The ultimate guide to a plastic free bathroom
Going zero waste in your bathroom can take a bit of work but it’s where a lot of waste can be found and significantly reduced. We list all your options here, the facts, and extra tips .
Things to remember
Make these bathroom swaps!
Haircare, shaving, washing
In the shower
Possibly the best time of the day? But the biggest debate of all, morning or evening? Night time wins out this way (who doesn’t love going to bed feeling warm and fresh!). Either way you can make your time even better by being kind to the environment and not creating all that extra waste.
Shampoo & conditioner
Fact: According to Johnson & Johnson 552 million plastic bottles from personal care head to landfill in the States each year if not recycled.
Our favorite shampoo comes from the good team over at Friendly Soap. The Printed Peanut used to package these delightfully with custom illustrations in paper so that’s what we have in our Bathroom kits. Beauty Kubes have the best conditioner (and they’re in high demand!). Ethique bars are another favorite of ours and these provide an exceptional organic selection. If you’re looking for an in-store option near you, Lush has great bars but they do often come with palm oil which we avoid. Plaine Products make shampoos & conditioners in recyclable bottles that are to be returned and refilled on a subscription basis. Seed Phytonutrients make shower-friendly paper bottle using 100% recycled and recyclable material and they’re available at Sephora too (plastic lid area though). Play around with trying homemade hair rinses too if that makes sense for you. There is also the no ‘poo method. It’s not for us all the time (we all seem to have fairly difficult-to-manage hair except for John!) but others adore this.
Fact: The EPA estimates 2 billion single-use plastic razors are thrown away each year. (source)
Plastic razors usually come in a plastic package and each month it means plastic heads straight to landfill. An alternative is going back to what we used to used to do! A safety razor is made of metal and only the small metal blade needs swapping out. We love the razors from Parkers as they’re budget friendly and look beautiful (that’s why we have them in our bathroom kits too). Another good option is Merkur Solingen. If you do absolutely need a plastic razor for your needs we suggest getting one from a subscription like Harry’s or the Dollar Shave Club. They will send you a handle and then each month you’ll receive new blades in a card box package. Of course the blades are still plastic and they still come in a plastic tray but it’s better than the option at the shops.
Note: We also fully support just shaving less and reassessing why you shave in the first place; we all grew up in a society where women are taught to shave pretty much everywhere, and men learn to erase hair from their faces. When you travel we generally all shave way less so feel free to incorporate that into your daily life. You do you!
Body wash & soap
Our body soap also comes from the team at Friendly Soap packaged by The Printed Peanut. Many local bulk-stores also have soap available that you can fill your jar up with but remember to check ingredients as these vary greatly. We also love the soap from Nuddy and Wild Sage in the UK and Little Seed Farm in the States. In Australia, these tick the boxes. These are lots of small, creative businesses producing stunning soaps with all natural ingredients so have a look around and support a small business in your area.
Our soap bags are made from a blend of hemp and lyocell or cotton depending on availability. One soft smooth side, one exfoliating side. Perfect for popping in your soap and washing with it (and saving the ends).
You can get a wooden, ceramic, bamboo or blended corn starch dishes on the market. We like these and these recycled ones. There are also soap mats like this one made from coconut husk. Apparently if you’re a millionaire you can buy stone ones like this.
Puff or pouf? Whatever you fancy these net balls that are great for soap lathering are always made from plastic. The plastic accumulates dirt and is a breeding sponge for bacteria. We’ve got all natural ones made from a combination of sustainable hemp and either lyocell or cotton depending on availability. They’re a bit different to the net exfoliated but we think they’re much more luxurious and kinder to our skins. You can purchase them individually or as part of our bathroom kit.
We say go without these where it makes sense (maybe you can get a glass sheet installed for permanence if you need something?) but if you’re looking to replace your plastic one there are some options on the market! The best of these are made from hemp like this one and these from Rawganique.
Shower floor mat
We really advocate just going a la naturale with the floor if you can or popping a towel down but if you need something try a reclaimed wood or bamboo board for outside the shower. You can get adventurous and try something like this too. If you need a grip mat for inside the shower or bath, there are natural rubber (not plastic rubber) ones available on the market like this – try and see if these are sustainably made and don’t have a plastic backing on them.
Extra triple bonus tip for in the shower: Get your pipes checked! If your shower is leaking you may be losing hundreds of litres of water.
With a little extra
At the sink
Toothbrushes are the easiest place to start in the bathroom so start there! Kids think it’s great fun too.
Fact: 2 billion toothbrushes end up in our oceans and landfill every year. (source)
Bamboo can be used unsustainably but in this case it’s a pretty simple, non chemical use! Unfortunately the bristles on nearly every plastic free bamboo toothbrush out there are still not compostable as they’re made from nylon so you’ll need to cut off the head or tweeze these out before composting (you can simply dig the rest into the ground). There are a couple of options on the market for compostable bristles but these aren’t vegan or only last a maximum of a month (thereby regularly needing new handles). We’re big fans of the mission behind Humble Co who support dentistry projects in developing countries. They do kids sizes too. If you prefer a bit of luxury there are some ceramic handles with replaceable heads that will do the job too and you don’t need a new handle each time then.
