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 wonder,  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 hear 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 over the rug 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 can often survive two, and my button-up outer shirts can be reused 5-10 times before they look 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 house 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 billions of dollars per month 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 known 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.)

          • 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.

            • 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.

            • Giovanni August 16, 2015, 10:33 pm

              LOL I remember the fighter pilot who got shot down in Kosovo and wait a couple days until he was rescued. He remembered his survival training that said bugs are fine just don’t eat the furry ones!

      • 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!

        • Torben Pasucha June 22, 2015, 2:35 pm

          Yeah, but it also introduces caries to their oral microbiome at a stage when it is still underdeveloped, giving it plenty of time and space to develop into a real threat. Caries would probably be a non-issue in the future if people consequently stopped introducing their saliva to their baby’s mouth.

      • 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:


        • Bearded Apprentice October 14, 2014, 10:19 am

          Speak to anyone in the dental profession and they will strongly advise against it. Babies aren’t born with bacteria in their mouth. Yes eventually it will get there as they age through life. There is no intelligent reason to significantly speed up the process by inserting all the bacteria you have accumlated thoughout your adult life to an infant.

          • RandomDoctor November 14, 2014, 9:04 pm

            As a general/family practitioner, I don’t get to speak like this professionally, so allow me to indulge my instinct to reply: That is SUCH horseshit!!

            Seriously, babies are exposed to, and ingest, bacteria on the way through the birth canal. They have bacteria in their mouths from before they even finish being born. There is even enough evidence that this exposure helps in immune system development that many obstetricians prescribe bacteria to be given to babies born by caesarean section.

            • RandomDentist March 7, 2015, 4:33 pm

              This is an old post, but I just figured I would weigh in here as a dentist for any future readers. Absolutely, some bacteria are good and healthy for a child to become exposed to. But especially for parents who have a significant history of cavities (especially recent cavities), we recommend doing your best to not transfer saliva with your kiddo (licking spoons, pacifiers, etc). This can easily transfer cavity-causing bacteria to the kid and give them a more difficult and expensive childhood at the dentist than necessary.

            • FrugalMD July 5, 2015, 10:03 am

              Seriously? Is there really evidence that this is harmful? I can see how, theoretically, inoculating your kids oral flora with harmful bacteria could seem like a bad idea, but do you really think that the bacteria that get there are a greater part of the cause than the junk we feed them (via all kinds of foods with added sugar)? If you feed them sugar, then bacteria that thrive on sugar will abound, regardless of how much saliva they get from their parents.

            • InformedDentist July 25, 2015, 12:41 am

              It is alarming to me that the public at large is not aware of this undisputed medical fact but it is inexcusable for medical professionals not to have clarity on this matter. As the Prevention and Outreach Director for a large public health dental clinic and as a practicing public health dentist let me add my voice to the legions of researchers that have proven this fact. Specifically, that the harmful bacteria that causes dental caries (decay/cavities) is very often passed from the saliva of an infected parent to the infant child which allows for a bacterial colonization that dramatically increases that child’s risk of developing dental decay. It is also true that cavities require two things to form. Bacteria and sugar. The bacteria themselves are not harmful but when they metabolize sugar they secrete acidic byproducts that breakdown enamel and lead to cavities. Thus there are three fundamental ways to prevent cavities: 1) Prevent, reduce, eliminate harmful bacteria from living in the mouth. 2) Prevent, reduce, elminate simple sugars from entering the mouth 3) Reinforce the enamel with fluoride so it can better withstand the acidic insult from sugar feed bacteria. It is without question problematic for a mother to unecessarily introduce her saliva to her yound child.

      • Aaron March 2, 2017, 10:13 pm

        There is a clearly intense divide on this subject and to anyone who actually wants to challenge their knee-jerk, conditioned responses to these “nasty”, “yucky” ideas, I recommend yourself and many of the commentors below try reading Martin Blaser’s book The Missing Microbes. Director of the Human Microbiome Project and former chair of the department of medicine at NYU. Things like licking a pacifier Is inoculating your kids mouth, but this is really a very good thing. We have co-evolved with microbes and we are essentially just a collection of specialized bits that differentiated from early microbes. That co-evolution includes sharing microbial communities which fantastically benefit our kids’ health and wellness and in our sterilized contexts, we have neurotically eliminated many vectors for transmission which our healthy biome requires. MMM has repeatedly pointed out that things we find ourselves squeamish about (largely irrational) should receive some form of effective inquiry so that we can make better, informed choices. Read The Missing Microbes and some of the mounting research and you may find the idea of challenging the growth of your microbiome a little less repulsive.

