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Squeaky-Clean Tips

A hot shower is such a sacred part of our daily routine that many of us tend to lather up on autopilot, even if just to relax. But that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. From how you wash to how you dry, here are some bad shower habits experts say you’d be better off watching swirl the drain.

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Shower Too Frequently

For many of us, the shower represents a little slice of luxury at home, and it’s hard to resist its siren song even when we’re not actually all that dirty. Many people may only need to shower a few times a week, or every other day, dermatologists say. Skipping the daily habit can help skin retain its moisture, preventing inflammation, not to mention saving water (and money).

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Let It Run Before You Get In

No one wants to hop into an ice-cold shower, but if you’re like many of us, you’re probably letting the shower run (and run, and run) for far longer than necessary before you get in. Experts say we may let as much as 30% of shower water go unused, which means we’re wasting (and paying for) several gallons a day. Moral of the story: Don’t turn on the shower and walk away — it will heat up a lot faster than you think.

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Forget to Run the Fan

Flip that switch — your house depends on it. Otherwise, moisture can build up on the walls and ceiling, eventually seeping into your drywall and raising the chances that you could be left with a costly mold problem, warns the North Carolina Consumers Council. No fan? It’s probably time to think about installing one, but in the meantime, crack windows and doors so moist air can escape.

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Turn Up the Hot Water

There’s nothing quite like a long, hot shower for a little relaxation and stress relief, but think twice if you want to keep your skin in tip-top condition. Hot water can dehydrate the skin, dermatologists tell Allure, which is especially bad news for those who already have dry skin or conditions like eczema, which can worsen with too much time in a hot shower.

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Wash Your Hair Every Time

It’s hard to fathom for those of us who associate oily hair with “ick,” but removing that buildup too frequently can do more harm than good, leaving hair too dry and brittle, experts say. Most of us can get away with shampooing every other day, and people with very dry hair can go even longer. Using a dry shampoo, sprayed directly onto roots while hair is dry, can help absorb oil and extend time between washes.

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Choose a Soap That’s Too Harsh

Soap is soap is soap … right? Sure, in the sense that whatever you choose will get you clean. But some soaps are much easier on the skin than others, dermatologists warn. Steer clear of bar soaps with high pH, which can strip away the skin’s protective outer layers, leaving you dry, itchy, and more prone to irritation and infection. Cleansers labeled “neutral pH” are a good pick, Good Housekeeping recommends.

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Use an Old, Damp Loofah

If you lather up with a loofah, pouf, or some other kind of sponge, take note: All those little holes that let them soak up soap and water also prevent them from really drying out in between uses, which can make for a “beautiful breeding ground for bacteria,” the Cleveland Clinic cautions. If you aren’t going to be vigilant about drying out, cleaning, and replacing sponges, sticking to a washcloth (or even just using your hands) might be a better bet.

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Leave Your Razor Behind

Assuming you’ve committed to using your own razor, now it’s time to take care of it. One of the best ways you can do that? Once you’ve rinsed it off thoroughly, gently pat it dry and take it with you when you get out of the shower, experts say. Otherwise, it might be tough for the blades to dry properly in the moist air (or worse, a puddle of water). That can ultimately rust your razor, as well as increase your risk of infection.

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Dry Off With a Damp, Dirty Towel

We’re the first to say you probably don’t need to wash your towel after every single use. But as the Cleveland Clinic notes, towels should be dried thoroughly between uses and laundered at least weekly to keep bacteria, viruses, mold, and yeast at bay. Once a week may not be enough if you’re sick or if you’re storing them in a very humid place, and gym towels should probably be tossed in the hamper after every use.

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Ignore Old, Cracked Caulk

Caulk is truly the unsung hero of your bathroom, keeping everything together — literally. When it starts to crack and break down, it can absorb smells and give bacteria a place to grow and thrive, to say nothing of mold and mildew. Apartment Therapy says caulk should last five or so years, but warns us not to wait to replace it if it starts to look funky. The good news: This is an easy do-it-yourself project, even for the non-handy.

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Rely on Chemicals to Unclog the Drain

When you suddenly find yourself showering in an inch of standing water, it’s all too easy to grab a bottle of chemical drain cleaner from the cabinet and go to town. But plumbers say they can ultimately damage pipes, no matter if the label says otherwise, which can lead to far costlier problems in the long run. A better bet, if you aren’t ready to call a pro: Using boiling water to loosen small clogs, or a snake-like hair grabber for bigger ones.

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Let Soap Scum Build Up

While there’s little health hazard here, if you’ve ever tried to clean a shower door with a ton of built-up soap scum, you know it’s no easy task. Professional cleaners say an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure here. After showering, use a squeegee to get excess water off glass shower doors, The Maids recommend, and be sure to keep shower doors open after you’re done.

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Neglect to Install Safety Features

The bathroom may seem like an innocuous place, but the CDC has said that about 640 people a day head to the emergency room for injuries they sustained there — most commonly slips and falls in the tub and shower. What’s more, that’s not just older folks who may not have great balance. Experts say grab bars are always a good idea, no matter your age. Another idea: Non-slip stickers that are less noticeable but just as effective as a mat.