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.

  • Kenoryn December 30, 2013, 1:30 pm

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

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

    The term I have seen for the collective is the “Hygiene Hypothesis”.

  • Adam December 30, 2013, 1:42 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • Nath December 30, 2013, 6:41 pm

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

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

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

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

        Keep everything in good condition. Buy eco cleaning products

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

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

        • BPA December 31, 2013, 9:11 am

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

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

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

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

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

        • KiwiBen January 5, 2014, 2:49 pm

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

    • Nina December 31, 2013, 9:17 am

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

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

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

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

    • Diana December 31, 2013, 9:57 am

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

  • slowth December 30, 2013, 2:00 pm

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

  • Edward December 30, 2013, 2:01 pm

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

  • insourcelife December 30, 2013, 2:46 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Alexandria December 30, 2013, 2:50 pm

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

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

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

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

  • Bayrider December 30, 2013, 3:26 pm

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

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

  • Donna December 30, 2013, 3:47 pm

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

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

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

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

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

      • PawPrint December 31, 2013, 11:08 am

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

        • Carrie Willard October 16, 2016, 7:44 am

          Teehee. True! Considering babies come out of a hole in-between two unsterile spots on a mother’s body, perhaps sterile isn’t needed in normal conditions. Then they suckle on an unwashed teat, LOL.

          I have 7 kids, 5 born at home on purpose. The youngest, though, was a 27-weeker preemie who needed 11 weeks in NICU. I definitely became far more concerned about germs because those were very unusual conditions, and I was thankful for the antibiotics and hand washing rituals of the staff (and myself).

          In normal conditions germaphobia isn’t necessary.

          On adults and special activities: I always prefer my guy NOT to shower beforehand. I like my man’s smell. :-)

      • Joseph December 31, 2013, 11:20 am

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

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

  • ElectricMustache December 30, 2013, 3:48 pm

    Fun fact from my biology classes at University:

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

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

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

  • Greg December 30, 2013, 4:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

        • Jamesqf January 1, 2014, 11:38 am

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

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

            Yes, they do.

        • CTY January 2, 2014, 10:11 pm

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

  • Cas December 30, 2013, 4:20 pm

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

    • ella December 30, 2013, 5:49 pm

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

  • JayBee December 30, 2013, 4:41 pm

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

    That hour goes as follows:

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

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

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

    4. clean the bathroom — 15 minutes;

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

    I do that once a week.

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

    Takes no time at all. :)

  • Bob L December 30, 2013, 5:20 pm

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

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

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

  • Linda December 30, 2013, 5:29 pm

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

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

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

  • Annie December 30, 2013, 5:44 pm

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

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

  • John December 30, 2013, 5:56 pm

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

  • Chelsea December 30, 2013, 6:20 pm

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

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

    This is a great post to ponder :-)

    • Elyse January 2, 2014, 6:55 am

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

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

  • earlyretirementsg December 30, 2013, 6:20 pm

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

    • earlyretirementsg December 30, 2013, 10:03 pm

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

      Not a great show but similar concept.

  • Melissa December 30, 2013, 6:44 pm

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

    • Heather December 31, 2013, 9:07 pm

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

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

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

    • Elyse January 2, 2014, 6:52 am

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

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

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

      • Ellie January 2, 2014, 12:19 pm

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

  • Gobbly December 30, 2013, 6:51 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Ellie January 2, 2014, 12:25 pm

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

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

  • Big A December 30, 2013, 6:52 pm

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

  • nicoleandmaggie December 30, 2013, 6:54 pm

    Hahaha, here’s our post on this topic:


    I don’t get it either.

