Products used in excessive quantities?
February 28, 2010 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Products used in excessive quantities?

I'm curious about commonly overused products. For example, my parents always told me to use only half a dryer sheet per load. I've tried halves and wholes, and never noticed a difference.

What are some others? I'm not looking only for household items, but I haven't had enough coffee to be creative enough to think of a better example than above.
posted by iftheaccidentwill to Grab Bag (50 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Shampoo and conditioner, and in the same vein of dryer sheets, laundry soap.
posted by mrsshotglass at 11:18 AM on February 28, 2010


Dish soap. I've found that adding more soap just makes it harder to rinse the dishes off; it doesn't actually make it easier to clean them.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:19 AM on February 28, 2010


Bottled water.
posted by scratch at 11:22 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ditto shampoo and conditioner. Also hand soap. The pump action dispenses at least twice as much soap as is really necessary. I fix this by either only pushing down on the pump halfway, or by gently mixing water into the soap solution.
posted by Night_owl at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2010


Coffee. I have the hardest time getting the exact consistency I want. Two scoops is sometimes too little, sometimes too much, and alas I'll end up pouring out a cup because I am coffee'd out. I'm afraid I waste far too much coffee this way.
posted by deacon_blues at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2010


Toothpaste. The images shown on the television ads are way more toothpaste than you need.
posted by grouse at 11:26 AM on February 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


seconding food.
posted by sninctown at 11:28 AM on February 28, 2010


Water--overlong showers, overwatered lawns, and so much more.
posted by sallybrown at 11:29 AM on February 28, 2010


Oh yeah, definitely toothpaste.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:30 AM on February 28, 2010


English mustard. The joke about Colman's was that its profits were left on people's plates.

Toilet roll.

Gas - especially in inefficient US automobiles with large, lazy engines.

Plastic cups - rarely, if ever reused.

Electricity - especially in the lighting of rooms nobody is in.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:30 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cookie recipes on chocolate chip packages call for way more chocolate chips than are required for making good cookies! That's my favorite conspiracy-theory tip. (I like using lots of shampoo and conditioner.)
posted by dreamyshade at 11:33 AM on February 28, 2010


Soy Sauce.
posted by amethysts at 11:35 AM on February 28, 2010


Spray tans.


Nthing shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and dishsoap. Also laundry detergent.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2010


My grandfather ran a laundry and dry cleaner. He was also a scientist with a well equipped R&D and testing lab. All the consumer laundry detergents that he tested recommended using twice the optimal amount. Not only did they not work any better at the higher amounts, they also left residue.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


Unless you're making pastries or other sensitive baked goods, it's not necessary to wait for your oven to be fully pre-heated before throwing the chicken in there. Big waste of gas and electricity.

Drawer space- Probably don't need as much as I have, but it's so much easier to throw stuff in there than place it neatly.

Also, any time there's free food, I'm bound to take more than I'm actually able to eat.
posted by alygator at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2010


Rock salt/ice melter. People seem to coat every speck of their walkways with this when just a small amount is enough to break up the ice and provide decent traction.
posted by dayintoday at 11:43 AM on February 28, 2010


Wasabi. Restaurants always put a huge lump on every plate that is at least 20x larger than the portion I use (or have ever seen someone use). I often wonder if they reuse it, assuming that 90% of customers don't touch it. Blech.
posted by parkerjackson at 11:57 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beethoven believed that a cup of coffee should be made from exactly 60 beans. I'm not sure if that's more or less than normal, but I think I use more than that.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:59 AM on February 28, 2010


