away from chemicals on your skin, i.e. perfumes, antibacterials, even some lotions. And for sore throats at our house, we gargle with a 4:1 ratio of water and peroxide a few times-recommended by my better half’s doctor when he was a kid. It works. I keep our floors clean because we have a 4 yr old driving cars on his knees all the time. Everything we clean is with vinegar or Dawn dishwashing soap! Excellent article, it mirrors our lives. I love reading everyone’s comments and ideas!

    Reply
    • Heather December 31, 2013, 9:07 pm

      I had a similar experience — I used to have lank, greasy hair and my scalp was always itchy, so I was always trying to find a shampoo that would work for me. I tried so many kinds. Then I read an article about ditching the shampoo, and using baking soda paste instead — it worked wonders, and not only do I not have an itchy scalp anymore, but my hair looks better and is fuller than ever before. Every second or third wash I give it a vinegar rinse — about 1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 parts water.

      Another bonus — no soap scum to scrub out of our shower!

      I’ve been doing this about 8 years now and would never go back. It can take a couple of weeks for the natural oils to balance out, because as Melissa December said, the shampoo strips it so quickly that if you use it, your body becomes accustomed to generating the oil more quickly.

      Reply
    • Elyse January 2, 2014, 6:52 am

      That would be nice if that shampoo advice could work for me.

      Sadly, I work in a very humid, dirty, smelly, hot papermill. I will smell like a papermill (awful) until I take a shower. I have yet to find a non-shampoo that will get the smell out. So, I’m stuck washing up everyday. Sadly, this also leads to more laundry, as something will happen (Lime dust, mud, chemicals) that will make the clothes terrible for reuse.

      I agree on drying the towels and all, though.
      I have a set of 4 towels I rotate. Don’t wash them unless (1) I used it for a non-body purpose, (2) they smell bad, (3) the three week time limit has come up. If one of those is met, into the washing machine.

      Reply
      • Ellie January 2, 2014, 12:19 pm

        My grandparents lived near a paper mill and I will never forget that smell. You’re right, working in that environment, the first thing you would want to do on arriving home is to wash away the paper mill residue.

        Reply
  • Gobbly December 30, 2013, 6:51 pm

    I will add my own observations and results of research to this great article:

    Being excessively clean is unhealthy. Though we don’t want to expose ourselves to excessive levels of germs, without some exposure we hurt our ability to fight off inevitable sicknesses. It is good to be generally clean, it is bad to be excessive. The exception is fecal material (urine doesn’t fall into this category), you want to be excessively clean with anything that could have come into contact with feces.

    Some people have more active glands than others, but the average person can wear cloths for 2 days and bath every other day without being offensive in odor and without being excessively dirty from a health standpoint. Bathing less frequently is far better for your hair and skin as well (assuming you are using soap/shampoo).

    The idea of washing towels after every use is silly. Would you wash your cloths every 5 minutes? You are drying off after bathing, the cleanest point in your entire life, and making minimal contact with the towel to top it off. If you can’t handle washing a towel after at least 10+ sessions, then how do you stand wearing underwear past ten in the morning? Perhaps on a tropical island with humidity at the levels of standing water you would have to wash it more often…

    The products are ridiculous. You need three chemicals to do ALL housecleaning, good old fashioned lye soap, bleach, and ammonia (do not mix bleach and ammonia!). All three are basic staples of cleaning, and are cheap. Perhaps if you really like the smell of pine-sol you could throw that in. The vast majority of things clean up with water. Sponges are cheap, as is steel wool, both are cheaper than paper-towel if you keep them clean.

    Which brings me to something I might add to your article. I agree that most cleaning is easily doable when needed, and doesn’t require a set schedule, but some things require cleaning regularly to maintain value, and doing those things is worth our time. For instance, you mention that you vacuum once a month, and I didn’t see anything about other care (though in your defense, the article isn’t about carpet care), but some things to consider, the life of your carpet will be not only determined by the condition of the fibers, but the desirability of how it looks. They also aren’t cheap. Vacuuming more often, and having regular shampooing (2-4 times a year depending on use) will make a significant difference in the longevity of the carpet, and likely offers more value than being more neglectful. There are other areas of our lives where neglected upkeep cost people a lot of money (cars are likely the best example), so being mindful of all these things can save a lot of money in the long run.

    I like your site and check it daily in anticipation of your next gem of wisdom :)

    Reply
    • Nelle Bennett December 31, 2013, 11:54 am

      Grit on hardwood or polished stone flooring will also dull the finish over time.

      Reply
    • Ellie January 2, 2014, 12:25 pm

      Lye, bleach and ammonia are all harsh and emit godawful fumes. And if you ever have the misfortune to mix bleach and ammonia, you get ammonium chloride, which can be lethal!