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

  • Cyndy December 30, 2013, 7:00 pm

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

  • Kirsty December 30, 2013, 7:31 pm

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

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

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

      • Aaron January 3, 2014, 2:21 pm

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

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

      • MustacheMatty January 4, 2014, 6:51 am

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

    • Nina December 31, 2013, 9:42 am

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

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

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

    • phred December 31, 2013, 12:28 pm

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

    • Heather December 31, 2013, 9:14 pm

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

      • Em January 2, 2014, 7:59 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • SomeYoungGuy January 3, 2014, 10:45 pm

        You need to start a blog on this. Please

      • lurker January 6, 2014, 6:37 am

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

        • Juan January 6, 2014, 9:47 am

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

      • MMMonSteriods April 15, 2014, 6:37 pm

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

        Listen to the CBC Ideas radio show for more info: ‘Bugs are Us’

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

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

  • Steve December 30, 2013, 7:32 pm

    Wow I am going to have to take the contra view here. My wife and I have an ironclad rule – neither of us craws into the same bed that is not freshly showered, sorry. And because a hot shower is so refreshing, I take one in the morning as well. So twice daily for me.

    Its just a wonderful feeling being clean, and there is no cost associated with showering. Yes I currently take hot showers because I can afford it, but I occasionally visit countries where a bath means a one gallon jug of cold water, and that works for me too in a pinch. Costs a cent or two at the most.

    • Soccerfan448 December 30, 2013, 10:00 pm

      Steve – isn’t that the point MMM is trying to make? What you’re saying shows exactly how the “soap” industry is trying to brainwash everyone into believing that they have to shower constantly to “feel good”.

    • Belcat December 31, 2013, 9:49 am

      There is no cost to showering? LOL. Hot water usage is 33% of a Canadian’s hot water bill, and just a tad lower for Americans (25-30%). Most of it is for showering (2.5 gpm shower, 10 minute shower, 25 gallons. Hard to top that cleaning dishes or laundry, though some people do). Now the 33% is for one shower a day. Now, you take two, your section is more. What, you say, the landlord pays for it? Yes, sure, but those costs will get passed on to you, even in locations where rent increases are controlled, there are ways to bypass those if costs are unusually high.

      If you don’t want to cut the showers, cut the water when you soap up. This will substantially reduce your hot water bill – guaranteed. I also used to take a bath before going to bed and that was it – how dirty do you get sleeping anyway?

  • Andres December 30, 2013, 8:13 pm

    Things I’ve picked up over time, and technologies that have changed my life:

    1 – a $40 installable bidet (or $80 for the hot+cold one from bluebidet.com, if you care about that sort of thing). For most of my life, I felt disgusting unless I showered daily. Even though I don’t sweat that much (unless I’m biking straight up a big hill in Seattle, which isn’t that often), I still needed to shower daily. I bought a bidet to save on toilet paper and just to feel cleaner. One side-effect of this is that I realized that I don’t feel filthy every day. When you clean your butt with soap + water after going to the bathroom (and pat your butt dry with a hand towel), you don’t feel like you need to shower every single day. How much do you spend on daily showers and toilet paper per year? $40 is a deal by comparison! The cheaper ones are made of lower quality material (plastic instead of metal), but ours lasted 3 years until my toddler broke it. The $80 one has lasted 4 years so far. You can probably find even cheaper ones, if you look harder. I’m just telling you what I’m happy with.

    2 – white vinegar + baking soda. Both are cheap, and are great for cleaning just about everything in your bathroom. That $15 bottle of draino that lasts one use? Shove baking soda down your drain, run vinegar down there, and let it work stuff clean. That bleach and chlorine-based expensive chemical cleaner for your toilet, sink, and bathtub? Baking soda and vinegar will clean it just fine. There are lots of homemade cleaning techniques like this that are simple and freely available online (and books devoted to the subject). Vinegar smells much better than that nasty chemical smell!

