How To Minimise Your Use of Plastic in the Bathroom

going plastic free in the bathroom

Today I have a fantastic guest post from Jai Richard, writer of the blog Tea for Bohemia, on how she is going plastic free in her bathroom

Like many people I strive to minimise the plastic that enters my house: I take my canvas bags to the supermarket, I don’t buy bottled water and, on occasion, I have been ridiculed for taking home and washing the plastic cutlery due to be disposed at the end of a picnic. However it was only relatively recently I realised that plastic need not be an unavoidable fact of life should I wish to be clean and smell nice.

For the dedicated the internet contains a wealth of recipes for cooking up your own soaps or how to boil linseeds to make hair gel. Fantastic! My bookmarks bar is filled with recipes and DIYs that I one day hope to get round to trying, but in all honesty being between houses, with all my worldly possessions in storage, and living in a pimped up cupboard under the stairs,there is a lot to be said for the convenience of simply being able to buy a deodorant.

After the jump find my suggestions for plastic-free alternatives to everyday bathroom products to make your bathroom a happier place!

Soap

Shunning all shower gels and liquid hand soap dispensers is an easy place to start; they not only use a tonne of plastic packaging but as they contain water as a main ingredient they are bulky and heavy, consequently requiring more vehicles and fuel for transport.

By comparison bars of soap are often cheaper to buy, require minimal (or no) packaging and more often than not, contain fewer environmentally damaging substances (for example the detergents in shower gels are often petrochemical products derived from fossil fuels).  Additionally, because you can’t be squirt happy with soap, soaps tend to last significantly longer.

This is a no-brainer, swapping your hand wash and shower gel for soap is win-win.

My favourite soaps can be bought online:

  •  The Little Soap Company describe themselves as an eco-savvy handmade pure soap company. The organic English Rosemary and Thyme bar is my favourite.
  • Soapnuts have a wonderful range of organic, vegan, hypoallergenic, chemical and cruelty free handmade soaps. How delicious does Banana and Buckwheat sound?
  • You’re Gorgeous carefully source products and handmake their soaps using traditional methods. They sell their soap by the kilo log for you to slice yourself at home – worth stocking up the cupboards with.

Shampoo

The same principle applies to shampoos and conditioners as to shower gels – the amount of plastic used to make the bottles, the often extortionate prices and the fuel consumption for transportation does not make them particularly environmentally friendly products.

Shampoo bars are the perfect alternative; they last for the equivalent of approximately three bottles of shampoo, they require absolutely no packaging and their smaller size and weight make them more commercially portable.

If you ever tried using shampoo bars in the past and were disappointed, now is the time to give them a second go, they have come a long way. My first dabble in the world of shampoo bars left me with dry, static riddled hair but now, with the bar I use, I cannot tell the difference from regular shampoo.

Again, my favourites are:

  • I have used the Squeaky Green Solid Shampoo Bar from Lush for several months now; it lathers wonderfully and my hair is shiny and healthy.  (07/15 edit – this shampoo bar is no longer available but try Seanik, also from Lush) instead
  • Soapnuts have a selection of shampoo bars that use the soapnut as the main ingredient; soapnut shells are the only organic detergent that grows on trees. The Dead Sea Mud shampoo is on my wishlist.
  • The Funky Soap Company are a small handmade soap company based in London who sell their products, including some mean looking shampoo bars, conveniently, through Amazon and eBay. They carefully source ingredients to make intriguing bars such as Sea Kelp and Rhassoul Clay shampoo.

Hair Care and Styling Products

Despite searching high and low, I have yet to find a convenient alternative to the readily available hair products my partner depends on.  The best I have been able to find is Natural Hair Sculpting Wax from the Go Eco Store (edit 02/06/14 – currently unavailable).  Ecocentric also have  has some incredible looking hair products but they are not a cheap alternative.  They sell styling wax, heat styling protection pomade  and conditioning treatments that all avoid using plastics.

Sadly with their high prices and postage costs and often less than generous serving portions, this is one of the less convenient changes to make. As for hairsprays and other such holding products, I think DIYs might be the most realistic, plastic free alternative.

