15 Cleverly Cheap Ways To Watch Your Hygiene

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-11-0822

I grew up with something bugging me that I could never quite understand. I was anxious and compulsive and it turned out that I had a mild form of “hypochondriasis,” which is just a big word that means “germ phobia”. Yes, I am one of those people who sometimes cannot help but worry constantly about the next winter disease, who grows anxious over media reports of the avian flu or West Nile or SARs taking over the world, and who washes their hands a little more than recommended.

So this topic is dear to my heart. The good news though is that I am much more relaxed about things right now (yeah, except when talk of the next plague hits the news), but I’d like to share some thoughts about the use of personal hygiene products to keep ourselves healthy, fresh and clean, especially during the upcoming cold and flu season.

What happens when young kids and a bucket of paint cross paths?

Clean these kids in paint!
Photo by factum.blogspot.com

Frugal Tips To Keep Yourself Clean and Healthy

I went around the web and found some fantastic frugal ideas on how to keep clean.

#1 Use the simpler products.
There are regular soaps and washes, and there are maximum strength antibacterial agents made out of alcohol, gel and possibly other chemicals that will wipe out germs while you’re on the go. The soap industry has claimed that antimicrobial washes are much more effective than any other soap or wash out there. But according to the FDA, that is false. Still, they’re convenient because you can apply them without water. The hype has made these products more expensive, and as some have claimed, more dangerous. Why? Because the indiscriminate use of antimicrobial (or alcohol-based) cleaners by the public can encourage the growth of highly resistant “super bugs.” Not only that, their overuse may actually spread disease. When I learned this very important fact about microbes, it helped relax my views about cleanliness — the fact that you may actually be more immune to germs when you are “less clean”. Ah, the irony! The strong recommendation here is to skip on the antibacterial cleaners and stay with the regular soaps.

#2 Buy the right kind of product for your situation.
If you have kids, liquid soap may work better than the bars since soap bars are tempting to play with and can disappear faster in the hands of kids. They may not be as easy to use for younger hands as well. Bars may also result in higher water usage.

#3 Buy the cheaper soap.
There are so many types of body and hand soaps and sanitizers out there that it boggles the mind. But it’s been said that the foamier kind is more economical than the other kinds available. Considering cost-per-use, the foams are the best kind since you get more use out of each application.

#4 Buy ahead, buy in bulk.
Soap is one of those items you can easily get discounts for when you buy in larger quantities. There are sales where you can purchase 20 bottles for a cost of $1.74 per bottle. Or $3.00 per pound of bulk soap. Stores like Bath and Body Works have yearly sales so you can stock up or you can just visit your local Costco for the savings. Having a lot of soap bars in store also lends itself to a great way to make sure soap lasts longer for you. The idea is to unwrap several bars at a time and allow them to dry out for several weeks (e.g. a month or two). Place them in an attractive container. When you finally use them, they won’t melt out as fast as they would if they weren’t dried out in the first place.

#5 Dilute with care!
You’ll get even more mileage out of your liquid lotions, soaps and cleansers if you dilute them. Dilution formulas range from 1 to 3 parts water to 1 part soap, or 1 to 2 parts shampoo to 1 part water. Water it down and you can make have them last longer. But be careful about diluting antibacterial soaps because misapplication of such solutions can be dangerous to our health — these chemical based cleaners will not be as effective against the microbes, enabling them to develop resistant strains. So how much is marketing and “scare tactics” and how much is accurate?

#6 Substitute.
There are many trades you can make here, such as using shampoo instead of liquid soap, or well-priced bubble bath instead of hand soaps. Liquid soaps, body wash, bubble bath and even shampoo (without conditioner) can have very similar ingredients. Check out the more inexpensive alternatives and make some substitutions especially when you find options that are on clearance! You can round-robin across different products depending on what goes on clearance on which week. You can also be serious about saving money by washing your hair without shampoo — NOT this way(!) perhaps, but this way!

#7 Refill.
Instead of buying brand new liquid soaps with fancy containers each time, you can purchase a soap pump which you then refill with cheaper cleaners when necessary. By diluting the refilled liquids, you get much more bang for the buck. A popular source for soap pumps is “Pampered Chef”. For foaming hand soap, Pampered Chef makes a dispenser called the “Suds Pump”.

