Money Wasters

For years I have griped about all the throw-away items that companies have created and marketed as things we need. I was so amazed at how fast everyone bought these items. I’m talking about disposable dusters, mops (or mop heads), plastic air fresheners, and various things including the ubiquitous paper towel (I’m ducking now as you all throw your imaginary towels at me for even suggesting the paper towel is not a “need”).

This was before “environmentalism” and to be honest, that wasn’t the main thing in my mind – I just thought it was foolishly expensive! Although I also couldn’t stomach the thought of adding yet more things to our landfills.

Since I’ve started reading blogs on couponing, I’ve been flabbergasted as I’ve seen pictures of people buying not one, not two, but 10 Swiffers or Glade Air Fresheners, or mega packs of paper towels. It doesn’t matter if they’re free or “almost free” they’re still wasteful and give the wrong message to the companies that make them. It’s so EASY to use a rag and throw it in the wash with your other loads or open the window for fresh, always free, air.

So I was happy to read an article this morning on Yahoo by Lori Bongiorno (link no longer available) that may help in encouraging people to look at these “necessities” in a new light. Here are some highlights:

“Here are some things most of us don’t need to purchase:

1. Air fresheners are not only completely unnecessary, but they can also release hazardous chemicals into your home. The Natural Resources Defense Council found
phthalates (hormone-disrupting chemicals that are linked to birth defects) in 12 of the 14 common household brands of air fresheners it tested, including those that were labeled “all-natural.” Open your windows and let the fresh (and free) air in. If your home has a persistent odor, your best bet is to find the source and fix it rather than simply masking it.

2. Bottled water isn’t proven to be any cleaner or safer than tap (in the United States). The New York Times estimates that it costs
$1,400 a year for someone to drink eight glasses a day of bottled water, versus around 49 cents for an annual supply of tap. Drinking filtered water is a lot less expensive, just as healthy, and good for the environment.

3. Dryer sheets can do more harm than good since they are loaded with a mixture of synthetic chemicals that can cling to your clothes and be absorbed through your skin. Here’s a cheaper and healthier alternative to make your clothes soft and static free: Add 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar or 1/4 cup baking soda to your laundry, suggests Patti Wood, at
Grassroots Environmental Education. Want your clothes and bedding to have a scent? Wood says to spray a small piece of cloth with an essential oil and toss it in your dryer.”

She lists a few more things, but you get the idea. My point is not to make anyone feel guilty or defensive, I just hope to get you to think more about how and why you buy things.

And then maybe not buy them anymore. :-)

If you do want to buy something, try microfiber cloths. I love, love, love microfiber cloths. They work much better than dust cloths or paper towels and you can wash and use them over and over.




  1. says

    How dare you call me out on my paper towel addiction…ha ha. I know they’re wasteful but hand towels and rags are such breeding grounds for germs if you aren’t constantly washing them. What is the difference between microfiber cloths vs regular cloths?

  2. says

    Great post!

    I totally agree that this “free” thing is so out of hand. You’re right it just makes the companies produce more! I may not get bottles and bottles of free cleaners, but my vinegar really costs pennies and I feel good about my little girls using it to clean with. I also LOVE microfibler!

  3. Jami@ An Oregon Cottage says

    Microfiber cloths absorb more water, hold dust and dirt without it flying around, and leave NO streaks on mirrors or windows. For years now, the only things I use to clean my mirrors and inside windows are water and microfiber cloths. No cleaners, no vinegar, no newspaper or paper towels. It’s great – give it a try. You can find them at dollar stores. We’ve recently started wiping down the shower with one because it really holds water and I hardly have to spend any time cleaning the shower walls anymore. Yes, it’s a pain to remember when I’m in the shower, but I hated srubbing soap scum off the walls even more. :-)
    I’m not sure what to say about the germ issue- we all have to make our own choices. I know my family is pretty healthy and we hardly get sick and I replace the hand towels about every other day. Rags I only use once and throw them in the wash basket. Do you use paper for hand washing in the bathroom, too?

    Lee Ann-
    Thanks, I was kinda nervous about that post. :-)
    I love my vinegar, too, but I’ve learned to put a few drops of lavender oil in it, ’cause the smell was just so…vinegary!

  4. says

    I don’t use paper towels in the bathroom but I change the hand towels frequently. I am more speaking about germs in the kitchen. I work at an orthopedic manufacturer who has a microbiology department – they take samples and incubate them and test them for bacteria. They took a sample from the cafeteria tables, which are cleaned at least once per shift (3 shifts) and they took a sample from one of the bathroom toilet seats. Guess which was cleaner? The toilet seat! They were using washrags to clean cafeteria tables and they were just spreading around bacteria rather than eliminating it. So with my reasoning, I use paper towels to clean up kitchen messes from raw chicken, eggs, and things like that rather than use a rag. I also clean my sink out with them and clorox it at least once a week. You wouldn’t think your sink would be dirtier than you toilet, but it really is. Anyways, I am a big fan of the environment but I just want to point out that paper towels have their place too. I also love using vinegar to clean with. I just used it on my oven with baking soda and a few minutes of heat and everything came of so easily. 😉

  5. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

    Very interesting testing your company did! I have heard that before about toilets not being as dirty as we all think. :-) I don’t want to make it sound like I never use paper towels- I just don’t use them as much as I used to. I do keep a roll of paper towels under the sink for things like you mentioned. It takes a couple of months (or more) to use a roll if they’re not on the counter where it’s easy to get in the habit of using them for everything. And even then, I could probably do without them, hence my mentioning they might not be a “need.”
    And I really look at lessening my use of all these throw-away items mainly from a frugal point of view – in the end, I’m cheap! :-)

  6. says

    Thank you SO much for this. I’m getting into couponing, while trying to stay ‘frugal’ (in the simple living sense). I read a lot of couponing blogs, and I cringe when I see all the packaging that goes with those ‘free’ or ‘almost free’ deals!

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