Living Simply: Our Go-To Household Cleaners And Personal Care Products
Since sharing this round-up back in 2009 and an one from 2012, we’ve been getting quite a few requests for an updated breakdown of the household cleaners and personal care products we’re using to keep our home (and bodies!) clean these days. We do our best to keep our collections of soaps and cleaners pretty simple and streamlined (including my makeup, which all fits in a bag the size of a pencil case) because less stuff = more money, more time, and more space. So if you’re looking for a few ideas on what you might be able to cut out or simplify, hopefully this quick little post will give you some ideas. Ok, let’s go.
Yes, these are the household cleaners we use to clean our entire house. This J. R. Watkins lemon dish soap sits on the counter by the sink for pots and pans along with this J.R. Watkins grapefruit hand soap (which we use in our bathroom and the powder room too). And here’s our dishwasher detergent, which we forgot to pull out for the picture.
We use Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Concentrate Cleaner for nearly everything else (no buying toilet cleaners and tile cleaners and wood floor cleaners each to do an individual job). We like the concentrated formula so it lasts a while and we can just water it down, which I usually do by around 50%. We typically use a moist microfiber cloth to rub down whatever it is that needs scrubbing (floors, counters, tabletops, windowsills, etc). Our favorite is the lemon verbana scent. Trust me on that. It’s heavenly.
The white vinegar and water in the spray bottle is also a really great all purpose cleaner (we use it mainly for cleaning windows and mirrors). I typically do a 3 parts water and 1 parts vinegar combo in my spray bottle and I’m good to go. I can’t tell you how nice it is not to have the entire cabinet under the sink crammed with cleaning products. Plus the fact that a big jug of vinegar is so cheap and goes such a long way means it saves us a ton of money each year, and I’m not always running to the store to get more.
Oh and toss in Magic Erasers too. You can cut them in half so they last longer, and they’re great for grubby spots where messy hands grab the white stair banister or for cleaning up the marker-dappled top of the art desk. We also love these weirdly named Scrub Daddy sponges for pots and pans with baked on grease and grime.
Generally speaking, the MVP here is our Seventh Generation Free & Clear detergent, which we use for every load of laundry (this is also a concentrated cleaner so it doesn’t take up much space on the shelf). We haven’t used fabric softener or any sort of spray starch for YEARS and don’t miss it.
Occasionally when we have an issue with a stubborn stain that doesn’t come out with just some pretreating with detergent we’ll reach for the big guns: the Oxi Clean powder (which we use for soaking things) or the Oxi Clean gel stick (a stronger pretreatment than just the detergent). And a Tide To-Go pen is nice to keep in the kitchen junk drawer with another one in the car (just in case there’s a spot you notice when you’re headed out the door or already out at a meeting). One in the purse isn’t a bad idea either.
Freshening The Air
A few members of our household are sensitive to overly perfumed or fragranced stuff, so there’s no Febreze or Glade Plug-Ins in rotation. We generally rely on soy candles scented with various essential oils for a really nice non-irritating scent (like this one, which also keeps mosquitos away when we light it outside). This Mrs. Meyer’s candle is also one of my favorites (I take the cap and label off so it just looks clean and simple on a counter or shelf). It smells JUST LIKE the multi-purpose cleaner I use in the lemon verbena scent, so my little mom hack is that I like to light one in the kitchen so it smells freshly cleaned (but I didn’t actually scrub anything down – ha!).
Plants are in this mix too, because they’re awesome for purifying the air (see this NASA-approved list for the most efficient ones) and they look pretty too, so I’m down with having something green in every room. The Eco Me spray air freshener is basically a greener version of Febreze (I love the mint smell best) so that’s nice if something is musty or a room/rug/sofa just smells stale. Give it a few spritzes and you’re golden.
And that little gray charcoal bag is something I’ve mentioned on the podcast, but we love them for eliminating smells naturally. The charcoal basically absorbs extra moisture and odor through the burlap and traps it in there – then you lay them out in the sun for around an hour or so once a month and the odors bake out and they’re “recharged” to soak up more odors for another month. I have a ton of them around the house – one in each room, plus one in each shoe bin in our mudroom cabinets by the door to keep them smelling fresh. They’d be awesome for a gym bag or cabinet full of sports stuff too.