      Vinegar and baking soda, plus maybe a bit of tea tree oil to disinfect, are much much gentler cleaning products.

      Reply
  • Big A December 30, 2013, 6:52 pm

    I’m going on round 13 or 14 (mind gets cloudy) of “aggressive” chemo which in turn destroys my immune system in the process. Our apartment is by no means sterile and is always in a state I like to call lived in and cozy. I just want to point out that I don’t bleach the crap out of things or clean on a very regular basis. What I do do is wash my hands frequently in warm water with homemade liquid soap. To this day, even when my system is most compromised I have not fallen ill from even a cold. I also have two fur balls running around the house, an active 10 month old and a wonderful wife. Just another testament that a little grime seems ok to me.

    Reply
  • nicoleandmaggie December 30, 2013, 6:54 pm

    Hahaha, here’s our post on this topic:

    http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/cleanliness-is-next-to-cleanser-in-the-dictionary/

    I don’t get it either.

    And yes, vinegar is better than most cleaners for most things.

    Reply
  • Cyndy December 30, 2013, 7:00 pm

    I agree with this post 100%, and the discussion of bathing brought to mind this classic bit by George Carlin on germs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X29lF43mUlo where he says you need to only clean the “4 key areas” I laugh so hard I cry every time.

    Reply
  • Kirsty December 30, 2013, 7:31 pm

    Oh you lucky lucky people. I have had to become excessively clean when i found out my 10yr old was allergic to dust and pollen. I have to clean and vacuum every day as well as doing 2 wash loads because of the cream he wears on his body which result in 3 changes of clothes a day plus his bedding and none of this can be line dried (because of the pollen) so I also have to use a drier twice a day.
    As you can imagine electric bills are high! I’d give anything to be able to leave the washing and cleaning for a week and yes I have tried. If anyones got a cure for eczema pass it on because I wish my child could play in the dirt!

    Reply
    • Ms. Must-Stash December 30, 2013, 10:31 pm

      Have you explored dietary changes? My sister has been dealing with auto-immune issues for 12+ years (thyroid) and has seen incredible improvement after switching to a Paleo diet for the past 2 years. I have done some reading on the topic and there are a variety of claims about different auto-immune conditions (including allergies and skin conditions) being positively affected by diet. I’m completely NOT an expert on this topic, but just wanted to pass that along in case it might be helpful.

      Reply
      • Aaron January 3, 2014, 2:21 pm

        My son saw an allergist for his chronic hives up until we changed his diet. We’ve been eating Paleo/Primal for years now and it helped get rid of his medications and the hives. His biggest issue seemed to be gluten in grains. Cutting that out has helped in other areas too but it got rid of the hives and the medication that made him feel tired all the time (and cost $75 per month).

        We even cut out dairy for a month, saw no real change, and slowly reintroduced it with no change. I know dairy can affect others though (affects my brother greatly). So it’s a good idea to cut out as many typical triggers as you can, then slowly reintroduce them to see what your specific ones might be. Personally I’m glad that dairy isn’t an issue for us, but you also need to look beyond dairy for the possible cause.

        Reply
      • MustacheMatty January 4, 2014, 6:51 am

        My wife had unbelievable results going to paleo/keto with her lupus, and my eczema (hands in the winter) has been gone for the two years of eating that way.

        Reply
    • Nina December 31, 2013, 9:42 am

      Wow – that is tough. My husband had severe asthma and has allergies including to dust mites. What changed things 100% for him was environmental changes – no drapes, no carpets/rugs, no pets, and lots of fresh air. After a while, he no longer needed the asthma drugs (daily singulair) or the emergency stuff (inhaler). My kids both had eczema issues, but not as severe as your son. I was never keen on putting cortisone on their skin but sometimes it was the only option. I found that tackling the allergens, along with other common sense things like avoiding most skin ‘products’ and laundry ‘products’ helped for them. Have you tried an elimination plan for your cleaning routine on your son – drop or change one thing at a time and record its impact on him? We did this with food allergies – that way at least you’ll know if it is really essential to his health that you’re doing all this stuff! Good luck.

      Reply
    • Nelle Bennett December 31, 2013, 11:59 am

      I had horrible childhood eczema and was diagnosed with many allergies. I received desensitization shots for years and was not allowed any pets. As an adult, I determined that milk was the offender. I was never diagnosed with a milk allergy. Interestingly, only liquid milk is an issue. I can eat yogurt, cheese or ice cream. Only milk will give me eczema.

