Hearing Protection

I’ve used earplugs to sleep for years.  But in some environments, you need something a little more heavy duty.  So back in 2017, I scoured Amazon for a decent pair of ear muffs. I came up with these from ClearArmor.

They served me well for over 2 years, providing outstanding protection – a 31 decibel noise reduction rating.  They’re great for all sorts of noisy environments, but I like them best when I need to concentrate on something without distraction.  I’m wearing them now to write this, while my young daughter (who should be going to sleep by now) is howling about going to bed when she wants to stay up all night.  I barely hear a thing.  And they’re comfortable enough to wear for hours.

A couple of downsides: To provide the high noise reduction rating, they fit rather snugly – some would even say too tightly.  You can stretch them out a bit to reduce the snug fit, and more recent versions have more comfortable padding around the ears.  (The problem is all but gone in the 2019 version of the ear muffs.)  Second, they can get hot after a couple of hours.

They also broke after 2 years of almost daily use (I dropped them by accident a few too many times on hard surfaces.). Here’s what they looked like when broken:

2017 ClearArmor Ear Muffs- broken after 2 years.jpg
2017 ClearArmor ear muffs after 2 years of use – broken after dropping too many times

The amazing thing is, I emailed the owner of the company with a photo of the damage and he promptly replaced them with the latest version, completely free, and also included an extra pair!  Now my wife has a pair to use.  That’s outstanding, above & beyond service.  And that’s why I’m writing this review.  Big thanks to Gary at ClearArmor.

2019 ClearArmor ear muffs - free replacement.jpg
2019 ClearArmor ear muffs – replacement pair – brand new and even more comfortable

Philips Sonicare 2 Series Rechargeable Toothbrush – After 5 months

I was surprised to see this Sonicare toothbrush under $40 at Amazon a few months ago, and went ahead and bought it.

Sonicare 2 Series

Pros:

  • Seems to clean pretty well.  Leaves teeth feeling shiny.  Nice to have that fresh from the dentist feeling every morning.
  • My brother has what appears to be pretty much the same model for several years and it’s still going, so durability is good.
  • My dental hygienist recommended it.
  • The included brush head is durable and lasts longer than 3 months, at least for me.
  • Comes with a coupon for $4 off replacement brush heads.

Cons:

  • Replacement brush heads, even with the coupon, cost a lot.  My brother got one of the cheaper knockoff replacement brush heads and I can see little strands of bristles hanging out.  (not frayed, but almost falling out)  So I’m going to wait for a deal on the genuine ones.
  • The included brush head is pretty small in comparison to your average manual toothbrush, perhaps 60% of the size.  You can buy bigger (and softer) ones.
  • The instructions say to brush for 2 minutes on the fronts and backs of your teeth, but neglect to mention the chewing surfaces – probably the most important part of your teeth to brush!
  • After a few uses, it changes from a “gentle” introductory mode to a more “powerful” mode.  It is quite a bit more powerful, and I wish I could change it back.  Even the gentle mode is too much for my girlfriend, who promptly said she’s never going to use it, and will stick with her manual Colgate 360 brush.

Tips:

  • You don’t (and probably shouldn’t) press down when brushing with this brush – it might harm your enamel.  (and will wear out the head faster)
  • All Sonicares are basically the same unit, with fancier and possibly unnecessary features at the high end.  The higher end ones are thinner and lighter though.

Overall, recommended at this price.  There’s currently a $10-off coupon at Amazon, so you can get it for $29.95 now.

Cacala’s Peshtemal Bath Towels

Bought these super thin but soft $20 Peshtemal bath towels because the Charisma towels I bought at Costco, while still absorbent, began to develop a musty smell after 1-2 years of use.  The smell wouldn’t wash out, even after soaking multiple times.  The root of the problem was that they took 8+ hours to dry, even with the windows open in the bathroom.

Cacala Peshtemal Bath Towel

Pros:

  • Long, almost too long (70 inches)
  • Dries faster than any other towel I’ve used (about 4 hours)
  • Gets softer after 3-4 washings
  • Easy and light to take on trips / camping / backpacking
  • Just as absorbent as normal towels

Cons:

  • A bit like drying yourself with a sheet at first, but gets softer, as mentioned above.

Overall, would buy again.  Any questions?  Let me know in the comments.

Closys Mouthwash Cured My Mild Gingivitis

After getting a new cavity at every annual dental visit and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I ran across the now private blog of Dr. Ellie, a minimally invasive dentist who recommends a particular dental hygiene routine that includes Closys mouthwash.  Here’s what I found after using Closys for 6 years now:

Closys Mouthwash
Closys Mouthwash
Pros:
  • Usually around $10-$11 a bottle.  Lasts about 8 months.  I think this is a fair price.
  • Dental hygienist said my gums look much better within 1 year of using it (along with the rest of the routine).  Previously had mild gingivitis.  Closys completely reversed it.
  • Only 1 cavity in the 6 years I’ve included Closys in my daily routine, as opposed to one every checkup, and this one cavity was within the first year of use.
Cons:
  • Occasionally, I get a slight metallic taste instead of the usual watery taste.
  • Does not freshen breath, at least for me.  You need to floss, brush, and use a rinse such as ACT for better breath.
Tip:
  • You don’t need to use very much – only a sip from a capful is enough to swish around in your mouth for 30 seconds.
Recommended for improving gum health.  Keep in mind this was only my experience – your mileage may vary.  Questions?  Post a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

(Almost) 4 Years of Wearing Minimalist Soft Star Moccasins

Almost 4 years ago, I was trying to find a shoe that was:

  • Made in the USA
  • Comfortable, light, breathable
  • Less than $100

I happened across Soft Star Shoes’ website and found these minimalist moccasins.  They’re like ninja shoes!  Handmade from US sourced materials in Oregon.  Customer service was prompt and patient.    So I bought a pair.  Here’s what they look like, when new:

Soft Star DASH RunAmoc Shoes, with Vibram Street Soles

Comfortable as a slipper.  Lightweight.  But the first two weeks I wore them, it was like learning to walk again.  I tripped over sidewalk cracks and steps, repeatedly stubbing my toe.  The tough Vibram street sole is crazy thin, but provides protection from rain and broken glass.  You do feel every rock and pebble though.

After a couple weeks, I got used to them and rarely tripped over anything.  I actually like feeling the texture of different types of grass, ground, and pavement.  It’s like walking around in thin gloves for your feet.

The feeling of almost going barefoot outweighed the fact that if you peer at them closely, they look a bit like bowling or floppy clown shoes.  The black color helped them blend in, and I was able to wear them to work without attracting much attention.

I wanted to keep my foot hygiene up and rotate shoes so I was only wearing the same pair every other day.  A month later, I bought pair #2:

Second pair, bought way back in 2011, when they only cost $97.

3 years and 7 months later, after roughly 85% walking on pavement, 10% walking on trails/gravel, and 5% street running, here’s what they look like:

Toebox scuffs
Stitching on Heel Busted (Both Pairs)

I have a bad habit of kicking my left shoe off with my right foot, and this almost certainly led to the stitching coming apart on the heel.  Still, I wish the stitching were stronger.  Or perhaps Soft Star could put a protective covering around the heel, as they seem to have done on their stock photo on the top of this page.

Really impressed with the Vibram street sole.  It has held up great, and is still as grippy on pavement as it ever was.  Not a bit of the sole has worn off.  You can still read the word Vibram in multiple places all over the sole.

Now debating: Should I buy a replacement pair of Soft Star mocs for $115 plus shipping?  Should I send these old ones in for repair?  Or should I buy a different type of made in USA moccasin or chukka boot for twice the price?  What do you think?