Clean Body – The Humble Art of Zen-Cleansing Yourself

“Pilgrims traveled, pirates pillaged, cowboys rustled, prairie women homesteaded, and explorers sailed from one flat edge of the planet to the other without any need for cuticle cream, pop-up wipes, or volumizing shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one treatments. And even despite the lack of indoor plumbing, most found adequate ways to keep clean — well, once they realized that bathing was actually good for them.” — Michael DeJong, Clean Body: The humble art of zen-cleansing yourself

If you enjoy tongue-in-cheek humor and are looking for practical cleaning tips using old-fashioned ingredients, Clean Body will provide you with a full ration of both. Author Michael deJong, a self-described “clean freak,” takes readers back to the absolute basics of cleanliness (he actually describes how to wash your hands) with five simple ingredients:

  • baking soda
  • lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • white vinegar

DeJong’s green-cleaning recipes cover the essentials for taking care of every part of your body, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet — and all points (yes, all points) in between. Much of his advice is practical:

  • Salt water used as an astringent to heal blemishes
  • White vinegar spritzed on sunburned skin to relieve the pain
  • Lemon rubbed on elbows and knees to bleach discolored skin
  • Baking soda paste used to smooth the rough patches on elbows and knees
  • Olive oil used as an overnight foot moisturizer (cover your feet with clean, white cotton socks)

The book is filled with other tips that cost only pennies and accomplish the same purposes as the far-more-expensive treatments you can find in stores. As DeJong points out, a huge percentage of the body, bath, and beauty products we use on our bodies have never been safety tested. His old-time remedies are made from basic ingredients that are safe enough to eat. Your grandma (or her grandma) may have known all these tips, but most of us today rely on store-bought treatments, creams, and potions. We have no idea what to mix together or how much. Clean Body solves that problem.

A Word of Caution

There’s one piece of advice I found to be particularly bad, however. DeJong gives recipes for two types of vaginal douches, one using baking soda and the other vinegar. Yet, according to WebMD, “Overall, the risks of douching far outweigh the benefits.” What risks? Vaginal infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, and cervical cancer. Enough said?

Even if douching were to be recommended, there’s a vast difference between using baking soda (a base) and vinegar (an acid) in a naturally acidic environment. A woman can do her body harm by using the wrong solution. Please, ask your doctor before attempting to use this particular home cure. (DeJong’s advice on this topic almost caused me to spurn the book entirely, but there’s enough other good information in it that I decided it’s worth reviewing.)

What’s This about ZEN?

Though I’m hardly an expert on this topic, the subtitle, The humble art of zen-cleansing yourself, strikes me more as a clever marketing trick than anything remotely related to Buddhism. But, DeJong tells us in the first few pages that he is a student of many religions, some of which he references occasionally in his book. He essentially explains the book’s title with this simple introduction.

Clean Body is not just about bodily hygiene; it’s a philosophy, a mindset, and an alternative to mass consumerism. By combining this with other attempts to protect ourselves, loved ones, families, friends, and beloved pets, we can reclaim the environment, force big business to have a conscience, and restore our little part of the world to the Eden it once was.

In Zen teaching, our mind and the universe are one, and our thoughts and actions meld into realities. In Zen-Cleansing, the goal is for us to come face-to-face with ourselves during any chore we take on. Through feeling, looking, hearing, tasting, or touching, we can achieve this.

Nursery, Gutter, or Anatomy Class?

“As soon as you deal with [sex] explicitly, you have to choose between the language of the nursery, the gutter, or the anatomy class.” — C. S. Lewis

With this quote at the beginning of a long discussion of personal hygiene, DeJong makes a clear choice. He decides to use the language of “the gutter.” So, what’s wrong with using anatomical terms?

If you enjoy crass jokes about body parts, then you won’t be offended by this book. But if you’re thinking of buying it for a preteen or a conservative older person, I advise you to read the chapters that refer to male and female body parts before you decide. (You might just find it laugh-out-loud funny, even though I didn’t.)

The Upshot

The book is filled with practical tips that can save you a lot of money. Better yet, DeJong’s recipes will leave you looking and feeling healthier than anything you can buy on store shelves. And you won’t have to look these homemade products up on the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database to find out if they’ll give you cancer. That’s good enough for me.

Julia Wasson
Blue Planet Green Living


2 Responses to “Clean Body – The Humble Art of Zen-Cleansing Yourself”

  1. Anne Russell on August 23rd, 2009 4:58 pm

    Having actually used white vinegar for sunburn (my mother-in-law wouldn’t take no for an answer, and insisted I try it) I can say that it works very well. The first few seconds aren’t fun, but the “burn” goes away almost immediately.

    Over the years I’ve recommended it to people for sunburn and I always get the same reaction: “Are you out of your mind?”
    Yes, I probably am, but I will buy the book – I’m not afraid.

    Thanks BPGL, you always give me great things to think about (and remember).

  2. Julia Wasson on August 25th, 2009 6:30 am

    Hi Anne.

    Thanks for your comment. I haven’t tried vinegar for sunburn, but I’ve heard that it works. Your mother-in-law obviously gave you a terrific tip.

    Isn’t it funny that people think inexpensive home remedies are crazy, but are willing to spend a lot of money for products with unpronounceable ingredients that cost many times more?

    We’d love to know about more home remedies. What else did that mother-in-law of yours tell you? :)