Our shower stuff is as pared down as possible for us (we have tried shampoo/conditioner combo products and haven’t found any we love) but it really is nice for me and John to use the same shampoo & conditioner (which we get in a giant size so it lasts forever) and this giant body wash (same thing, lasts for months and months) so we don’t have double the products crowding our shower or always feel like we have to pick some more up at the store. We’ve also discovered that we’re both oddly fond of big pump bottles so they can all just stay put in our hanging shower caddy. Yes, we’re that lazy and don’t want to lift and open stuff. Oh and I also use our conditioner as shave gel. Because I’m a rebel.
The only extra product in there for me is this Burt’s Bees deep pore scrub. I love how it gently exfoliates (it has those little beads in it) and leaves my skin feeling soft. Occasionally I’ll also use coconut oil straight from the jar as a deep hair conditioner / mask (you have to wash it out thoroughly or your hair will be greasy the next day, but it’s great for softening and detangling).
So We Don’t Smell
We’re not really perfume/cologne people, but we like to know we don’t smell, so we rely on natural deodorant that actually works (we have tired a ton, and I love this one and John loves this one). A note on bodies/smell/natural deodorant: for some strange reason I can try something John loves and hate it, and vise versa. So the way we found our favorites was just to try a few and not rely on reviews or what works for others since it seems to vary so wildly by body chemistry and other mystical things.
When it comes to the ol’ breath, we love these Sonicare tooth brushes (my dentist told me he can tell who uses them because their teeth are noticeably cleaner which made me beam like a piranha) and we like Tom’s of Maine luminous white toothpaste to clean & naturally whiten at the same time. Also not pictured is floss, but we don’t use mouthwash and it’s all good. Dentist approved even!
The Kids’ Stuff
Ok, so we have discovered that you can acquire an infinite amount of kids stuff. And for us, we have just tried to keep things simple from the start. Their bathroom counter basically has two products on it: Tom’s of Maine Strawberry Children’s Toothpaste and the foaming version of that J.R. Watkins hand soap (they like the fun-factor of foam versus the liquid pump kind).
In their tub we keep some Honest shampoo/body wash (love one product that does two things) and the accompanying conditioner. And pump bottles again for the win! We also got tipped off by a mom who told us her kids never got lice because she misted their hair with this peppermint spray that I guess lice hate so they stay away? We’ve been spritzing a bit on their heads before hair brushing during our out-the-door routine, and so far, no lice! I’m knocking on allll the wood as I say this, but there was a particularly bad case of it last year involving a ton of kids getting it (even the ones sharing a desk with our daughter) and they never hopped on her head. Hallelujah!
So this is all of the makeup I own. No basket in the bathroom. No clear plastic drawer system. No caboodles (although I totally had one as a kid and LOVED THAT THING). If you see us at a speaking event, this is all I have on my face (and if you see me at Target, I usually have nothing but lip balm and maybe some salad in my teeth). The BareMinerals bronzer is awesome. I apply that with the big silver brush (mine’s old but this one is similar) and occasionally I use this cover up under my eyes if I need it – but I’m pretty lazy about that.
Next I swipe this Nars Orgasm stick, which does magical things, under my cheekbones and I swipe this highlighter stick (which I am obsessed with) above my cheekbones and under my eyebrows and kinda… rub it in? Next, I put some brown eyeshadow on my lids (the darkest color in the four-pack) and on my eyebrows (sounds weird, but it subtly darkens them just a little). Then I use the lightest color from that eyeshadow kit under my eyebrows sort of on top of the highlighter. Next I curl my lashes and apply black eyeliner, which I’m legitimately terrible at doing (I have a steady hand for cutting in a wall, but the most unsteady hand for drawing on my eyes) and then I add some mascara.