    3 – A roomba. Sweeping w/ a broom is fine and all, and if I had a smaller place I probably wouldn’t bother. But, I share a larger house with lots of people, and I end up cleaning the kitchen/living room for 5 people (and a cat, and a toddler). You can get deals on used ones (just get a new battery for it, since the battery doesn’t last forever). A weekly visit by a maid to clean your house is pricy. Sweeping takes time, and encourages piles of stuff around the house (if I’m going to sweep, stuff on the floor just gets shoved into the corner and I sweep around it). A roomba requires you to clean up those piles of random baby toys, cables, clothes, etc that end up around the house before you can run it. That might be a problem for some people who ask, “why am I precleaning for the roomba?”, but it works really well for our situation. The roomba is also the ultimate 80/20 tool. It’s not going to get every spec of dust, but it’ll get enough. Pick stuff up off the floor, push the button, and let it do its thing while you’re out running errands. Come back to a clean house. Well worth it, in my opinion.

    • Rob January 6, 2014, 12:41 pm

      I have to say, I second the investment in a bidet. Mine is a handheld (technically a ‘cloth diaper sprayer’) and was about $40, have had it about seven years. I will never go back to anything but. Between my wife and I, we only use about a roll of toilet paper a month now, which is an added bonus. The clean factor is the main reason, though, esp. in the summer. I am a complete convert now, but most people think I’m strange for being so pro-bidet. To quote Dr. Oz, ‘if you got ca-ca on your arm, would you smear it around with a paper towel?’ Because that is essentially what you are doing when you wipe with toilet paper.

  • Heather December 30, 2013, 8:15 pm

    I can’t imagine coming up with 30 loads of laundry to do in a week! We have two children under age 3, one in (cloth) diapers and one who is still perfecting his toilet mastery, and we average between 3 and 5 loads a week.

    As an aside, even if you are delivering your baby in your own house, you’re probably still okay with a less-than-sterile environment. Your baby is used to the germs in your house (more so than the germs in a hospital), after all, and if breast milk is involved, any infectious germs will be counteracted with the correct antibodies. So, birth away.

    • Joe Average March 26, 2015, 1:10 pm

      And 30 loads amounts to alot of wear and tear on the laundry machines. Our machines are nearing 18 years old. I’ve worked on the dryer (new temp switches) and never the washer. Someone we knew had the same pair of laundry machines and wore them out in two years. Multiple loads every day.

  • Karen December 30, 2013, 8:27 pm

    Well, I have a housekeeper who thoroughly cleans every two weeks. I work 12 hour days and usually have a meeting to attend each week. I have lots of days off but I choose to enjoy my time off. My housekeeper is a divorced mom who needs to support herself and her kids and my pay helps her. I need to add that I am 62 and have reached “critical mass” but I love my job as an ER RN and truly don’t want to leave my job. When I was younger, in my 20’s up to my 50’s I was very frugal. I fully expected to retire at 55 and never expected to love my job as I do. Now I have some extra money so I treat myself to a clean house. I do change towels once a week and wear clothes until they are dirty. We recently bought a house with a super view that will be our retirement house until we are carried out. We don’t plan to get sucked into the whole remodel and are quite happy to live with white tiles and no granite. I think that we each have to decide where to save money and not look down on others who don’t think like we do. The advice I can give is save as much as you can and then save even more! If you are 35 now the changes in the world in the next 35 might call for having more saved than you could imagine.

    • Don Bronkema December 31, 2013, 4:16 am

      No granite? now, that’s heroism…en passant, no towel needs washing more than 3xpa

  • Wendy December 30, 2013, 8:35 pm

    I did too deliver a baby at home and he is much better off for it! One of the biggest issues I have with birth are the baths. They wash all that beautiful smelling and extremely healthy vernix off the baby and mess up part of the instinctual bonding process. It ENRAGES me that they did this with my first two after experiencing my third being left alone. No baths! No hats! Leave those nasty hospital germs in the hospital. Unless of course you have a medical emergency which is what a hospital is for.

