Thursday favorites: Shameful products

You buy shade grown coffee. You try not to eat meat. You never buy products that aren’t cruelty free. You scorn SUVs. You only use cage free eggs and milk with no growth hormones. You shun Nikes and the sweatshops that churn them out. You make sure the salmon is wild caught and, if possible, Alaskan. You recycle. You bring your own shopping bags. You only shine your halo with all-natural free trade halo polish.

And yet . . .

Isn’t there that one nasty wrong product you know you shouldn’t keep buying/eating/wearing/using/pouring into the drains that run straight to your ocean, yet when you’ve tried to replace it with something more, you know, right, you find yourself sneaking back to it?

Of course we all have the occasional food vices, I’m assuming—for some it’s the diet Pepsi loaded with cancerous Aspartame that you use to wash down your organic greens; for others it’s the occasional Quarter Pounder (“it’s only when I’m stuck on the I-5 and there’s nothing else to eat till after the Grapevine”; “I just went through the drive-thru for some coffee”) or the smoke you share “only when I’m drinking;” and certainly you’ve all fallen prey occasionally to the 3:25 p.m. S’Mores Pop-Tart or Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos “just to get you through to dinner.” I know you’re out there, people, and some of you are worse than me. I would never shame you for it.

But what about the ones that you can’t even chalk up to cravings? What about the non-ingestible products that you know you should definitely never buy again, not ever, for real, no matter what, yet somehow they keep worming their way into your cart, your house, your life?

Here’s my story. My sisters and I have an annual getaway that usually involves lots of eating and indulgence (that’s not the guilty part—I have absolutely none for that). One agenda item we have recently added is to tell each other about new products we’ve discovered that have made our lives easier or better. If they’re small and cheap we even bring samples for each other. (I know, girly.) This year, one sister brought special sponges for wiping deodorant marks off your clothes, and a set of bangles she had bought for herself and ended up wearing so much she bought us each a set too. I told them about a dog hair broom that actually works, and brought Trader Joe’s soy-honey-banana granola bars and these makeup eraser pencils I had recently discovered. My other sister brought some delicious candy-coated walnuts and . . . this bathroom-cleaning sponge.

Now, I am a Simple Green type of gal, Method at the absolute mainstreamest. I don’t purchase cleaning products that don’t have the little rabbit on the back that says they’re not tested on animals. I learn about dangerous additives and won’t buy the shampoo with the lauryl laureth whatevereth in it. I don’t want the runoff icking into my ocean OR the cancerousness touching my skin.

And yet. This sponge.

It’s like this. Among the many household cleaning tasks I hate, and they are myriad, cleaning the tub has to be the most frustrating and unsatisfying for me. I say this as someone for whom housecleaning is a pretty low priority (insert understatement joke here), so I really don’t have a big developed emotional relationship with any cleaning products at all. I also say this as the owner of a new tub, one I thought would not mock me every time I tried to clean it if I started fresh with brand new enamel. (Okay, I got the cheap one at Home Depot and it was a bad idea.) After about a year, the tub never came truly clean for me again and, I thought, just never would. Even if I scrub it till I’m bloody, you can still see where the wooden beams run below it. I thought it was my fate in life to always be sort of embarrassed about my tub when guests come, to use low-wattage bulbs in the bathroom so it would be less noticeable. (Apologies to those of you who have been forced to use it. We are not dirty people.)

Since I do not wish to make a public endorsement for such a heinous product, I will not namecheck it, but the squalid truth is, I cannot give up this sponge. It is magic. With one swipe and barely any muscle flexing on my part, my tub turns as white as a set of beauty pageant choppers against a spray-on tan. There were two sponges in the pack my sister gave me. I vowed to myself, despite my awe of their sublime power, that I would just use the ones she brought me till they were spent, then never buy them myself, therefore discontinuing the cycle of wrongness.

They are spent.

Reader, I bought them again.

I feel like a bad person. I should not buy this sponge. But oh, this sponge works.

Is anyone else out there who’s neurotic enough to feel guilt over using a product that isn’t even food?