Marketers spend gobs of money on ads to persuade you to buy products.
. You don't need to use dryer sheets at all. Clean clothes smell nice. I like the crisper feel of clean clothes without softener.
. If you use too much laundry detergent, it doesn't rinse out, and actually attracts dirt to your clean clothes. You can use less than the recommended amount.
. Windex can be cut with water and still clean well.
. You certainly don't need drano in your drains weekly.
. Lots of people use tons of air freshener and other home scents, with often disgusting results. If you must use it, small amounts are plenty.
. You never need feminine hygiene sprays.
. Liquid hand soap - you'll use more than you need if you use a full pump.
. You probably don't need liquid breath freshener, like Scope, at all, if your teeth are in good shape.
. I find that liquid body wash and liquid hand wash are indistinguishable.
. Bar soap is a lot cheaper than liquid, and you can clean your nails by scratching the bar.
. toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, makeup(biggest markup of any consumer product)
. A reasonably clean house or human doesn't need anti-bacterial sprays and soaps; frequent washing and proper hygiene (cough into your sleeve) is fine.
. A lot of specialty products are developed for niche cleaning uses. Most of them are unnecessary. You don't need a battery operated, timed cleaner in your shower.
posted by theora55 at 12:09 PM on February 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


Toilet paper.
posted by lilac girl at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think salt and carbohydrates are almost always overused in pre-prepared foods.

These are not necessarily material products, but marketing tools that have become ineffective through overuse: volume (i.e. noise) and emotional language.
posted by surfgator at 12:24 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Products with triclosan and other anti-microbials.These are causing the development of resistant bacteria. Pretty dangerous really.

I mean, it makes sense to use them after going to the childrens' museum or the subway, but in your own bathroom all you really need is regular soap.
posted by mneekadon at 12:33 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


High end power tools - my table saw will cheerfully rip a piece of three inch thick oak in half with its three horse power motor and a blade in reasonably good condition. It won't do thicker than that because you cant raise the blade any higher than that.

I was talking to the guy who runs the store where I got it a while back and he was telling me that there are a lot of people who insist of giving him another couple hundred dollars for the five horse power model even after he swears to them that unless you are doing serious production work, or working with lots of huge pieces of exotic woods, you just don't need it.

On the other hand, some people buy really undersized tools for their needs but then replace it so regularly that aiming a bit higher to begin with would have made a lot more sense.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:40 PM on February 28, 2010


Wikipedia
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:20 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


"... Not only did they not work any better at the higher amounts, they also left residue."
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:41 AM on February 28

Since the advent of laundry detergent products employing optical brighteners, the intent of such products is to leave some residue. It's a feature, not a bug, that makes your underwear and white shirts look whiter in daylight, or under florescent lighting. Also, some laundry product residues are designed to inhibit the growth of bacteria and molds, to keep you clothes smelling better longer, and to be effective, have to be present in concentrations only achievable by using recommended product concentrations.

But you need to avoid products with optical brightners, if you're in the Air Force/Army/National Guard, and washing your ABU/BDUs.
posted by paulsc at 1:25 PM on February 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


antibiotic hand soap, counter wipes, hand lotion..... everything
posted by kestrel251 at 1:39 PM on February 28, 2010


Moisturizer, shower gel, hairspray, ketchup, liquid foundation, blush.
Oh, and one never "needs" to eye-line the lower lid. That's so trailer tr@sh.
posted by BostonTerrier at 2:05 PM on February 28, 2010


Most cleaning products. Did you know that a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water cleans glass/mirrors beautifully? No streaks! No reason to buy Windex. Vinegar also works on all kinds of stains, weird smells, etc. Add in baking soda and you can deal with almost any other mess. Yes, there ARE some things that require a stronger cleaning product, but they are rare, and the most-germicidal-airfeshening-super-heavy-duty-megaproduct isn't really ever necessary.

Specialized personal care products of all kinds. Whenever I see TV commercials (which is rare; I don't have a TV), I'm really surprised by the zillions of niche personal care products I see promoted. Is a night eye cream really necessary? What's the difference between the 5 different types of a single brand of conditioner? Does toner really make that big of a difference? Yikes! Since there's huge variation in skin and hair and body type and so on, various personal care products may be very useful for a certain subset of people, but commercials try to sell them to everyone as if we ALL need to be using a EVERY special product. And everybody's so afraid of having Bad Skin or Frizzy Hair or Unhealthy Cuticles or whatever that the commercials work. In my experience, with very few exceptions (YMMV), water, plain old fashioned soap, shampoo, possibly conditioner, and something to deal with seriously dry skin (like beeswax or cocoa butter) is all you really need.