  • Dr Beard December 30, 2013, 8:56 pm

    MMM, you keep insisting that clothes can be dried outside on the line anywhere. I like that idea, but I beg to differ. I humbly submit to you Okinawa, Japan. In the summer, it is 90 degrees F and 95% humidity (and I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not). It pisses rain intermittently May-Dec and all day every day Mar-May. It drizzles off and on in Jan and Feb. There are about 3 weeks of consistent sun in May or June…maybe. We can’t even dry our swimsuits and beach towels outside. I’ve given up. They now get hung all over the house. We are moving to the high desert of Oregon in the spring, and the first thing I am going to do is hang a clothesline. With my luck, it will snow on my laundry.

    • Don Bronkema December 31, 2013, 4:12 am

      It’s noisy, also, thanx to mil-jets 24hpd..we should close bases there & dehegemonize planet-wide.

    • phred December 31, 2013, 12:35 pm

      sounds like what I experienced in south Florida. Everything still dried outside on a line. If a sudden unexpected rainshower occured, I just left everything on the line and it dried the next day. Office shirts were hung on plastic hangers inside so they dried without wrinkles

  • Walter December 30, 2013, 9:50 pm

    Richard Nikoley writes about his no soap approach.


    I think he has be soap free since 2009.

    He and blog members do a lot of N=1 experiments on paleo etc. Lastest experiment is resistant starch to improve microbiome health.

  • RobbyJ December 30, 2013, 10:42 pm

    Great article! It’s such a relief to read something like this after being raised to sweepe every day, vacuum twice a week and scrub the bathroom at least once a week.

    After 10 years of living on my own I still am not able to do those things. I keep the kitchen clean, so I can cook easily, sweep once a week or so, and vacuum once a quarter at the most. And you know what? It doesn’t bother me one bit.

    The towels though, I do wash a bit more often, maybe once a week. After reading this I am inspired to find ways to keep them smelling decent for longer!

  • Ron December 31, 2013, 2:34 am

    I really like this site and I have developed an addiction to reading the comments. However, on this topic, I can only say “Wow”. No judgement. Just “wow”.
    Ideally, what is the ideal amount to spend on the water bill. I live in north Texas and we have a rather long season of hot weather. With four people in the house and a sprinkler system, the water bill averages about $90 per month. I do have a rain barrel system to catch rain water. ( When it rains). Our city restricts the use of the sprinkler system to once a week. The house is nearly three years old and we do have low flow shower heads and water efficient toilets. I will admit that we do use the washing machine everyday, but it is very efficient with the water. (According to LG). Anyway, I really enjoyed reading the comments.

  • Michel31 December 31, 2013, 3:27 am

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. That’s what I have been thinking (and preachin) for years, but I can not say it as well as you do (and as funny). Love your blog !

  • Don Bronkema December 31, 2013, 4:05 am

    Post 6MYA, we evolved on the African savanna, but never mind…after 7 decades of thoro [but not fanatical] sanitation, respondent gave it up by force majeure–neuroses exhaust themselves as mitochondria weaken.

    Made no diff; his immune resistance stayed the same [no dog after age 11]–no flu, 4-5 minor rhinos, perf attendance at school & work…eldest staffer, he retired w/an astro sick leave balance [none refundable, thanx to Reagan/Bush II supply-cide/tricky-down mendacity].

    Point?…choose the right parents & you can scoop night soil bare-handed w/o penalty [as in India]…Delphi projections suggest epigeneering will eventuate in a largely disease/disorder-free planet by mid-23rd Century.

  • cat December 31, 2013, 4:54 am

    While my cleaning routine differs from that in the MMM household, I absolutely agree on the “too many costly cleaning supplies”-section.

    I have it figured out, that one pretty much only needs two types of cleaners: one for grease – which would be a simple dish detergent, and one for water stains – which would be some type of acid. For the latter one I use citrus acid, which comes in at probably three bucks a bottle. One could also use the simplest vinegar to be found.

