I know that there are really important issues out there facing the world such as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the economic collapse of Greece, volatility in the stock market and the oil slick the size of Puerto Rico in the Gulf of Mexico that BP can’t seem to stop, but frankly I don’t feel qualified to solve any of them. I have, however, solved two not-very-important issues. I realize that by even bringing this up I risk being thought if as someone who really needs to get a life but sometimes small improvements in our routine can make all of those big, serious problems just an eensy bit easier to face.
Are you ready for my big achievement? I have developed a better, more frugal, greener way to wash really dirty hands. It involves changing the triangular relationship between the dirt on your hands, the soap and the towel.
We’ll start with the soap: Soap seems so simple enough but it becomes really annoying over time. Some of it cracks and develops these yucky black streaks, others develop yellow stains in certain places, some develop these erosion-looking streaks on the end and that’s even before it gets down to that too-small-to-use-easily-yet-too-big-to-want-to-throw-away phase. Some crack in half prematurely and others just become too cumbersome to use. Big bars of soap are awkward for kids’ and my small hands, but little bars don’t last very long and can be equally awkward to use. In the lifespan of a bar of soap, I figure that there’s about two good weeks when it fits well in your hand and is still usable. I know that I could use liquid soap but I don’t want one plastic dispenser in my life and liquid soap is wash-for-wash much more expensive than bar soap, although I will fork out the money for our gigantic container of Dr. Bronner’s that we decant into a smaller squeeze bottle in the shower. This idea is for grimy hand-washing, which doesn’t work as well with slippery liquid soap.
Then there’s the towel: I have this vivid memory of feeling betrayed by the fancy hand towel in our family’s powder room growing up. Heeding the advice to wash my hands with soap and water after playing outside, I couldn’t understand why even when I did that I ended up getting in trouble for getting the towel dirty. So when I found myself reminding my own child about not trashing the hand towels I confessed to her that I understood how hard it is to get all of the dirt off before you wipe you hands on the towel.
Here’s my theory: we’re doing the whole hand-washing thing all wrong. We’ve got dirt on our hands, right? We need gentle abrasion to get the dirt off right? We use smooth soap, which doesn’t do the job so then when we use a slightly textured terry-cloth towel to wipe our hands dry, the remaining dirt comes off on the towel.
So here’s my solution: I’ve taken an old, thin terry-cloth washcloth (an old dishcloth would also work I bet) and sewn a little hand-sized pouch. I wouldn’t try this with a thick washcloth: poor abrasion to soap ratio. In it I’ve put all the pitiful shards of soap from around the house. Finally I used a simple zigzag stitch to sew it closed. I’ve put this contraption in the soap dish that’s most frequently used for washing grimy hands (after gardening, soccer games, etc). When we’ve used up all of the soap in the pouch, I’ll cut off the end, add more soap and sew it up again. I considered a small zipper, Velcro or button but I don’t think I’d want that rubbing against my wet hands. I don’t think this solution would work if we didn’t have soap dishes that drain but we do so I don’t think that we’ll end up with any mildewing problems. I even made an identical pouch for the deodorant soap we use in the summer in the shower for what I will euphemistically refer to as “sandal feet.”
Now all I have to do is wait for the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to call.