Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

When Less Is Best

The dishwasher was crammed full of dirty dishes, company would be arriving shortly and (wouldn’t you know it) I had only enough detergent to fill one of the two dispensers in my dishwasher. I decided to use what I had and hope for the best.

Amazingly, my dishes got just as clean as when I previously would fill both receptacles. To my disgrace, I’d been filling both cups since we bought this house nearly 16 years prior. I didn’t have an owner’s manual and it never occurred to me to research just how much detergent to use. A closer look revealed directions embossed right into the inside surface of the door.

Had I ever paid attention, I would have known to fill only one dispenser for normal loads. The second dispenser is for “pot scrubbing” and “heavy soil,” options I never use. If you don’t have an owner’s manual for your dishwasher, research and you may find it online. Or do some old-fashioned experimentation. Start with half the amount of detergent you’ve been using and adjust from there. You may be surprised to find you can use much less and still get the job done well.

And how about that laundry detergent? Just because you can fill the cap or the little cup that came with it to the top may not mean you should. Lillian W. from Iowa noticed that when her kids did the laundry they filled the manufacturer-provided measuring cup right to the top. But when she read the manufacturer’s instructions, she discovered that the cup provided held twice as much product as recommended. Lillian’s tip: Replace the measuring device that comes with the detergent with one that is the exact size recommended for your machine. Now you and the kids don’t have to take time to measure. Just fill that 1/3 or 1/2 cup right to the top.

There’s not much you can do with a quarter these days except use it to measure shampoo. Many manufacturers of shampoo and conditioner give this instruction right on the bottle: “Use an amount the size of a quarter.” That’s not much when you actually think about it. Is it possible you’ve been using two, maybe three times the amount necessary? Start thinking quarters and you’ll cut the effective cost of your hair products by 50% or more.

Is it possible you, like I, have been using the “dump method” of measuring everything from detergent to toiletries to plant food and furniture polish? I think it’s not only possible but also quite likely. It’s so easy to do because we get in a hurry. Somehow, we figure if a little is good more will be better. But it’s not.

Too much detergent in the washing machine means detergent buildup in your clothes and linens that will leave them dingy, gray, feeling rough to the touch and irritating to the skin. Too much shampoo, dishwasher detergent, conditioner, plant food and furniture polish means money down the drain.

As you go through the coming week, make it a point to read the directives on the products you use. Take the time to follow them. And remember, each time you measure and choose to use less, it’s like money in the bank.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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