    Now, the recipe for a bottle of all purpose cleaner is this: two tablespoons of each acid and dish detergent on one bottle of water. Done. Just use it as you would your normal cleaner.
    I use it for everything, even mopping the floors with it. All you will ever need for cleaning. In case you come across a stain that needs heavy scrubbing: Use it together with some salt (only on surfaces that do not scratch easily).

  • Rita December 31, 2013, 5:06 am

    I am chemically sensitive, nomadic, and always working for the tiny fossil fuel footprint. I switched to thin, little towels a year ago. They work fine, and I recommend finishing your shower with cold water for better skin, immunity, and you can drip dry and skip towels altogether.

    Also, my grandfather fussed at us for using too much soap. I noticed that if you skip the laundry soap, there is often suds that did not rinse out from previous washing. Then I began rinsing out my clothes in the shower. Voila. No more laundry. Now if I wash clothes in a washer, I often skip the soap.

    And I am an old, single person, so I don’t need a bed or bedding. I use a silk sleeping bag sheet. It is easy to hand wash and dry.

  • winstongator December 31, 2013, 5:22 am

    Gotta call BS on the pets/allergy & asthma hypothesis. There is a correlational link, however it is due to a 3rd factor. Parents with bad allergies pass along genes for bad allergies to their kids. They also DON’T have pets. Parents w/o allergies, or with managed allergies are MUCH more likely to have pets and also MUCH more likely to have kids w/o allergies. I read the JAMA article on this (wife was in med school at time), and they actually presented data without correcting for parents level of allergies! That said, go ahead and eat dirt, just not the soft cylindrical dirt in my backyard!

    The constant washing of towels is my pet peeve too. My parents, brother and sister do that. At a recent trip home, I realized it is because they don’t have towel hooks! I need to install some the next time I’m there. If you throw wet towels on the ground, then they’ll mildew and smell, which would require a washing to fix. Or you can hang them up.

    • stellamarina January 1, 2014, 8:59 pm

      Many bathrooms in New Zealand, where most homes do not have central heating, have electrically heated towel bars….this keeps the towels nice and dry and fresh as well as warm for when you use them.

      I think another problem is the expectation of nice big fluffy towels in the US. Many other countries use small thin towels which are much easier to wash and dry……rather like kitchen dish towels.

  • MustacheMatty December 31, 2013, 5:46 am

    Not sure if this was mentioned already, but this Canadian wore his jeans for 15 months and did some bacteria testing:


    • Mr. Money Mustache December 31, 2013, 11:53 am

      Wow, that guy is inspirational – and much tidier than me. My jeans look dirtier after 10 wearings than his look after 400!

      Oh well, a 90% savings on laundry is still a pretty good start.

      • Walt January 1, 2014, 10:10 pm

        I actually generally change jeans when they get too loose to stay up without a belt. That’s generally about 2 weeks. They shrink back up in the sun.

        400 days is impressive, though I think mine would simply be totally destroyed by that point. I kill at least a pair a year wearing through knees and/or butt.

        • Paula January 10, 2014, 3:41 pm

          I highly recommend Icebreaker pants and shirts: the merino wool is stink free. Some people who sailed the world wore them 70 days in a row. As underpants! ^_°
          So does the packaging say. I believe them :-)
          We wear those shirts and pants while ski mountaineering. People inside mountain huts don’t appreciate stinky company and those highly functional synthetic fibres stink enormously! Not with merino!

  • Kris December 31, 2013, 6:39 am

    Regarding “Let Them Eat Dirt Pediatrics” – I had to laugh out loud!

    When my son was small (he’s now 25 and 6’3″), I used to bring him out to the yard with me while I was working in the garden. As he was teething, he’d frequently pick rocks out of the dirt and start gnawing on them (note: dirty rock + baby drool = baby covered in mud very quickly!) – I’d often swap his rock out for a broccoli floret or a freshly pulled and quickly wiped-off carrot, which he was more than happy with.