    • Maj Dr Arun August 15, 2015, 11:04 am

      Hello MM…I am doctor in the army…I have been a regular reader of ur blog for couple of yrs now…just thought I ll post a reply to this… to all “overly” concerned young parents…the ones born in the eighties(including self) were very better of in terms of general health…I used to play around, drink water from wells n community taps..picked up fruits from the tree n ground, rubbed it on my trousers n ate(jus like my friends did)…n all of us were healthy and we never missed schools due to poor health….nowadays my clinic is filled with young kids and their over anxious parents who bring kids to hospital at the drop of a hat….I have a young kiddo 4yr old….I just let him play in the dirt and in the sun…tire him out everyday…he is not missed school after that…he used to fell ill every other day when he was alone with my wife wen we were posted at different places…..my wife is very over protective(like all moms) n ever let him out alone….now after they joined me in new station, things are really good…..btw this thing about developing innate immunity by getting exposed to germs is called hygiene hypothesis n makes very logical reading…..cheers all….

    • FinanceSuperhero April 4, 2016, 12:35 pm

      Sure, some exposure to bacteria and viruses is beneficial toward building and maintaining a healthy immune system. Most of us receive that exposure during our 12+ years of school attendance. If you’re fortunate enough to work in a school environment upon adulthood, however, you realize that your immune system is constantly adapting. So in the long run, leaving your home “unsanitized” is good for your financial well-being AND your immune system.

  • 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.

    • Nicole December 30, 2013, 10:03 am

      And “elbow grease!”

    • 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.

      • 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 :)

        • 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.

          • Torben Pasucha June 22, 2015, 1:49 pm

            The ammount of sodium nitrite is positively negligible these days. Just google “Prague Powder” to find out. It is used in trace ammounts, and you eat meat prepared with sodium nitrite only rather seldom.
            It certainly does not make sense to willfully expose yourself to the risk of infection by Campylobacter, Salmonella, Clostridium botulinum or Bacillus cereus by questionable hygiene practises based on outdated or half-knowledge but avoiding trace ammounts of sodium nitrite.

        • Torben Pasucha June 22, 2015, 1:55 pm

          The thing with best before dates is not that that is where the number of pathogens actually start to approach dangerous levels even when following best practise, it’s where food slowly starts to deteriorate in a way that makes it less enjoyable or nutritious to eat: fruit that is decomposing inside from autolysis is not riddled with pathogens, but it’s yucky to eat, may smell horribly and has lost nutrients to metabolitic processes.
          Part of the reason for that is excellent hygienic practise during production and commercialisation to begin with -which includes anything from treating chicken with chloride*, vaccume pasteurisation and vegetable wash up to a tightly controlled cooling chain and arduous thorough cleaning of production tools- which makes consumer errors less critical.

          Where it’s a real question of hygiene -as in the original meaning of “health”, not “sqeaky cleanliness”-, there will be a “use by” date, not a “best before”, and ignoring that is generally a gamble with health, especially when you don’t prepare it accordingly.
          I have eaten chicken that was a few days over this date, but I adjusted my cooking time accordingly, knowing about decimal reduction and the fact that salmonella and campylobacter are both very susceptible to heat.

          Strengthening your immune system from the beginning is great and keeping your kids away from general microbes in the environment as well as using antibiotics for evne the most trivial illness is fucking stupid, but exposing yourself to the worst of the worst for that is really not a good idea. Proper food hygiene is still as sensible as vaccinating, and only marginally less important.

          And on a paternalistic-looking but well-meant sidenote: the plural of anecdote is not data! Infections with most pathogens have gone down notably, and the reason is a better understanding and application of hygienic practises, not their complete disregard.**
          Your “clean” friends who are constantly sick may either already be immunocompromised, hypochondriacs, or most likely have a very poor knowledge of hygiene -indicated by them being part of the ultraclean camp-, leading to wrong application. To find out, just ask them if they know what cross-contamination means, or if they think that using hand soap effectively gets rid of germs***.

          *at least in the USA

          Relevant quote:
          “The overall incidence of infection with six key pathogens transmitted commonly through food was lower in 2012 (22% decrease; CI: 11%–32%) compared with 1996–1998 and unchanged compared with 2006–2008.”

