In case you're not familiar, the term "crunchy" is often used by advocates of natural solutions. This is a group of people who shun the idea of toxin-laden products and opt for natural, simple ingredients in any areas of their home.
Crunchy well-being and home living have been in style for some time now. It also doesn't look like it's going to go away anytime soon. If you're trying to be thrifty, it seems like the perfect solution to spending money on store-bought products. You can achieve the same results cleaning your home - and yourself - for a fraction of the cost? And it's better for you? Where's the catch?!
Well, there is one. Unfortunately, the adage about if it seems to be too good to be true it probably is - well, this lifestyle is a tremendous example of that.
There Is Nothing Fundamentally Wrong with Being Crunchy--
The idea is fantastic, don't get me wrong. There are legitimate issues with some of the chemical compounds that this lifestyle tries to eradicate the use of. For example, sodium lauryl sulfate is nasty stuff, and you should avoid it if you can. The idea of substituting complex chemical mixtures in home and personal care is a good one, but it has one downside.
A Lot of the Recommended Changes...Just Plain Don't Work--
Disheartening, isn't it?
Say you've gotten tired of the amount you are spending on laundry soap. It's a huge expense, and it's constant, there's no point where you're done spending on it.
So you go online and look for alternatives. The options will immediately leap out at you. Some of the most commonly offered homemade, thrifty alternatives included some mixture of…
- Washing soda or soda crystals
- Soap (usually castile soap)
- Baking soda
- Salt (often kosher salt)
The recipes vary. One reason the recipes vary is that there is no way that a combination of these ingredients can efficiently clean clothes. The science of it just doesn't stack up, as plenty of people have found to their cost. You can see pictures of clothes washed with crunchy solutions that, when stripped in mineral rinses, are still filthy.
Eventually, using any of these options will deposit a thin layer of grime on your clothes. It might not even be visible, but over time (especially if you have hard water), it will become apparent. Clothes will be heavier and stickier to the touch.
"What about the other often-mentioned thing?" You might be thinking if you've dipped a toe into this world before. "What about soap nuts?"
Sorry, soap nuts are not the rescue we all wish they were. They contain saponin - soap - and that will leave a residue over time.
Unfortunately, this is not a standalone case. There are plenty of other home and beauty products that are said to be cheap to make at home... and a lot of them are useless. In some cases, they will make the problem they are trying to solve worse. The same applies to the above; in trying to clean clothes, you make them dirty in a different way - a way that can damage the fabric. Is that thrifty? Making the lifespan of your clothes shorter? Not in my book.
So what are the other areas you need to watch out for?
#1 - Vinegar for Cleaning--
On one level, this is a very good idea. Vinegar, especially the white variety, does make for a good basic cleaner. It's never going to be able to replace all of your cleaning products, though, despite a thousand and one blog posts saying so. It could also eat into some of the surfaces you clean with it; lest we forget, vinegar is an acid.
If you don't want to use heavy toxins but do want surfaces actually to be clean, then natural cleaning products are the answer. They might not be as cheap as using vinegar for every possible spillage in your home, granted, but they will work. If you spend money buying white vinegar (which has almost no other purpose besides cleaning), then sure, you save money. However, when it then doesn't work, and you have to buy something that does, you spend even more money.
That's not being thrifty; that's trying too hard and ending up flushing money down the drain. By all means use vinegar for small spills, but for real deep cleaning, you need specially formulated products. That doesn't mean that they have to be full of skin-irritating chemicals, but it does mean they have to be efficient.
#2 - Castile Soap for Everything--
Castile soap is a great product if you use it as a body wash. It's easy to make and easy to use. It contains no fragrance, so it's not going to irritate sensitive skin.
However, it's not so useful for the myriad of other uses suggested for it. All soaps in some way leave a film behind; we usually flush this away with water and rinsing. Yet it can take specialist products to fully remove that film.
Perhaps the most hair-raising (that's a pun! You'll get it in a minute...) use of this soap is in washing your hair. This is no different to using dishwashing soap on your hair. It'll strip your hair of natural oils - which is damaging - and somehow also manage to make it greasy, thanks to the residue. Then when you rinse your hair, some of the minerals in your water will stick around as well - aided by the soap residue. The result? A gloopy, sticky mess that looks worse than before you cleaned it.
#3 - The "No Poo" Method--
The intentions behind this are straightforward and practical. I mentioned SLS before, but there are plenty of other non-crunchy chemicals to avoid in modern shampoo. They can be problematic, causing scalp and eye problems for years on end.
The whole philosophy of the "no (sham)poo" method is that you can clean your hair naturally. It usually begins with a tale of how we now wash our hair too often, which is true to an extent. It suggests switching off regular shampoo and conditioner in exchange for baking soda and vinegar.
See, this is yet another "vinegar for everything" problem…
And of course, this is so cheap. Switching from a mid-level shampoo of around $8 per 13.5 oz to a fraction of that? You'll save a fortune. So how does it work?
First off, the baking soda is your new "shampoo". You rub it into wet hair and rinse it out. Great! Except for that level of abrasion is bad for your hair, and can't remove all the grime you pick up just by the general act of living. You then rinse your hair with vinegar.
The result claimed is gorgeous, shiny, naturally glossy hair. Maybe there are some people who this works for; whose hair can withstand the barrage of abrasion that baking soda brings. Those it does work for will tend to have very dry hair, or just be so committed to making it work that they pretend they're okay with it.
In reality, your hair will manage to be both frizzy and greasy. If you have a tendency towards oily hair, then this method will make it a thousand times worse. Now, maybe this is something you can handle for the sake of saving money. However, there are cheaper ways of cleaning hair. As SLS, parabens and silicones are more and more rejected by consumers, the price of them is coming down. Look for a deal and stock up when you can.
#4 - Almost Anything to Do with Acne--
Whether you're looking for an answer to annoying adult acne or searching for one of your children, crunchy is not the answer.
The vast majority of acne is hormonal in nature. As the saying goes: the call is coming from inside the house. You can put things on your face to reduce the problem, but you can't eradicate it without fixing the hormonal imbalance. It's not possible. It doesn't matter if it's clay, tomatoes, baking soda (there it is again) or any of the other cheap, easy options - it won't work!
If hormones are not the problem, then it might be your skincare regimen. Perhaps you don't even have one, which is the first thing to fix. If you use face wipes, stop it. Not only are they expensive, but they can make acne a thousand times worse as they just move bacteria around.
Despite its status in pop culture, acne is an illness. It's a symptom of another problem. That might be poor diet, not drinking enough water or the aforementioned hormonal issues. That means to fix acne, you have to fix the internal problem. Putting things on your skin to make it feel a bit more bearable is fine (clay works well for this), but don't expect an instant fix.
So, is it possible to be crunchy and thrifty at the same time? Of course, it is, but be wary of falling into a false economy. A product has to work first and foremost, so spend your money for the result, and it will have been wisely done.