During the pandemic, some of us may have been showering less (perhaps much less) even as we spent more time sanitizing surfaces (well, at first). As we recalibrate to the new normal, let’s take a look at our cleanliness routines and figure out what we actually need to do every day—and what we can skip.
Shower as needed
There’s no law of nature that says a person needs exactly one shower per day; how often you need to wash yourself depends on how sweaty, stinky, or dirty you are getting.
If you do a sweaty workout twice a day, for example, you may prefer to shower twice a day. And the opposite is true: if your daily activities don’t leave you feeling particularly gross on a daily basis, you might rather shower once or twice a week. There’s no health-related reason to shower every day, so you can decide for yourself based on how dirty you feel.
Showering less often may even be better for your skin, since soap removes skin’s natural oils. If you often have dry skin, it may be worth experimenting with shower frequency to see if less is better for you. If you’d like to find a middle ground, you can always take some of your showers without soap, or skip the shower and just wash any particularly dirty or oily body parts at the sink.
Wash your hair as needed
Your hair, like your skin, has natural oils that protect it. And it doesn’t need to be washed for health reasons, either; your hair isn’t even alive.
So your hair-washing schedule should be determined by how your hair looks and feels. Most of us will probably be better off washing our hair every few days rather than daily. Oily hair may need to be washed every other day (although Dove, which makes money when you buy shampoo, recommends every day). Other hair types will likely do best with washing 2-3 times per week. Thick or curly hair may be best with a once-a-week washing.
But wash your hands a lot
Hand washing didn’t turn out to play as important a role in stopping COVID as we thought it would in the early days of the pandemic, but it’s still one of the best tools we have to prevent us from catching many respiratory, diarrheal, and foodborne diseases.
According to the CDC, you should wash your hands:
- Before and after preparing food, and especially after touching raw meat
- Before and after caring for somebody who is sick
- Before and after eating
- After using the bathroom
- After changing a diaper
- After touching an animal (like a pet), or their food or waste
- After touching garbage
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
In addition to these, I wash my hands after returning home from shopping (that’s a pandemic habit I’ve picked up) or from the gym (gyms have always been gross).
Brush your teeth twice a day
There’s a wide consensus among professionals that we should be brushing our teeth twice a day. And flossing, too.
But what happens if you only brush once a day? Your teeth might not be in quite as good shape as somebody who does both sessions, but it’s a lot better than nothing. (The plaque that causes gum disease takes about 24 hours to form, so a single brushing per day will still do a lot.) So go for the standard morning-and-night schedule if you can.
Change your clothes when they need changing
Do you really need a fresh change of clothes every day? That depends what kind of clothes and what you’ve done in them.
Anything that gets soaked in sweat or that has intimate contact with your body fluids should be washed after just one wearing. That includes socks, underwear, most workout clothes, and any t-shirt that’s wet by the time you take it off.
Sweatshirts, pants, and things like suit jackets can go the longest without a washing: GQ estimates five wears for most things like this, and even a full “season” for jeans. The truth is that there’s nothing special about jeans; if you keep a garment clean, don’t sweat on it, and it hasn’t started to stink, you don’t have to wash it if you don’t really want to.
When to clean and disinfect your house
If you’re still disinfecting surfaces in your house on a daily or weekly basis because of COVID fears, the CDC has already given you permission to stop.
That said, if somebody with COVID (or another communicable disease) has been in your house in the last 24 hours, you should still disinfect all high-touch surfaces. If somebody has been sick in your bathroom, droplets of their diarrhea or vomit could be anywhere, and you should definitely break out the disinfectant.
As for cleaning, as opposed to disinfecting, the CDC recommends doing that “regularly,” with the actual frequency being your choice. For surfaces that are used frequently, like kitchen counters, daily sounds good to us.