          ***It’s actually only marginally more than just washing your hands with water, which is about 90% when done properly – for comparison, disinfection starts at killing 99.999%.
          In other words, handwashing with water will reduce E. coli populations on your hands from 1,000,000 to 100,000, handwashing with soap to about 98,000, while disinfecting will reduce it to 10.

      • 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.

        • 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!

          • 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.

            • Torben Pasucha June 22, 2015, 2:05 pm

              Your idea about that is not entirely correct. Buying from small businesses may be safer because you generally buy it directly from the producer, cutting long transportation and shelf times out of the equation, but their butchery practises may be less-than-optimal for the simple reason that it heavily involves the human factor, and overall I’d think the risk is about the same.

              The way they are raised definitely has no impact on the risk of salmonella-infection. The risk comes from unclean gutting, exposing the meat to normal gut-bacteria of the animal, which generally include campylobacter and salmonella strains harmful to humans in chicken.

            • Alana February 17, 2022, 2:08 pm

              Chickens in CAFOs live in very cramped conditions and when they are transported for slaughter they are often stacked on top of one another and heavily exposed to each other’s manure. This definitely increases salmonella and campylobacter transmission among the chickens and means that the pathogen burden is much higher in those animals than pasture raised individuals. They are also slaughtered in huge numbers on conveyer belts which means that transmission of pathogens is much higher, meaning ultra-sanitary practices are of greater importance here. Pasture raised animals can certainly transmit disease but overall the meat begins as a healthier, less pathogen burdened animal.

      • 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.

        • centwise November 2, 2015, 12:51 pm

          OK, I realize this is many months late, but I want to respond to kiwano: some pathogens produce toxins that are NOT destroyed in cooking. So, if you have staphylococcus happily reproducing in meat, cooking it will kill the germs but have no effect on the toxins that are already there. The toxins can still make you very sick. I’m not a germaphobe, but I do take great care when handling meat. If I buy meat and can’t use it immediately, I usually cook it first, and then refrigerate or freeze the cooked meat.

    • 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.

      • 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…

        • Red December 30, 2013, 4:56 pm

          Ooh… great idea, thanks!!

        • miamoo December 31, 2013, 10:43 am

          Ooooo! Great idea! Gotta try this!

        • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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.

          • grisly_atoms December 25, 2016, 1:41 pm

            “(some of the most powerful industrial degreasing solvents are extracted from citrus rinds). ”

            Wow, thanks for this info! It explains the way my hands feel after I peel an orange or grapefruit.

      • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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).

      • 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!)

        • Doc Goodwell November 26, 2014, 9:49 pm

          Janel, many strains of E. coli are “pathogenic”, and more than one strain are especially so. The strain you are thinking of is E. coli O157:h7, which causes bloody diarrhea and kidney damage, especially in children. That particular bug is sometimes spread by contaminated and under cooked ground beef.


    • 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/

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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!

      • 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.

        • Kelsey January 3, 2014, 10:04 am

          This sounds awesome, great idea!

      • 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!

      • 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?

        • Emma August 5, 2015, 4:36 am

          Use a jar with an airlock in it. Kilner are a good make.

          But if you have baking SODA that clumped terribly, then I think you just had some old baking soda.

    • 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.

    • joeyferri September 22, 2015, 1:21 pm

      This is true- these “tools” have stood the test of time, and are much safer than many of the newer alternatives.
      For instance I was unable to find at any time in my life a deodorant which could cut my shall we say effluvium. One day I tried a simple wipe with vinegar, on the supposition that this would knock out the bacteria which feed on sweat and create odor. I’ve never looked back- and nevermind the stupid idea of antiperspirants; you can have all the glandular problems you wish, but I never will. At least not of my own making

  • 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!

  • 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…

    • 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.

    • Ajay December 30, 2013, 10:56 am

      Unless your cat is white ; )

  • 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.

    • 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 :)

      • 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’.

        • 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 ;)

          • 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 :)

        • 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.

        • 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 :)

        • 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.

          • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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.