    He survived a literal “let ’em eat dirt” diet very nicely, AND he’s always eaten his veggies!

  • bio clean December 31, 2013, 7:29 am

    didn’t George Carlin say he never got sick since his parents let him swim in a retention pond? I get sick a lot and work in some of the most biohazardous environments.

  • cwebb December 31, 2013, 7:56 am


    Where did you find this dream spouse that finds your/my cleanliness ideals agreeable.

  • Mom December 31, 2013, 7:58 am

    We do laundry when the laundry hamper is full or we need clothes. Happens for the adults about every 1.5-2 weeks, and for the kiddo every other day lately – we’re working on nighttime potty training, and it’s not going so well… Luckily, the diaper laundry is down to about every 3-4 days now – it’s a matter of when it smells, not when it’s full – and hopefully, we can stop it soon.

    We change our sheets when we change the weight of the comforter on the bed, so about 4 times a year, unless it’s dirtied some other way. The towels generally get tossed in with the sheets, so about that often as well.

    We do have a cleaning lady come in every month, and she vacuums the whole house, “mops” the wood floors, and cleans the two bathrooms we use daily. Otherwise, there’s not much cleaning going on.

  • ap December 31, 2013, 8:16 am

    Would love Mrs. MM’s take on this topic too. Women are still doing the lioness’ share of the housework in our society today. Your actions don’t seem revolutionary except I believe your wife is not following behind you and your son with a broom.


  • sarah December 31, 2013, 8:41 am

    Just FyI ~ I am a family of 7. Ages 12 ~ 15 months. 5 loads a week. One load of towels (including dish cloths ) a week. Keeping in mind all the spills in one day, and babies go through clothes like crazy. To keep laundry minimum the kids only have 3 pairs of pants, and 7 shirts. I rotate in new shirts /pants when the old ones start looking well used. Pretty simple.

  • Orngkat December 31, 2013, 9:07 am

    There is a current hypothesis that babies acquire much of their immunity during vaginal birth. Perhaps the huge rise in C section babies (many unnecessary) is not a good thing? Also research showing that kids raised around farm animals have fewer allergies. Those of us of a certain age recall our parents talking about the Saturday night bath ritual. Growing up, we only had our hair washed once a week in the kitchen sink. It is all about common sense and that seems to grow rarer every day.

  • megak8 December 31, 2013, 9:18 am

    Don’t forget to refuse unnecessary daily hotel house keeping
    This practice only causes more environmental impacts. My hotel rooms only need cleaning once I check out. I hope to negotiate lower rates for future hotel stays that require less services like this.

    • phred December 31, 2013, 12:39 pm

      not a problem as many motel/hotels never wash the blankets or bedspreads

  • Mrs. GreenPennyGardener December 31, 2013, 9:35 am

    Right on MMM! I love the quote from the doctor. I always have thought dirt was good for you (especially digging around in the garden), but it is good to have this confirmed from someone in the know. Thanks for another great post!

  • Belcat December 31, 2013, 10:07 am

    I think Mr. Money Mustache (and probably others here) would enjoy reading the book “Brandwashed”. The author really goes into details on how advertising has convinced us of utter lies, such as the need for shampoo every day (they gave up on trying to get us to use it twice at least), cleaning products of dubious value, and tons and tons of personal beauty products of little value.
    Did you know some lip balm actually has ingredients that destroy the lip’s skin? Talk about the product making the consumer.
    The book has me completely disgusted at marketing, and it’s shown me some ways even I didn’t realise they were tricking us.
    The book does have it’s drawbacks; it’s written by a marketer, and he writes like one. Every point has a punch, but it’s not backed too heavily by data to prove it; certainly no “scientific proof” here. Never the less, he does give us enough information to show that yes, it does work to some degree.
    Maybe I will be inspired by MM to make a blog about this… because marketers make me sick. They are deliberately making us unhappy and causing us to further trash the earth with all this consuming. Something has to be done…


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