Five cleaning habits that waste your money

Eliminating the costs of routine overuse in cleaning could save you money.

Photo illustration/Newscom
Just use the soap you need.

All of us use a lot of household products every day. Soap. Shampoo. Conditioner. Toothpaste. Hand soap. Dishwashing detergent. Laundry detergent. The list goes on and on.

Many of these items are used so routinely that we don’t even step back and think about them. We squirt some toothpaste on our toothbrush. We use a big gulp of mouthwash. We dump in laundry detergent up to the line.

Almost every time, though, we use way more of this stuff than we need.

Take toothpaste, for example. If you actually read their suggestion on how much toothpaste to use, it’s substantially less than the amount you probably use. It’s less than the amount I’ve always used, and I use far less than other people I know.

If you go a step beyond that, the back of the package is going to suggest using more than you actually need. Why? If you use substantially more than you need to get the job done, you’ll get the job done and run out of the stuff faster, sending you back to the store to buy more and to cause the company more profit.

I decided to really look at the amounts I was using in my own life and came up with some interesting results on several different things.

Soap I use liquid soap in the shower. I usually squeeze out a pretty big glob onto my washcloth and wash away, not thinking about it. However, if you read the back of pretty much any bottle, they encourage you to use a “small amount” (or some other vague amount). So I experimented a bit. I put just a tiny dot of soap on the wash cloth, about the smallest dot I could make. I lathered it around for a bit and it made a surprisingly large amount of suds. Two dots made as much lather as I would make from a huge squirt. In fact, I found that if I used one of those hand soap dispensers, a single squeeze from that dispenser gave me plenty of body soap for the shower. Using 80% less soap had the exact same results.

Toothpaste I used to squirt a line of toothpaste from one end of the bristles to the other. Reading the back of the tube, they suggest a much smaller amount than that. So I tried different amounts. Eventually, I found the perfect balance for me – an almost circular dot on the toothbrush. This resulted in pretty much the same amount of foam in my mouth (with a lot less over-the-top minty flavor!). Using 66% less toothpaste had the exact same results.

Mouthwash I would usually just pour myself a good mouth full in the bottom of a cup, rinse it around in my mouth for a minute, and spit. However, I was using far too much of it. Using about half as much got the same “burning” effect (yes, I use Listerine). Using 50% less mouthwash had the exact same results.

Dishwashing detergent My dishwasher has two different spots for detergent. Instead of filling up both slots with detergent, I tried filling up just one. I couldn’t notice a difference. What about filling up one slot about halfway? This didn’t quite cut it – it seemed to not work as well. I’ve actually been filling up both slots about halfway now. Using 50% less dishwashing detergent had the exact same results.

Shampoo and conditioner I used to just fill up my palm with shampoo, scrub it deeply into my hair, and rinse. However, my hair is really short. It turns out that just the tiniest dot does the trick – a huge reduction in the amount of shampoo I use. The same is true with conditioner. I’m going to adopt the same “squirt bottle” tactic I use with the soap. Using approximately 85% less shampoo and conditioner had the exact same results.

In fact, the only household product I tried that didn’t succeed just as well without a significant reduction was dental floss. A shorter strand just didn’t cut it.

Each one of these things changed nothing with my quality of life. I just found that if I used a little less up front, I didn’t miss it at all. This means more uses per container of household product – and that means that each container lasts longer.

And that, of course, means money saved without changing a thing about my life.

That’s a win, my friends.

Take a look at how much of this stuff you use. Don’t cut it below what you’re comfortable with, but give it a shot with a bit less. Don’t squirt quite as much shampoo onto your hands in the shower. Don’t put quite as much detergent into the wash. Quite often, trimming a little bit from what you use won’t make any noticeable difference except that you’ll be buying that item a lot less frequently without any change in the way you do things. That means money in your pocket.

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