I've never used a dryer sheet, or bleach, or stain remover - I just wash things that have stains in either hot or cold water, depending on the stain, soak, and scrub with soap or vinegar. It's always worked for me.

Clothes. You need some, but not as many as most people have. Also, it's not THAT hard to mend them, but most people don't.

Paper towels. An actual towel works just fine most of the time, as long as you're not dealing with something potentially infectious.
posted by Cygnet at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Horsepower in American cars.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2010


Probably #1 is ketchup. How much of that stuff goes in the garbage or down the drain?

All manner of antibacterial this and that. Just wash your hands. I'd rather chance that one or two little bacterias might remain on my hands than guarantee via that hand sanitizer gel that there are millions of dead ones on my hands.

Paper towels.

Toilet paper, for some people.

I guess things like fabric softener and detergent, for some people. I guess I'm more scientific than most people, I indeed use only as much as necessary. Ends up being pretty much what the label says. Too little and the clothes aren't clean.

Dish soap? My experience is that people are more apt to use less than required. If there aren't any bubbles left in the water before you finish, your dishes aren't clean.
posted by gjc at 3:03 PM on February 28, 2010


I'm going to have to disagree with parkerjackson. I'd also like some more pickled ginger, please.
posted by Morrigan at 3:15 PM on February 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pretty much anything that is served out of a dispenser or a bin in a food service business. Napkins, condiments (how many little cups of salsa do you get at Baja Fresh or wherever?), salt/pepper, jelly/jam, butter, creamer, etc.
posted by carsonb at 3:37 PM on February 28, 2010


Water (for things other than drinking)
posted by emilyd22222 at 3:56 PM on February 28, 2010



Unless you're making pastries or other sensitive baked goods, it's not necessary to wait for your oven to be fully pre-heated before throwing the chicken in there. Big waste of gas and electricity.


It does speed-up cooking time (for me) so having a oven come to temp while I'm chopping saves 20 minutes here and there, but it's not necessary if, again, you're not cooking something that keeps to crisp or baking.
posted by The Whelk at 4:46 PM on February 28, 2010


Nicotine Replacement Therapy (patch, inhaler, gum, lozenges, etc). Lots of people who use various forms of NRT use more than directed (ie a patch plus an inhaler), or use it for longer than directed. Or use it indefinitely, instead of gradually stepping down to lower-nicotine patches/gum. Or else use NRT to cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke without quitting entirely.

This has been going on long enough without serious consequences (at least relative to not-quitting or resuming smoking) that several manufacturers and medical advisory groups are seeking to get NRT-products approved for marketing for this sort of use (longer than previously directed or indefinitely). Right now it looks like the regulatory bodies in the UK are moving in this direction, and the FDA in the US too. (Sorry, too late at night to find links before bed.)

Also: salt on food, sugar & milk in coffee and tea.
posted by K.P. at 4:53 PM on February 28, 2010


SPF. I don't really understand SPF, but this comes up every summer when I pull out my SPF 50 & get the lecture about how useless it is to pick spf 50 over spf 30. (I would LOVE to have someone explain why their wrong, but these friends are pretty smart, so I'm throwing this on the list.)
posted by Ys at 5:27 PM on February 28, 2010


Condiments, toilet paper, paper towels.

Food in general at many restaurants.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:23 PM on February 28, 2010


Over the counter pain killers - There's a pain killer for everything out there, back pain, headache pain, arthritis, whatever - read the ingredients it's the same damned thing with a different name on it. Ibuprofen is ibuprofen, aspirin is aspirin, etc, and no matter what label is put on it, and it will not go after a headache or a backache directly. People pop too many pain pills in this country. Jeez.

Don't even get me started on cold and allergy products. First hint of a sneeze and I've seen people shove so many meds down their throat I'm amazed they can stand.

Vitamins and other herbs... People swallow these down like candy under the mistaken assumption that because they're "natural" they can do no harm.
posted by patheral at 6:36 PM on February 28, 2010


I would LOVE to have someone explain why their wrong, but these friends are pretty smart, so I'm throwing this on the list.