      Reply
    • phred December 31, 2013, 12:28 pm

      a built-in vacuum system may help you as “standard” vacs return some dust to the room as you vac

      Reply
    • Heather December 31, 2013, 9:14 pm

      I agree with exploring dietary changes, we saw a huge impact in our family when we cut out dairy — we’d never go back. But another thing that seems to have made a big difference for us is probiotics. My middle son, who had pneumonia 4 times before the age of two and has an anaphylactic peanut allergy as well as bad asthma, was determined “a sickly child who will almost certainly develop more allergies and have life long health issues” by a very well-regarded (including by me) allergist. After we cut out dairy (which he was not allergic to) and started probiotics, though, all his eczema cleared up and his need for puffers decreased dramatically. He’s now 10 and for many years now has been average on the growth charts, strong and healthy, with no more allergies. I know many other people with similar stories.

      Reply
      • Em January 2, 2014, 7:59 pm

        My three daughters all suffered from eczema. For us the cure has been probiotics and fermented foods, “raw” unpasturized milk, cod liver oil and healthy foods. We also use a cocoa butter, olive oil and coconut oil mix for lotion. We see major flare ups if they have high amounts of sugar or processed foods.

        Reply
    • Mikhaela Reid January 3, 2014, 1:19 pm

      Oh, I feel your pain. My 3-year-old has severe eczema, food allergies (to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, mustard, sesame and cumin), pet allergies, dust mite allergies and asthma. The irony is, the doctors say the main theory as to WHY she has these things is the hygiene hypothesis–growing up in a too-sterile environment in the city, instead of playing in dirt full of microbes on a farm, for example (some researchers also have found that exposure to the pesticides in cleaning products, especially anti-bacterial ones, promotes development of allergies, and that exposure to pollution promotes asthma).

      And yet… the way to MANAGE the allergies and asthma and eczema now that she has it involves hours of medical routines and cleaning. UGH. We had to give up our cat when she developed severe allergies to him. We have to keep all our food surfaces super-clean because even a small amount of contamination in her food could be deadly (she’s had reactions to very tiny amounts of food allergens), and we can’t let her eat off the floor (though I still do). We’re told she can’t rewear her clothes because of her eczema since she gets so many bacterial skin infections. And we have to wash the sheets and rugs weekly (though it’s hard to do so).

      How I wish we had all just been living in a pile of dirt when she was a baby (or at least on my brother’s farm)! Now it’s too late.

      But anyway… I love this post because I have always felt 90% of cleaning is just make-work designed to suck the joy and leisure out of our lives. Basic sanitary habits and food prep habits are good… but we don’t have to be HOSPITAL clean. And many cleaning products are not only expensive but incredibly toxic (the Environmental Working Group has great info on this).

      Oh, and for the poster who wanted advice about her kid’s eczema–we took our kid to the two-week day program at National Jewish Health hospital in Denver, Co… LIFE-CHANGING. They also have great info on their website. Their eczema treatments and research are sound and scientific and worked instantly, after we had spent over a year getting nowhere with a local NYC pediatric dermatologist.

      Reply
      • SomeYoungGuy January 3, 2014, 10:45 pm

        You need to start a blog on this. Please

        Reply
      • lurker January 6, 2014, 6:37 am

        Hospital clean? I know what you are saying but truth is Hospitals are deadly dirty with stuff you can’t kill that might kill you…IMHO….I may be wrong here but someone smarter than I am on this blog will correct me if I am. thanks.

        Reply
        • Juan January 6, 2014, 9:47 am

          You are right, incidence of Hospital related infections is bad even in well developed countries, also, it has been proved that troubled gut bacteria is related to cancers and autoinmune diseases as well as to reduce effectivesness of certain cancer treatments. You can put your gut bactery in trouble with excesive cleaning through antibiotics.
          TY MMM

          Reply
      • MMMonSteriods April 15, 2014, 6:37 pm

        Hi Mikaela, they’re now saying that allergies are due to an imbalanced gut flora. You child has likely the wrong mix of gut flora. On eating any of these substances, the gut flora react in a powerful way causing the body to react against these “foreign” substances. Also Ive heard that a young mother whose child was given antibiotics at a very early age, developed autism. She proved this because once he was regiven the antibiotic – his autism went away. Another doctor confirmed the hypothesis. She eventually found a doctor who performed a repoopulation, whereby a sample of the mothers flora was introduced into the child to establish a new population of flora. The child was cured.

        Listen to the CBC Ideas radio show for more info: ‘Bugs are Us’
        http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2414419176

        Summary: Is eliminating our exposure to microbes actually bad for us? Microbiologist Dr. Brett Finlay argues that we’re entering a golden era in our understanding of microbes.

        There are a few doctors in the US doing this. Hope that helps.

        Reply

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