        • Adrienne March 26, 2015, 7:56 am

          OP may not see this a couple years after the fact, but I wanted to add something that helped me. As a kid, teen, and into my early 20s I used the cheap brands of shampoo and conditioner that my mom bought to save money. Then I spent 2.5 months in Alaska with my only options for bathing to use the wood stove sauna once per week or drive 10 miles to shower at the gym or laundromat. My hair was always ridiculously oily after 24 hours and my morale would suffer because I felt so gross until my next shower. But I learned after the fact that you can get addicted to shampoo. The more oil it strips from your hair, the more your scalp will produce to compensate. I switched to baking soda and vinegar for a while, broke the addiction in about a month, and now use a natural brand of shampoo and no conditioner. I’ve experimented with showering less frequently since then and it works just fine. My hair doesn’t get oily anywhere near as fast as it used to. If I were to start over with the knowledge I have now, I’d start by switching from cheap shampoo to gentle, natural shampoo, and later on experiment with baking soda and fewer showers.

        • Joe Average March 26, 2015, 8:52 am

          And what you do with your day makes a difference. I could probably do the every third day shower in the winter. In the summer – and as a guy doing physical chores – I smell like a mule if I don’t shower frequently (once per day if working hard, once every other day if I’m not working hard).

          I sweat alot and my hair gets greasy. That also means that I might get 2-3 showers out of a towel in the winter and maybe once or twice out of a towel in the summer. I know it’s time to swap towels when I reach for it and the towel growls at me a little. ;)

        • Rich July 28, 2015, 5:40 pm

          My hair only gets washed once per month or so, when it gets cut. No one has commented.. And I’ve asked brutally honest in- laws for their feedback! I do rinse it when I shower, which is on average every day or so, but I don’t use shampoo. I’ve also gone to talcum powder as a “deodorant”, just to keep conveniently drier. No problems for over 20 yrs!

          • Peggy October 15, 2015, 1:22 pm

            My daughter has psoriasis and after experimenting with different shampoos (manufactured and homemade) decided to just start rinsing her hair with water and massaging her scalp as if she was using shampoo. Her hair doesn’t look dirty and after a few days she asked me to take a whiff and be honest and it smells fine. It doesn’t have the perfume smell that hair products leave but it doesn’t stink either and she’s been doing this for at least three months now.

      • 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!!”

      • 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.

        • 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!

          • 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.

        • 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!!!).

          • 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).

          • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

        • 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

      • 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.

        • 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.

      • Mackenzie April 27, 2015, 11:29 am

        I grew up in a shower-every-other-day household. As an adult (with VERY long hair*), I shifted hair washing to “the day after it gets greasy” (wear a hat). Those days got further and further apart. I lose track now, but I think my hair washing is around once every 10 days, maybe 2 weeks. I started extending days between washes probably 8 years ago.

        * “Wash your hair as infrequently as possible” is common advice for long-hair people because dryness is the enemy for long hair, and washing dries it out.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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).

            • 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.

            • 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.


            • 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.

            • Mackenzie April 27, 2015, 11:32 am

              The recipe Jacob linked works GREAT when it comes to BO, but I found a major problem: it leaves oil stains on the armpits of shirts. All my shirts have dark (dingy grey, not yellow) rings.

              I recently switched to Arm & Hammer deodorant, which is also aluminum-free and says it will not leave yellow stains.

            • 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

            • 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).

            • Torben Pasucha June 22, 2015, 2:30 pm

              No, that is a mistake. It is not possible for you to de- or increase the pH value of your blood or your various organs by changing your diet, because the body has several mechanisms ensuring that it remains within a very tightly controlled region. This is generally only compromised in extreme situations which have nothing to do with the pH-value of the food you consume.

              Your improved condition is either due to other nutrition-related causes -like better supply of a vitamin lacking from your previous diet- or a placebo effect.

              For a very thorough explanation of the whole pH-deal try this, but it’s complicated. Chapter 2 deals with the control mechanisms. http://www.anaesthesiamcq.com/AcidBaseBook/ABindex.php

          • 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.

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

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

            • 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 :-)

          • 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.

          • 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.

        • 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.

          • phred December 31, 2013, 11:47 am

            or a splash of rubbing alcohol

        • 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

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • Elenor November 29, 2015, 2:31 pm

            You ask for “no sweeping generalizations,” and then make this claim: “my ONE example proves the opposite is BS”?!? The only ‘sweeping generalization” you can legitimately make from your N=1 is: “in my one single case, with my specific genetics, epigenetics, life style, life history, and diet, I seem to be doing fine and better than some other people (about whose health I know nothing). It works *for me* however YMMV.”

