New Mama Musings

Monday, December 03, 2007

Personal Hygiene

Continuing my series on living frugally and naturally while saving the Earth...

This entry may reveal more about me than you really want to know, so if you're happy with our current level of intimacy please stop reading here.

I thought so.

I used to be a long-hot-shower-every-morning kind of girl. I felt gross if I didn't get my shower in that day.

And then Henry was born, and my husband eventually had to go back to work, and like other things I had previously taken for granted showers became a luxury.

I tried putting Henry in his bouncy seat and peeking around the shower curtain at him every few minutes, but he was not buying it. And by the time my husband got home from work and we ate dinner and I ran around doing all the things I wasn't able to do during the day, it was bedtime for Henry -- which for a long time meant bedtime for me.

I started taking showers once or twice during the week and twice on weekends. And then it became once on the weekends and once during the week. And now I only shower once a week.

Surprisingly I do not feel gross and my husband tells me I don't smell, and that's good enough for me.

So this qualifies as natural, in a hippie kind of way. But what does it mean for the environment and our budget? A quick Google search says that a bathtub holds about 30 to 50 gallons of water; I easily fill a tub while showering.

I used to waste up to 300 gallons of water a week! According to my local water works website, four gallons of water cost one cent. So although 75 cents a week isn't a huge amount of money, every little bit adds up. The cost to our environment, though, was much more dear.

I still wash my hair in between, but I've gone from every day to every other day. I have to say that I do notice a difference here, mainly because I am cursed with very fine, straight hair. But I like not having to wait until my hair is dry before Henry and I can go somewhere, so I live with it.

And now for an even more radical move on my part: using cloth for toilet paper.

Yeah. You heard me.

I'd read about other people using cloth and it seemed too extreme to me. But I never liked using dry paper to begin with. It just didn't seem very clean, and even the cheapest paper left "lint" (for lack of a better word).

I used flushable wipes for a while but when I started looking into the chemicals in personal care products the thought of rubbing who-knows-what down there was pretty horrifying.

It was when I realized that, hey, we wipe Henry's butt with cloth and assume it's clean once it goes through the washer. How would using cloth instead of toilet paper for myself be any different?

I cut up some old t-shirts and put them in baskets on the back of both the toilets in our house. Each bathroom has a small metal step-can in it, and this is where I keep the used cloth. When it's time to wash diapers we dump the contents of the can in the diaper pail liner and then dump that in the washer.

If it makes you feel any better, all diapers and cloth wipes (which I also use to blow my nose) get washed first in cold (using reverse osmosis wastewater) and then in hot. Of course, if you're not down with the whole idea, no amount of washing will appease you.

Don't worry, we still have regular (100% recycled toilet paper) in our bathrooms for my husband, my stepkids and guests.

Like with cloth diapers, one could debate the greenness of this endeavor. I guess what it comes down to for me is that while this process requires the use of water, it's not requiring the manufacturing, packaging and transport of a product. (In fact it's re-using something that would otherwise be thrown away.)

And I always wonder, when this topic comes up, why aren't people ever asking this about rags? Why isn't there a great "paper towel vs. cloth rag" debate? Could it possibly have something to do with how squeamish we are as a society?

Another wacky natural, frugal and green thing we do: use soap instead of toothpaste.

It's not as crazy as it sounds. There are people out there who believe that teeth can remineralize, and that conventional toothpaste leaves a coating of glycerin on your teeth that interferes with this process. And since we try to avoid flouride and only use something abrasive (baking soda or Eco-Dent) occasionally so as not to wear down the enamel on our teeth, it really makes sense.

We're currently using Tooth Soap, but after I realized that it's pretty much diluted liquid soap I've decided that once we run out we'll switch to Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap. For the same price of 2 ounces of the Toothsoap I can buy a gallon of Dr. Bronner's and then water it down.

By my calculations, one gallon of Dr. Bronners (diluted with water in a 1:3 ratio) yields 256 bottles of Tooth Soap. And if we re-use the Tooth Soap bottle we already have we're being green and frugal. Also, since two ounces lasts us almost two months, I figure once we buy the gallon of Dr. Bronner's we won't have to buy anything else to clean our teeth with (beyond brushes and floss) for over 42 years.

Other products I use instead of the conventional, expensive, store-bought items:

  • Raw honey as face wash.
  • Baking soda (diluted with honey or liquid soap) as an exfoliator.
  • Baking soda as deodorant. (This seriously works. Just dab a little under your damp underarm.)
  • Coconut oil infused with essential oil as body lotion after a shower.
  • Aloe vera gel as hair gel. (It adds a little body and hold.)
  • Olive oil as make-up remover.

We still buy (natural/organic) lotion, shampoo and conditioner, and we use Dr. Bronner's soap in foaming dispensers for washing hands and in the shower. I'm also in the process of switching us over to Preserve toothbrushes and razors, which are made from recycled plastic and can be recycled when we're done with them.

This is where frugality and natural-/green-living depart once again. But I'm fine with paying a little more for products that I believe in.

And that's pretty much it. When peak oil hits and no one can afford to drive to work, and global warming gets to the point that we have chronic crop shortages, I can proudly say, "Hey, I was using cloth toilet paper back in '07. Don't look at me!"


  • ooh, giving up my hot shower would be really hard! however, i do only wash my hair once a week (i also have fine straight hair), maybe twice a week in summer).

    By Blogger mamafitz, at 8:26 AM  

  • wow! most impressive.

    I thought I was doing well by only showering (and washing hair) every other day...

    Hey, do you know anything about the "no poo" movement? Essentially, they say that using shampoo irritates the scalp, which makes it produce more oil to protect itself. If you stop using shampoo, after a few weeks of grease and gross, your hair produces less oil and you don't need to use shampoo... Seemed like what you're doing in a way.

    By Blogger bfmomma, at 2:26 PM  

  • Yes, I've tried "no-pooing" many, many times. What I understand is that you use baking soda to wash and vinegar to rinse, but only do that once a week or so. I gave it a month and my hair was always greasy, so now I'm back to using regular shampoo and conditioner.

    By Blogger New Mama, at 8:07 PM  


    I'm with mamafitz, i shower every day and mostly because it's the ONLY place I can be totally alone (only about 50% of the time, tho).
    You have fabulous ideas and I'm so humbled that you take them and run with them. Good for you.
    I hope to link to your blog soon on Earth Hearth.

    By Blogger Leigh, at 6:29 PM  

  • I am really wanting to make the switch to cloth wipes but DH has been a bit off put by the idea. We can't feasably do it now because we're apartment dwellers and the laundromat prices are outrageous, but still, we pay $3 a week for wipes, and I hate doing that and also, yes, what about all those chemicals? Your blog is fabulous, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:46 PM  

  • We do cloth in the bathroom, too - for me. It's recycled TP for DH, though.

    I didn't know about using Dr. Bronner's as toothsoap - it IS so much cheaper! Thanks for that fantastic tip!

    Although Dr. B's also has glycerine.

    By Blogger chasmyn, at 9:06 PM  

  • Apparently, from the website about using Dr. Bronner's as toothsoap:

    "It does have the naturally-occuring soap glycerine included, but none added (the ‘real’ Toothsoap also contains a bit of naturally-occurring glycerine)."

    I'm still researching to figure out the difference!

    By Blogger New Mama, at 9:43 AM  

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