Toothbrushes

Since discovering their existence I have exclusively used bamboo toothbrushes. It took a couple brushes to get used to the sensation of using a wooden toothbrush but really it is no different to using a regular toothbrush.  The key feature is that once exhausted the brush is fully biodegradable (although in our house they tend to get used for kindling).  I get mine from Save Some Green.

If wooden toothbrushes really aren’t your thing you could try Preserve Toothbrushes; a plastic toothbrush that is ‘made from yoghurt cups’. You aren’t removing the plastic from your bathroom but you are minimising the damage caused by that plastic (although annoyingly they are packaged in plastic).

Toothpaste

Of all the changes I have made in my bathroom habits, changing my toothpaste was the biggie for me.  Whilst I can experiment with deodorants and shampoos, safe in the knowledge that the worst case scenario is I pong a bit – sensitive teeth and a dislike of the dentists mean compromise in the tooth department is not an option.

Whilst lots of ‘eco’ toothpastes are available, almost all use plastic packaging.  Toms of Maine were one of the few that used aluminium cases which could be recycled however they too have reverted to plastic recently (and in all honesty, the process that makes aluminium isn’t really all that grand).

In the end, after reading about lots of different tooth powders, I went for the most easily available option in the UK – Lush’s Toothy Tabs.  These come in a cardboard box containing 40 toothpaste tablets, which you chew on.  Once you’ve chewed on them they foam the same as regular toothpaste and then you brush your teeth as you would normally. Like tubed toothpaste, different tabs have different properties: Dirty is your bog-standard toothpaste; Atomic has antibacterial and antiseptic properties for combating particularly bad breath; whilst Sparkle is the one to pick for tooth whitening. (October 2015 edit: these flavours are no longer available – but look here to see the ones which are)

Once you get past the weirdness of a non-tube based toothpaste, this has been both my most reluctant and my favourite change so far. In fact, when you forget to pack your toothy tabs and are required to borrow regular toothpaste at a friend’s house, you will be in awe that you ever could stand such a sludgy, saccharine product.

Deodorant

Again the market is saturated with ‘eco’ deodorants, all of which are heavy on the plastic; for example the Pit Powder deodorants look great, but you can only buy the product in a plastic pot.

Over the past few years I have tried many times to get along with the crystal deodorants that you can buy but, whilst some people swear by them, I never felt that they really worked for me. On quiet, wintery days they suffice but even mention the word exercise and their powers begin to fade.

I believe Lush deodorant bars are the best option available; they are basically a roll-on deodorant without the plastic. I have used Aromaco for the last six months have no plans to change.

Bath Time Luxuries

Bath time is probably the highlight of my week and it is also probably the one of the easiest bathroom functions to keep plastic free.

  • Lush have a colourful selection of bubble bath bars, the perfect alternative to traditional liquid bubble bath, a little crumbled into running water goes a long way.
  • The Oakwood Soaperie sell perfect looking, luxurious bubble bath bars and bath bombs at affordable prices
  • The Eco Bath Company sell therapeutic, calming bath bombs either individually or by the kilo for the heavy duty soakers among us

I hope this guide helps you make a few changes to your bathroom shopping list.  A lot of Lush products have been included here because I depend on their products every single morning and I am a sucker for convenience – being able to get everything in one place is very appealing!  This by no means makes them the only or best product available – but they work for me!

Thanks Jai – what a great read!  It’s certainly made me think about the products I use, what about you?  

Be sure to have a read of Tea for Bohemia – it’s Jai’s daily chronicle, in which she documents her daily life and the simple things she does to help the environment .  It’s a daily favourite of mine.

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15 comments

  1. I would love to find a soap shampoo, but no luck yet. All the lush ones dry my hair out something terrible, even the one that supposedly had conditioner in. And I can’t really afford to keep buying stuff that doesn’t work, so that project is shelved for a while. but if i ever feel like trying again, I’ll have the resources here, so thanks!

    Reply
    • I think bar shampoo is a bit like marmite – people either love it or hate it. It must depend on your hair type. Last time I was in Lush they were quite good at offering small free samples, so it might be worth asking for some?

      Reply
  2. Can’t get into the tooth tab things. Tried them before and they just didn’t feel right. Love shampoo bars though. Lush’s Godiva is my favourite! In fact I rate pretty much everything from Lush – minus the tooth tabs! They are pretty good for samples too.