The Australians, who know about sunscreen, say: "Use of sunscreens with a higher SPF rating than SPF 30+ is not generally recommended as they may not provide much greater protection but require an increased amount of active chemicals which may irritate some sensitive skins." They also don't let products be labeled higher than 30.
posted by smackfu at 6:46 PM on February 28, 2010


The SPF is supposed to be a rating of how much sun exposure you get. So in the good old days, you slathered on an SPF4 and you could stay outside for 4 hours and only get 1 hour's worth of exposure. Or 1 hour and 15 minutes of exposure.

With SPF50, if you stayed outside all day, lets say 12 hours, you are presumably getting 15 minutes of sun exposure. Barely what you need to produce enough Vitamin D.
posted by gjc at 7:17 PM on February 28, 2010


Fruit juice. I used to know a German family, and the father once poured me some juice cut with at least 30% water, and it tasted basically the same as it would've uncut. Knowing this can really save a family a lot of money over the years!
posted by kimota at 7:37 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fries in family restaurants. Esp. kids' meals.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:23 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


sperm and to a lesser degree ovum
posted by malp at 8:53 PM on February 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


You don't need to use dryer sheets at all. Clean clothes smell nice. I like the crisper feel of clean clothes without softener.

Dryer sheets prevent static-y clothes causes by the dryer tumbling action. If you live in a moist-ish place this may not be a problem, but I always regret not using a dryer sheet.
posted by muddgirl at 6:49 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I use unscented dryer sheets - clean clothes smell without the static!
posted by muddgirl at 6:50 AM on March 1, 2010


In my opinion automobiles are commonly overused products. The fact that most car factories produce two a minute should be a clue to this.
posted by Oireachtac at 9:51 AM on March 1, 2010


Pickles. I get one with every damn deli sandwich I buy, and rarely am I hungry enough to eat a pickle on top of my meal.

Then again, I might have a hummingbird-sized stomach.
posted by Turkey Glue at 11:32 AM on March 1, 2010


If you're interested in more advice on using simple products like vinegar and baking soda and getting away from specialized cleaning / personal hygiene products, Better Basics for the Home is a nice source of ideas.
posted by aka burlap at 1:11 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


About SPF:

It's not a linear scale. The SPF of a sunscreen measures how much longer a fully protected person takes to burn. So if you normally take 10 minutes to burn, with SPF 30 you'll take 300 minutes (5 hours).

SPF 30 blocks 96.7%, SPF 100 (which is ridiculous) blocks 99% of UVB1 rays which are the ones that cause sunburn.

The problem is that with SPF 50 you supposedly have 50 times the protection time, but sunscreen does not last that long. Especially if you are doing something active or near water.

Most people do not apply it thickly enough (protection falls of as the root of the thickness of application- Apply half of what you should, get only a quarter the protection)

Nor do they re-apply it often enough, even water resistant sunscreens need frequent re-application if you're immersed in the water especially if engaging in vigorous activity.

(1) UV-A does not cause sunburn, but it does contribute to skin cancer risk, not all sunscreens block UV-A effectively and SPF does not measure how well UV-A is blocked, so look for a sunscreen that is labelled as blocking both.
posted by atrazine at 3:24 AM on March 2, 2010


My grandfather ran a laundry and dry cleaner. He was also a scientist with a well equipped R&D and testing lab. All the consumer laundry detergents that he tested recommended using twice the optimal amount. Not only did they not work any better at the higher amounts, they also left residue.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:41 PM on February 28 [7 favorites +] [!]


If anyone is interested in the grand-fatherly wisdom of the finer points of laundry, memail me.
That residue, left by overusing the detergent, also attracted dirt, causing the clothes to get dirty faster.

If you use the recommended amount of detergent, or half that amount as has been recommended, once the laundry and the detergent have been agitated together at the beginning of the wash cycle, pull out the control dial or halt the sequence some other way, opening the sliding washer lid often works. Then let the laundry sit for an hour or two in the soapy water. Do be careful, if you forget and let it sit full of water for a day or two, you can confuse the sensors that the machine uses to assess its state, and you risk it overfilling when it is restarted.

If cold water is not at a premium, a second run with no detergent, load size set for small, will make for detergent-free and cleaner clothes that stay clean longer.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:42 PM on March 6, 2010


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