Oh and Burt’s Bees Lip Balm! Nothing on my lips but that ever ever ever. I have a giant joker mouth with even the slightest color on my lips, to the point where blog readers see me in magazine shoots when a make-up person put lipstick on me and say WHYYY DID THEY MAKE YOUR MOUTH LOOK SO CRAZY?! Oh and my favorite tweezers and nail clippers are in there in case I need to do some grooming with those too.
I am NOT a makeup pro (I’m pretty much the polar opposite), but I thought it might be funny to make a two minute video of me putting on my makeup because it’s so fast and easy, and a few people have seen pics like this and said “what did you use on your cheeks?! How do you do your makeup?!” But is that a weird thing to do? I don’t know. Tell me if you’d find that helpful and maybe I’ll work up the courage to aim a camera at my face for two minutes and press record.
This is probably the one area where I could be more minimal (I’m sure a bunch of folks out there don’t have any nail polish around) but it all fits into one small basket and I like painting my toes and nails myself (see also: I’m cheap) so I guess this is my little treat-yo-self category. My absolute favorite brand is Butter London. It’s eco friendly and so so amazing, but also somewhat pricey. I pay because it lasts forever and goes on so well that it looks like a pro manicure for a fraction of the price. I also like Zoya (also eco friendly, and comes in some pretty colors too).
The colors shown above are:
- Top Row: Butter London Shop Girl, Butter London Ta Ta Lacquer
- Bottom Row: Zoya Nina, Zoya Maura, Butter London Twist & Twirl, Butter London Hardwear Topcoat, Butter London Rather Red, Zoya Kylie, Zoya Louise
Weird Face Stuff / Woo Woo Anti-Aging Routine
Here’s where I’m gonna get weird for a second. I don’t buy toner or makeup remover or eye cream or face lotion or any other potions for wrinkles or acne or stuff like that. I buy these two totally natural products that basically do it all for me: Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (it has to be Braggs! It’s the best!) and Dr. Bronner’s Organic Coconut Oil (I use this so much I leave it out on the kitchen counter so I removed the label to make the jar prettier). I already mentioned coconut oil as being an awesome deep conditioner and it’s also really amazing for skin (body lotion, face lotion, makeup remover, you name it!). I generally like to rub it all over my face before bed (if you do that in the morning you can look a little shiny). I have sensitive skin, but I never break out from it – in fact, coconut oil is naturally antibacterial so I have a theory that it actually cuts down on blackheads and breakouts (both of which I’ve had as an adult when using other products on my face).
Also, a word on wrinkles: when we recently shared this picture people asked if I didn’t age. I definitely do have wrinkles, but I have noticed in the last year or so of using coconut oil every night before bed that my skin feels more hydrated and plumper if that makes sense – so it’s less dry and therefor my crinkly eyes and forehead don’t show up as clearly. So yes: coconut oil is my anti aging secret. I’m basically a witch doctor and if anyone has any ailment I say “put coconut oil on it!” Like that dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding and his Windex.
And as for a toner/skin cleanser, I splash some apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball and rub it all over my face in the morning as I’m pouring my tea (I actually keep cotton balls and ACV in the cabinet with my mugs since I do it at the same time). It doesn’t make my face shiny or anything, and it seems to also help with avoiding breakouts and just generally clarifying my skin (also, a cotton ball soaked in ACV and held on a skin tag for a few minutes a few days in a rowwill literally make it FALL OFF YOUR BODY). I know that’s gross, but it’s also kind of a miracle. I did one next to my eye that bugged me so much and three days later it was GONEZO. See ya later, taggy. (*flashes peace sign at skin tag*)
I’ve heard that it can help to water it down if your face gets red when you slather it all over as a toner in the morning with a cotton ball (my face used to get red at the beginning of trying this, but oddly doesn’t anymore – maybe it has adjusted?). The redness only lasts like 15 mins anyway if it happens to you, and then water it down next time if it does.
So that’s it. I’m sure I forgot something, but that’s generally what things we buy, how we use them, why we like them, and look, I even worked skin tags into the discussion. Also I’d love to hear if you have any simplifying products or routines that you guys use at home, so feel free to share them on Instagram or Facebook with us.
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