#8 Tweak those soap containers.
I read this from a message board:

Use less hand soap from a pump bottle!
Soap pumps usually dispenses more material than is necessary, especially for children. If your pump dispenses too much soap in one go, secure a cable tie round the stem part that plunges into the bottle, thereby stopping it part way and giving out less soap each time. I put a rubber band, looped until tight, around the base of the pump. the pump then goes down only half way, but still gives an adequate amount of soap. This makes the soap last twice as long.

And here’s a photo of what it looks like! [Image from atime4everythingblog.blogspot.com]

#9 Pick up free soap.
While traveling and staying at hotels, you’ll be privy to those tiny traveler’s soap, shampoo and wash packages made available to paid guests. If so, you’ve paid for these goodies and you can “collect” them for use at home.

#10 Reuse.
What do you do with those tiny pieces of leftover bar soap that you just toss away when they get so annoyingly small? They still have a useful life: just break them up and place them in a liquid hand soap dispenser and add some water, and you’ve got soapy water to work with!

#11 Think of the stink.
There’s this small issue of the smell. Many use the quick trick of masking odors by using perfumes or cologne. But this stuff can be pretty expensive and unnecessary if your goal is to smell nice. In fact, since perfumes just cover up an odor and do not remove it, they aren’t really solving the problem. Also, perfumes can actually end up being offensive to the olfactory nerves of chemically sensitive individuals. Instead, go back to the basics: I’d suggest some old-fashioned water and soap to get rid of any odors that may concern you.

#12 Make your own liquid soap.

1 bar (3.5 oz.) soap with moisturizing cream
3 cups water

Makes 3 cups


Shred bar of soap. Place in large bowl. Add water. Microwave at high 5 to 6 minutes, or until soap is dissolved, stirring every 2 minutes. Let stand until cool. Fill soap dispensers.

#13 Clean your hands the right way.
What’s essential is the thoroughness and duration of the hand wash. Cheap soaps, detergents or shampoos are effective. Everything else is a marketing ploy, including fancy soap products of different shapes, sizes or perceived strengths. Some argue that 20 seconds is not enough for a complete wash, suggesting that two full minutes is necessary to kill all germs. Another trick is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while hand washing.

#14 Consider using baking soda and vinegar.
I was surprised to learn that baking soda and vinegar can be used to clean practically everything, including your own body. Unfortunately for me, I am ‘allergic’ to vinegar so the baking soda and vinegar hair rinse may be out of the question for me, but yeah, people use baking soda to get rid of dandruff, for skin exfoliation, face scrubbing, teeth whitening, mouth rinsing, bathing, hand washing and as a deodorant.

#15 Use liquid soap in the shower instead of bar soap.
Bar soap causes soap scum build up in the shower. If you use liquid soap instead, you can get away with buying less of those bath cleansers and scum removers.


A last word: note that too much “clean” may not be all that healthy either, so like all else, let’s have everything in moderation to keep our immune system balanced.

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

curiousgeorge November 8, 2007 at 11:26 am

White or cider vinegar?

mapgirl November 8, 2007 at 12:04 pm

Yes, but liquid soap comes in bottles and unless you recycle them, I’m happy scrubbing my tub and tossing out a paper wrapper on the bar soap.

Great article though! I’m not too crazy about alcohol gels unless there’s no sink after using a porta-let. Then it’s a must. Otherwise, plain soap and water will do. Just sing the alphabet once through and the natural chemical properties of soap will bond to stuff on your hands and carry it off.

MoneyNing November 8, 2007 at 11:27 pm

OMG (regarding the picture)

Neil Turner November 9, 2007 at 3:20 am

Personally I don’t fancy stinking of vinegar 24/7. Just my personal preference though lol.