    The Body Shop did a range for a while that were eco friendly, no SLS and no parabens and it was designed to be more green-friendly once it went down the plughole. Quick look on their website and it seems they’ve discontinued it. Shame!

    Some great recommendations in this article, going to check out some of the ones I’ve not come across before.

    Reply
  3. This has given me lots to think about. The toothpaste tablets seem weird, coupled with the fact that the mere mention of Lush has my husband wheezing asthmatically, perhaps need to keep that one on the down low for a while.
    Bamboo toothbrushes must be investigated. I love bamboo knitting needles so surely a fit made in heaven?

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    • I know what you mean, I find the smell of Lush a bit over-powering – especially the fact that you can smell the store from 200 yards away!

      Bamboo knitting needles sound divine!

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  4. I made the switch to a plastic-less bathroom a few years ago, but I gave up with the bar shampoos as I didn’t like them very much. I’ve been using the Lush shampoos that come in the black tubs (like Big, which is my favourite), as you can take the tubs back to the store to be recycled.

    Face washes I’ve given up on entirely, because my skin is oily and I buy special washes. There’s little on the market that’s packaging-free and actually does what it claims to do!

    The only other thing I’ve had a problem with is razors. I use a re-usable one to cut waste, as you only switch out the head, but I’m not sure there’s a better solution than that?

    For hairbrushes, I like both the Botanics wood ones that Boots sell, and the ones that the Body Shop sell. There’s a lot of choice in that department (I have short hair so don’t have any specific brush requirements!).

    Reply
    • Thanks for your tips Millie! I love Big! When I was pregnant I wilted rather than bloomed – my hair went flat and oily within hours of washing. Big was the only thing that helped – it did take me a while to get used to the texture of it and the smell (it’s a bit pungent) but my hair looked so much better! It is expensive but was definitely worth it for how it made me feel!

      I don’t use face washes either, I just use whatever I use in the shower – be it soap or shower gel! I just make sure I moisturise afterwards (Weleda Skin Food is my favourite) and my skin is fine.

      I use an epilator for hair removal – it is plastic and runs off of electricity but I’ve had it for some time and it doesn’t generate any waste – you don’t have to buy any disposable parts for it. It’s a little sore to start with but you soon get used to it. It also hurts more the longer the hair is so I tend to use it maybe once a week or fortnight.

      And I agree, so much choice when it comes to wooden hairbrushes and combs!

      Reply
  5. Great post! Very pleased of course to see soap being promoted over plastic-packaged shower gel.

    In terms of shampoo bars not always working well, you might be interested to read a post I wrote recently on some of the reasons this can be:

    Its also worth bearing in mind that shampoo bars are not all created equal.

    In terms of Lush shampoo bars causing dryness, this could be because they are not shampoo bars in the classic sense, but more like solid versions of ‘normal shampoo’ as they contain the (drying and potentially harmful) chemical sodium lauryl sulfate (as opposed to simply saponified oils).

    Classic (true) shampoo bars are entirely different, and when you find the right one for you hair and water type, generally work very well.

    As you’ll read in my post though, there is often an adjustment period, and for a minority of people, they sadly just don’t seem to work.

    ~Eliza from ALL NATURAL SOAP Co

    Reply
    • Thanks for this Eliza – very interesting! I did always wonder about the SLS in Lush shampoos, even their shampoo bars. Keen to give some other ones a go!

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  6. What a lovely article, and thank you so much for giving my little biz Oakwood Soaperie a mention. I’m delighted to hear of a fellow championner of traditional method soaps and bathing products, who’s core ethos is raising the profile of green beauty solutions and reducing packaging, waste and chemical ingredients. Keep up your amazing work, your blog is a delight! – Ceri Aitman, Maker and Owner at Oakwood Soaperie

    Reply
  7. Unfortunately, Lush now package toothy tabs in plastic bottles. They say customers complained about the cardboard getting damp :(

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  8. I’m really keen to give this a go and am just starting on my plastic free journey. Have you found any facial skincare without the plastic? I’ll definitely be heading to lush for shampoo and toothpaste but their skincare is still in plastic.

    Reply

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