        • 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…

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

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

  • 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.

    • Joe Average March 26, 2015, 9:19 am

      Yes. Dog fur. Have a canister vacuum and that’s mostly what comes out when I empty it. Love the dog, always want to have a dog, and we like a sporty breed with long hair – but there will always be the issue of fur. Definitely cat fur around at our house too.

      My relatives include obsessive germ killers. And they are always sick. We are very, very rarely sick and seldom more than 24 hrs. Maybe once a year or 15 months.

  • 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.

    • 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!)

      • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!

      • 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. :)

        • Drew November 2, 2017, 11:53 am

          All reverse osmosis now, hollywoods for everyone! We still gave people shit, especially sonar techs, but as long as we weren’t simulating a casualty or running ultra quiet there was never such a thing as a shortage of water.

    • 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!

      • Joe Average March 26, 2015, 9:29 am

        Anyone able to confirm that a timer on the hot water heater is worthwhile? The timer switches the heater off when the house is empty and back on for a few hours morning and evening.

        • Mr. Money Mustache March 26, 2015, 12:03 pm

          Hi Joe, definitely worthwhile on a tank-style heater.

          • Joe Average March 27, 2015, 7:52 am

            Thanks. I have a newer electric water heater that has a small computer on the top that seems to strive to figure out when we use hot water and heat less when we traditionally are not home. Four settings on a knob to control how aggressive it is. When I have to replace appliances I shop for efficiency as much or more than anything else.

    • 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.

  • 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…

    • 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…

  • 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.

  • Executioner December 30, 2013, 10:27 am

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


    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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/

    • 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. ;)

      • 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.

        • 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.

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

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

      • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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!

          • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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!

      • 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.

        • Chara December 30, 2013, 9:59 pm

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

        • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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).

        • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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!

      • 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

        • 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.

    • 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… ;)

  • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

            • 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.

            • 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.

            • 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.


              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.

            • Meganevangeline November 10, 2015, 1:27 pm

              If everyone followed the advice in this post we would still have MRSA and other antibiotic resistant organisms. Why? Because antibiotics are in our food and water systems due to their use in agriculture. No matter what anyone here does, the creation of superbugs is happening primarily due to modern farming practices and IV drug users who get them on the black market and take them to prevent endocarditis. The Needle sharing culture creates a breeding ground not otherwise found in human to human transmission. Nothing you or I do can stop it now. Not as long as antibiotics are used improperly for agriculture and on the black market for improper use by IV drug users and third world countries.

      • 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

        • Peggy October 15, 2015, 2:25 pm

          As are the gym uniforms.

    • 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.

      • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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…

    • 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. :(

    • 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…

    • 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.

    • Alison January 1, 2014, 6:33 am

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

  • 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).

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

      • CTY December 30, 2013, 11:37 pm

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

      • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • BWrites December 31, 2013, 8:42 am

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

    • 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

    • 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]

  • 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.

    • 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?
      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.

      • 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.

      • 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).

    • 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..) ;)

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

    • 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.

    • 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?

      • 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.

        • 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? :)

    • 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:

      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..

  • 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?).

    • 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.

  • 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!

  • Leo December 30, 2013, 11:41 am


    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.

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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!

    • mariarose January 13, 2014, 7:58 am

      We own that book! Very enlightening.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

      • 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.

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

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

    • 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.

    • 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 :-)

  • 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/

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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/

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • Jeremy September 23, 2019, 12:37 pm

      I know this is a very old article now but I was surprised that among all of the “American standards of cleanliness” there was no mention of bidets. Here we think of ourselves as super clean compared to the rest of the world but forget that those in Europe and Japan could look at us with disgust for how we treat our backsides. Spending tons of money & time on cleaning products when one of the most important parts to clean get wiped with dry TP. There’s the push for “flushable” wipes that might be slightly better but again that’s just a product to sell and get stuck in the sewage causing issues for towns and cities across the country. There’s so much to learn from the rest of the world.

      Neat to see other perspectives on how we all view what’s “clean”.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.””

    • 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!

  • 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.

    • Meganevangeline November 10, 2015, 9:41 pm

      you don’t get a flu shot for yourself. You get it for vulnerable members of society. The immunocompromised, the very old, and the very young.. no one young and healthy needs the flu shot for themselves, we get it so others won’t suffer or die.

  • 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.

  • 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.


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