Most of what is considered to be good hygiene these days stems from the marketing of products: convincing you that you need to buy things by creating a sense of insecurity.
I don’t use deodorant, shampoo, or skincare products and rarely use soap. I feel perfectly clean and healthy, and never smell. Our skin contains natural oils that protect it from drying, and every time we use soap we are removing this protective layer.
I find that swimming in the ocean, or an occasional hot shower without soap, is effective to keep clean. Hot water can wash away dirt without removing the protective layer of oil, so soap isn’t necessary.
Hair doesn’t need to be washed, it contains natural oils that keep it clean. I haven’t washed my hair for years, just rinse it occasionally, and I don’t experience dirty or greasy hair. If you are accustomed to washing hair regularly, it takes a few weeks of not washing for your hair to find its natural balance and during this time it becomes incredibly greasy and disgusting. It took me a few attempts to get through this stage, but after four weeks it feels clean and I haven’t had any need to wash it since.
I feel a lot cleaner since I’ve stopped using hygiene products. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but by stepping away from the belief that chemicals are necessary for cleanliness it makes perfect sense. Nothing in nature needs cleaning, unless it has been contaminated with chemicals.
Eating food that is difficult for the body to assimilate creates toxins that need to leave the body somehow, and often this is through the skin, creating body odours. I find that when I don’t eat refined sugar, I feel healthier, don’t need to use soap or deodorant and don’t need to brush my teeth so often. For other people it might be meat, alcohol, caffeine or food additives that create smells or health problems.
Most of the hygiene products on the market are poisonous to our bodies and our surroundings. You wouldn’t eat this stuff, why would you put it on your skin? Skin absorbs poisons more readily than stomach lining. Underarm deodorants are well known to cause breast cancer, and yet most women still use them. Salt, bicarb soda and ti-tree oil are more natural alternatives to these products, but a person with a reasonably healthy diet really doesn’t need it at all.
People having been leading healthy lives for thousands of years without needing hygiene products, there’s no reason we should use them now.
Here are some alternatives to common hygiene products.
Sanitary pads and tampons. Rad pads are reuseable sanitary pads made from absorbent fabric. They are much more comfortable to wear than adhesive plastic. They don’t smell or leak, and are easy to wash out. I wash them in a bucket and use the blood as garden fertiliser. They last for years, and are easy to make from scraps of fabric.
Other options are sea sponge tampons. They need to be boiled after every use, and last about 8 months. I guess you could make them yourself.
Menstrual cups (such as The Keeper and Mooncup) are made of rubber or silicone and they only need to be rinsed after use. This is something I can’t imagine how you could make for yourself or get for free, but you only need one and it lasts for 10 years.
Toilet paper. There is a native tree in New Zealand that is commonly known as toilet paper tree, as it has large soft leaves. There are plenty of other leaves that could serve the same purpose. In much of Asia people don’t use toilet paper at all, and wash themselves with water instead.
Loofahs can be grown at home, and can be used as a dishcloth or bath sponge. They last quite a while and can be returned to the soil when they disintegrate.
Soap. Leaves of soapwort herb form a lather when they are rubbed with water, and this was commonly used before commercial soap production began in the 1800s. Guava leaves have a similar effect, as does a tropical shrub called soapnut.
Laundry detergent. If clothes aren’t stained or oily, washing them in hot water without any products can clean them effectively.
Plastic washing balls and discs. These supposedly clean clothes without detergent. I don’t know if there is a way to make something like this yourself, or how much these cost. According to Wikipedia the science of how they work is dubious, and they are connected with a conspiracy involving Scientologists and pyramid marketing schemes. I found one in a dumpster once (a laundry ball, not a conspiracy). I think that’s what this green plastic spiky thing is, I’m not sure. It might be a dog toy. It seems to work. My clothes don’t come out any dirtier anyway.
Do you really need to wash your clothes, your bedsheets and your body as often as you do? Or do you just do it because it’s habit or your mum and the ads on TV say you should? If it’s not dirty or smelly, what’s the point in washing it? Haven’t you got better things to do?
Sunscreen and moisturiser. Most commercial sunscreens contain lots of toxic ingredients, and are just as likely to cause skin cancer as protect you from it. Better off wearing long sleeves and a wide hat. Aloe vera, a plant that is easy to grow, contains a gel that is effective moisturiser, a mild sunscreen, and good first aid for burns. Coconut and olive oils are also good as skin moisturiser and mild sunscreen. There are some commercial sunscreens available that are made from natural oils and minerals.
Household cleaning products. Much of the paranoia around household germs is counterproductive to keeping us healthy. Young animals and children naturally eat dirt to introduce the beneficial bacteria into their gut that will give them a balanced internal ecology, which gives them immunity to germs. Preventing this from happening will cause illness rather than prevent it. The products marketed to kill these germs are poisonous substances that do us more harm than good.
A healthy household ecology can evolve by encouraging frogs, geckos and (some) spiders that make their home indoors to stay, as they are controlling the pesky mosquitos and flies, and not causing any harm. By using poisonous cleaning products you are harming these helpful critters, and well as your children, yourself and polluting our waterways, which causes plenty more damage to plants and animals downstream.
I find a sponge and scrubbing brush to be sufficient for most cleaning jobs. Dish liquid is the only chemical product in the house, and even that is only necessary for greasy dishes.
Jackie French’s book Organic Control of Household Pests is good for creative ways of dealing with uninvited critters.
- How to have an amazingly adventurous life for zero dollars a day.
- Nature, economics and the free life.
- Get moving.
- Human powered.
- Grow food.
- Garden things to make.
- Make your own waterless toilet.