The Financial Blogger November 9, 2007 at 4:50 am

Do whatever you want but keep those kids away from your TV 😉

I take my shower at the gym. So I save on power and on soap 😉 But I have to wake up early to do my workout still…

Hannah November 9, 2007 at 7:17 am

Please note that the FDA site you direct us to makes a distinction between antimicrobial soaps containing drugs (like triclosan), & alcohol-based gels. “The committee made a unanimous exception for evaporating alcohol-based hand cleansers, which it said could be of use in places without ready access to soap and water.” I’d never use the non-alcohol stuff, but I always carry gel with me because so few people wash their hands, or wash them well.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 9, 2007 at 7:21 pm

lol. Please note that kids can get into anything pretty easily so you may want to grow eyes on the back of your head before having them. 😉

The vinegar is actually a little hard for me to use since I am allergic to it (okay, I’m allergic to the smell) and as far as the gels/moisturizers go, I used to apply them more liberally until I found them too sticky after use and after reading about the potential dangers of their use. I stick to moderate hand-washing, which I do more frequently during the colder seasons.

daydreamr November 11, 2007 at 1:52 am

Thanks for the great article! I Learned some new money saving tips! I can relate to the whole germaphobe thing…You’re not alone. Here’s a few that I’ve been using, hope it helps someone.

I love hand sanitizer! It’s so thick that I’ve been diluting it w/rubbing alcohol or body spray (to give it a nice, light scent). It still works great.

When I don’t have water available but my hands are really dirty, I use a little more than usual, rub it through my hands, and wipe them with a tissue, paper towell (or anything else I can find).

I use it to disinfect toilet seats at public restrooms too. Put some on a wad of TP and wipe the seat, dry w/more TP. (If I’m feeling especially OCD, I’ll wipe the counter top by the sink to put my things down.

If you are at a fast food joint (or other such place), a sqirt of hand sanitizer and a couple napkins works wonders. You can give yourself a cleaner surface to eat on. (They don’t wipe down the tables very often. When they do, they’re just moving the germs around)

I bought foaming hand soap once for $2 and refilled it with shampoo. It has to be diluted enough to foam, so I finally settled on about a half/half mixture. The same bottle that would usually last me a month now lasted 3~4. If you have short hair, it would be even more economical. It still cleans the same but it’s become foam before it goes into the hair.

Tom November 11, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Great post! The picture made me laugh and I though to myself, “What if my kids made a room look like that?” haha

Sasha November 12, 2007 at 4:55 pm

I wash my hair with a baking soda solution, and then rinse with an apple cider solution. It works better than shampoo, it’s radically cheaper, and I’m reusing the bottles every time without having to track down a store that’ll sell me bulk shampoo. Also I can scent it according to my own preferences with essential oils. http://babyslime.livejournal.com/174054.html The vinegar evaporates in about 15 minutes, leaving no smell. (Besides I add vetiver essential oil to my vinegar solution, so the vinegar is barely perceptible.) You can also use diluted lemon juice, beer, wine, and any other light acid as your rinse.

I make most of my own cleaning supplies as well. Here are some recipes:


Stephanie November 13, 2007 at 8:54 pm

I love #14! My website has some recipes for making homemade cleaners using baking soda and vinegar (among other things). Great article!

Cosmetic Dentistry Beverly Hills July 8, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Overall some excellent advice. I caution those looking for whiter teeth to take it easy with the baking soda. The stuff is abrasive and can have some unwanted desires should it be used improperly.

AJ October 1, 2008 at 1:17 am

I find your article very helpful specially for people who have low budget. I also agree that you should buy products that have high quality with low price. Thanks for the tips!

Jack October 29, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Amen to using baking soda for teeth whitening. It seems that there has never been more products available to the consumer for home teeth whitening use. And yet many of these products don’t even work all that well, despite their cost. Thanks for reminding us about an old fashioned, inexpensive method that actually works!

Bonds October 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Those are really great tips. On the note of SARS, it was just a big media scare scandle. Less than 800 people died world wide, less than 40 of which were in the United States. Also, 50% of the fatalities from SARS were people over the age of 65. The total rate was less than 10% fatalities.

luke January 17, 2010 at 6:24 am

Home teeth whitening kits are now popular than ever due to the safety testing done and the results gained.

Rochelle Riley September 11, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I LOVE the picture. I don’t have kids but it almost makes me wish that I did. Almost..ha ha.

Private Number Plates December 1, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Great tips, must try to remember them on a day to day basis!

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