That’s my entry for this list. My name is Stephanie and I bought the sponge. Please make me feel better by sharing your own shame.

16 responses to “Thursday favorites: Shameful products”

  1. Rachel says:

    C’mon, Steph. We all have recalcitrant tubs. We have to know: what’s the name of the freakin’ sponge? Reply off-site if necessary.

    You pose a very intriguing question. In my city, ethical consumerism is definitely a moral issue. Consequently, when I transgress, I do so in a big way, saving up karma points and blowing them all on, say, Drano. Or sneakers I know, deep down, were made by sweatshop labor.

    Food is a separate question altogether. I try to make good decisions on a daily basis, but refuse to say categorically, “I won’t eat veal / foie gras / whatever.” Life is full of experiences that should be savored, if only seldom–hell, if only once.

  2. Rachel says:

    P.S. Steph’s shower is really not bad at all. (Either that, or the low-wattage light bulbs really work miracles.)

  3. Dave says:

    You know, I don’t think there are any products I buy that I spend time feeling guilty about. Maybe airline tickets — all those greenhouse gasses. And I’d probably feel bad if I had a kid, ’cause of all the diapers. Otherwise, I live in denial.

  4. LT says:

    your tub is clean but you are a dirty sponge buyer. and i love you for it.

    yesterday, i got high on nail polish remover as I painted my toenails. this was right after i poured a little bit of bleach into each toilet to remove hard water stains. guilty, guilty.

  5. swells says:

    well, I can’t come out and endorse the product . . . that would be wrong . . . but let’s just say there is a large bald threatening man on it with a gleam in his overly Aryan eye. Even the packaging offends me!

  6. Jeremy says:

    I felt pretty guilty yesterday after that hamburger you made me eat…

  7. Gale says:

    Some things in life are simply spongeworthy.

  8. Rachel says:

    That’s what she said?

  9. Tim says:

    You only shine your halo with all-natural free trade halo polish.


  10. Kate the Great says:

    Stephanie, my guilt is that I’m a cashier for a store that only offers plastic bags to their customers. My boss tells me to bag everything, and when they’ve got multiple items, bag them so the chemicals (like cleaning products or car oil) and the food (even if it’s encased in more plastic) don’t mix. I don’t always follow her rule and try, rather, to get as many items in one bag as possible. And sometimes, if they’re only breezing through and buying gum, I just hand it to them after they pay for it.

  11. ruben says:

    My large front lawn is expensive, environmentally unfriendly, and I don’t even receive that much “satisfaction” from it…unlike that wickedly efficient cleaning product you’ve now got us itching to try.

  12. Adriana says:

    Ah, I know the sponge well. Sponge! Why do you do such a great job of erasing scuff marks off of walls?

    I just switched to a new kitty litter that works way, way better than the eco-friendly feline pine we were using before. Its packaging claims to have “natural” ingredients, but it doesn’t mention what those ingredients are and I’m not about to try and find out.

  13. J-Man says:

    I drive to work. I could take the bus. I drive to the Sunday farmer’s market. I could ride my bike. But there’s just not enough time in the day. Plus which, I don’t drive in a gas-friendly way. I drive like a bat outta hell. My driving motto is, “I don’t have time for this shit”.

  14. MF says:

    My guilt is not so much about a product but a service that uses lots of bad products. You know what it is… Laundry service.

    I drop my clothes off, the curmudgeonly Russian woman tags them, then proceeds to filling washing machines with very guilt-inducing detergents.

    But how can I go back to doing my own laundry? For the small price of $12. per week, I get three hours of my time back.

    so it is…

    I confess

  15. Mark says:

    Two things: Hot Tamales (the candy, not the traditional food of the indigenous American peoples, nor the capital of the northern region of Ghana), and a Microsoft/MSN email account I only use now for those required email addresses you so often need when registering for websites that are likely to send you spam.

    I have an unhealthy obsession with the Hot Tamales, and the email addy, it’s not that I hate Microsoft, but somehow I’m embarrassed every time I use it. At least it’s not an AOL address.

  16. Rachel says:

    zomg i tried the sponge. am ruined forever.