Friday, August 21, 2009

In praise of washcloths

My less plastic lifestyle has happily re-introduced me to washcloths. Somewhere along the line we've been taught that bar soap and washcloths are icky, and a big glop of liquid soap from a plastic bottle on top of a plastic bath poof is divine. Hmm, where does that idea come from?

Now I have a stack of inexpensive washcloths and use them once or twice before washing them. My skin is smoother and happier for it, especially on my back and shoulders. The blog Things Your Grandmother Knew recently said
Skin care & cosmetic companies don't want you to know it, but washing gently with a wet washcloth works better than exfoliating products -- I know, I've worked for those companies!
I believe it! I much prefer a fresh terry washcloth to the plastic poof that rarely got washed, felt slimy on my skin and was even slimier after hanging in the shower for a while. Gross! And those things tended to fall apart quickly in the washing machine.

Not only are washcloths (to me) the cleaner option, but they are gentler and more effective at exfoliating dead skin cells. Like a lot of people I was a St. Ives Apricot Scrub girl. Well, that stuff can be a bit too effective, you know? And then there is the plastic packaging to consider. But much worse are exfoliating products that have plastic 'microbeads' in them- tiny bits of polyethylene plastic that go right down the drain! Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has a more detailed post about those.

Washcloths are great. They are inexpensive, easy to clean, extremely re-usable, and do a better job at cleaning and exfoliating than the plastic alternatives. Win, win!


The Green Cat said...

Ooh I hear you on this! I HATE liquid soap and never understood those plastic poofs. Yick. I'll take a clean washcloth anyday thanks. Organic Needle (another NY greenie) was selling some great organic cotton cloths and soap bags a while ago. Don't know if she's got any in her shop right now but it's:

Anonymous said...

I actually never use wash cloths. Is that weird? I just use bar soap directly. Oh, I take that back. I do use Organic Needle's soap scrap bag. But mostly not.

In preparation for a big family visit to my parents in Hawaii this past week (me, my brother, sister, and all their kids) my dad went to Costco and bought a 24-pack of cotton wash cloths. A 24-PACK! To me, this is just plain excess. We're talking about 10 people visiting for one week. 10 people who don't all use wash cloths in the first place. It was an ongoing joke throughout the trip. "Do we have any more ice cream?" "No, but we have a 24-pack of wash cloths."

Juli said...

Beth: I'm a recent convert to cloths myself, and mostly just used soap directly as well. When I've had plastic poofs before, it was because they came with some liquid bath soap as part of a gift set. I learned then that a poof -or a washcloth- would lather up any soap and make a little go a long way. That, and the superior exfoliation powers of terry cloth make getting summer sandal street gunk off my feet MUCH easier. Of course, I save that for the end of my shower!

I hope your dad uses his double dozen washcloths in good health!

Lisa Sharp said...

I use liquid soap because it seems easier to find, but I use the right amount (seems everyone uses WAY to much) and it lasts a long time so I don't feel as bad about it. If I can find bars I like I will switch. (if they are paper wrapped!)

I have been knitting wash cloths lately as I can't knit much more than a square yet lol. I love wash cloths!

Juli said...

Lisa: Apart from the plastic bottle, I don't have a preference between liquid and bar forms. I'm nearly done with a bottle of liquid, and really looking forward to tearing into a bar of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap. It's waiting for me.

How strange is it that liquid bath soap, which has only been around (or at least mass produced) since what, the 80s? so much easier to find on the shelf than bar soap?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and now that we're comparing bar and liquid soap, I keep hearing from people that they prefer liquid to bar soap for sanitary reasons. They don't like the fact that multiple hands touch the same bar of soap. But think about it: the bar of soap gets rinsed off with each use. The plastic pump? No. I'm sure it carries way more germs than a bar of soap.

Juli said...

Beth: Those people probably get skeeved by where the bar of soap might be applied. Which brings us right back to....Washcloths! They're great!

Anonymous said...

hmmm... The washcloth is a very powerful tool, indeed. Thanks for the yummy food for thought, it got me thinking. Keep a washcloth around and suddenly every restroom with a locking door is a place to maintain personal hygiene. As for soap? It's right there for you :-). Since they buy it in bulk, there isn't as much waste. Although a warning to those who have skin with special needs. Like with Nair, make sure you don't blow up before you try it on your more sensitive bits.

As for maintaining your favorite washcloth, I have one point of advice beyond all others: after use, keep it dry. Mold is a sure way to make any tramp a bad trip. Luckily, the sun does wonders for keeping your cloths mold-free and somewhat dry. Tie it to your rucksack, belt, or belt loop and it will eventually dry. In any case, make sure to clean the cloth before and after use to prevent the build up of grime (on you and it!)

However, if you need to clean your hair (something that should be done cautiously and sparingly, if you want to maintain healthy hair), but don't have the money... Uh... still working on that one :-/. Any ideas? Some people say simply "don't bother," but to be honest... Over cleanliness is one of my favorite vices.