When EJ Otto, 29, of Bustleton, packs for the Shore, he makes sure to bring baby powder. For himself.
And even if he forgets it, it’s OK. He’s got extra in his car.
It was his mom, Lori, who tipped him off to the beach hack. When EJ and his sister were younger and would rinse off in the ocean before heading home, Mom would use baby powder to remove any leftover sand. He’s adopted the product into his own beach routine, and some of his friends even rely on him to bring it, he said.
“It’s just something that I’ve been doing ever since I’ve been a teenager," he said.
He’s not alone. The Inquirer recently asked readers for their ultimate beach hacks. We got a lot of responses, ranging from aloe cubes to heal sunburns to fitted sheets to keep sand off beach towels. But many joined Otto’s chorus, swearing by baby powder as a trick to get sand off hands and feet.
The reason it works comes down to absorption. Joseph Greco, a principal scientist with Johnson & Johnson, said the cornstarch found in baby powder and sand will battle it out for the water on your skin — they’re both hydrophilic. And in that battle, the cornstarch wins.
Greco is aware that the company’s baby powder doubles as a Shore hack, though he hasn’t taken advantage of it himself.
“It’s almost like a replacement," he said. "So, you’ve found something that’s even more water-loving than sand to ... absorb the moisture, and it’s allowing the sand to dry and kind of fall off your skin.”
He said that while cornstarch- and talc-based powders both work, cornstarch baby powders work best because of “the way the particles are made up.”
Of course, baby powder wasn’t the only advice. From U-locks to bungee cords, here are some of your responses.
Tablecloths: For a dry ride home, Nancy, 67, of Villas, N.J., recommends investing in a cheap vinyl tablecloth with flannel backing. Drape the backseat with the flannel side facing up to make sure the kids don’t get the car wet.
Milk jugs: If you’ve run out of baby powder, fill up some empty milk jugs with water to rinse off sandy hands and feet, suggests Maggie Beck of Riverton.
Socks: Is it the sand’s sizzling temperature you’re concerned about? Wear socks, Joanne Kissinger wrote.
Paintbrushes: The sand-removal tips don’t stop at milk jugs and baby powder — Peggy Huczko, 72, of Media, says a medium-wide paintbrush will do the trick.
U-lock: If you’re planning to lug around a lot of stuff, but still want to check out happy hour, Bridget Cigler, 21, of Philadelphia, recommends bringing a bike lock to tie up chairs, umbrellas, and other equipment outside the bar or restaurant.
Condiment packets and frozen water bottles: Have a million of those condiment packets? Don’t throw them away, advises Nellie of Williamstown. The leftover packets of ketchup and mustard, plus a small bag of sauerkraut and a “giant thermos” of cooked hot dogs, make for an easy lunch. To save room in the cooler, she also suggests freezing water bottles and juice packs to replace ice.
$1 bills: Leave the Benjamins at home. Erica Lamberg of Upper Dublin says to bring lots of $1 bills for ice cream, water ice, or other treats.
Bungee cords: Does your beach umbrella keep blowing away? David Heffner, 48, of North Cape May, suggests using a bungee cord to strap around your umbrella and cooler handles.
It’s all about technique: Linda Levitsky, 60 of Lower Alloways Creek Township, N.J., says “the best way to secure the umbrella” is to dig a deep hole, put in an umbrella, and alternate sand and water until it’s filled. “It is like putting the umbrella in cement,” she wrote. Paul K. of Morrisville also endorsed this as the “sand anchor method” to make sure the umbrella doesn’t “become a projectile.”
You can also check to see which direction the wind is blowing and lean the umbrella in that direction. The opposing force will help keep the umbrella where you want it, wrote Sean, 67, of Florida.
Public transit: Joseph Russell, 35, of Collingswood, prefers to skip the traffic and take NJ Transit’s Atlantic City Line instead.
Bring a bike: The Inquirer’s own Jason Nark isn’t into hunting for a parking spot. He prefers dropping his family and supplies off close to the beach, finding free parking farther inland, and riding a bike back to meet them.
Hair souvenirs: For perfect beach waves without the salon price, fill a spray bottle with ocean water and take it home with you, says Nancy of Villas.
Wind socks: Secure a wind sock to the top of your beach umbrella to easily find your belongings after taking a dip — “this worked like a charm when my daughter was little," said Donna Cammisa, 64, of Swarthmore.
Testing the waters: Before parking yourself on the sand, check the tides to determine if you should set up shop close to the water or farther back, recommends Neal Silverman of Margate.
Petroleum jelly: Not a fan of chafing? Use petroleum jelly under swimsuits as a preventative measure, says Robert Wahl, 58, of Tyrone, Pa.
We’ll keep collecting your responses all summer. Don’t see your hack on here? Share with us in the Google form below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.