This is probably one of the more hotly contested products in the zero-waste world! If you’d like to stick with what you know then we recommend David’s toothpaste. It’s in a tube, without most of the nasties, and made from recyclables other than the lid which is plastic. For a lower waste version there are tooth tablets where you crunch, foam and use. We think some of the best on the market are Crush & Brush and Bite. There are also a wide array of pastes and powders which require more of an adjustment. We’re less fans of these but others swear by them so you can try Love Beauty Foods and Georganics. You can also make your own tooth powder using a recipe like this. This all comes down to personal preference so try them until you land on your favorite!
You can make your own recipe of mouthwash fairly simply like this one or this one. Save all the glass bottles, shipping and ordering nuisance! If you do really want to buy something, Sephora stocks these from Italy.
Cotton tips / earbuds / Qtips
Most people don’t realize these little sticks are mostly made from plastic and end up on our beaches everywhere (and infamously with this seahorse). Hydrophil and Green Kind covers your swaps for these.
Multiple functionalities for products are the best so we recommend using your face or body soap for this one. Most shaving creams are marketing nonsense anyway. Save the money and the waste! If you would like something more specific try these DIY recipes (particularly useful for those with facial hair). If you do really want to buy or gift something, Kairn does lovely shaving oils and kits.
Nail brush / scrubber
We’re not sure why these ever became plastic other than cheapness but the traditional wooden ones are so much stronger, nicer to hold and let’s face it, much better looking in the bathroom too. Fendrihan has a great selection.
Most people keep their condoms in the bathroom and we’re here to tell you we no of no plastic free options for these yet (due to laws and regulations). One of your best options of the bunch though is Sustain. They’re fair trade, transparent supply chains and without all the nasty chemicals. L Condoms are also a great option (they partner with development organizations to support women and HIV/AIDS prevention).
The good stuff
Skin & hair care
We know this gets personal for everybody and every hair and skin type is different so we encourage you to play with brands and make your own to figure out the best natural & waste free options for you.
Fact: According to the Environmental Working Group, women use an average of 12 products a day, which adds up to 168 chemicals per day, while men on average use 85 chemicals per day. (Source)
Your skin type might need a whole lot of stuff or none at all. Most skin care however comes in plastic tubes and cylinders. This brand in Europe do a delightful facial cleansing bar. Sister & Skin Co have this cleaning oil in glass. Kairn has a lovely range in glass beautifully branded. One of our favorites, Meow Meow does this spot serum. SW Basics, a bit of a cult brand in the States, does a number of plastic free items like this toner and cleanser. Raw Elements does a tinted moisturizer in a tin. Jump onto the Hello Glow blog for a gazillion easy to make, natural recipes for your skin (and hair) care.
Don’t buy this stuff! It’s so easy to make at home. Simply use corn flour or arrowroot powder, mix it with cocoa powder for a darker color, and brush it in your hair with an old (clean) makeup brush. We keep ours in a little container so you can dip in and travel with it everywhere.
You’ll need to shop around for these too depending on your hair type if you need something specific but as a start we like Alchemy Oils for hair remedies. A middle option is something like this leave-in moisturiser from Seed that is made from a paper recyclable bottle but has a plastic lid.
Body lotion / moisturizer
Coconut oil is our go-to as it lasts forever and has nothing else in it. For everything else there are some gorgeous brands doing good natural works. You can also get o moisturizer in a stick like this one. This US basics brand does this one too (but you can easily make it). Body moisturizer is also a great one for making yourself at home (and for saving jars to gift to friends). You can try this one for the face, this one or this one.
We absolutely adore the plastic free deodorant from Meow Meow Tweet – we think it is definitely the best on the market (and why we have it in our bathroom kit!). Human Kind also produce these which are made in refillable containers that are guaranteed for life. Some people also find brushing on bicarb soda or baking powder works just fine and there are also other simple DIY recipes like this one.
For a waste free experience you can do a homemade sugar waxing session; try this sugar wax method.
Fact: 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry, most of which isn’t recyclable. (source)
We could do a whole huge guide about plastic free, vegan, palm oil free makeup without animal testing (needs to tick a lot of boxes!) so for now we’ll say do your research and see if you can reduce your makeup collection over time as products run out. For brands, start with Kjaer Weis (all organic, naturals with refills), Zao (made in bamboo packaging with refills), Elate (also vegan, cruelty free and a fantastic website), Tata Harper (glass), Antonym and Besame for mascara cake. RMS does sets in glass and metal and is available in Mecca and Sephora. Zerowaste mascara is a whole other ball game but this small business is trying to do everything right too. As for a makeup remover, coconut oil. Buy a glass jar and it will last you month and months. Simply wipe some onto your face with a reusable face wipe and gently rub over your lashes for mascara. It removes the heaviest of makeup in a flash. Splash, dry and you’re set.
Surprisingly to most, many makeup tools are made from animals hairs and plastic handles. The vegan versions are made with synthetic brush fibres which are plastic and not biodegradable or compostable. If you know of a brand that fits the bill on everything, let us know! So they’re often not perfect as most still use synthetic bristles but try these from Elate and So Eco.
Fact: Face wipes can take over 100 years to biodegrade.
We’ve got these covered for you made from a blend of hemp and cotton or lyocell depending on available. Ours are square to reduce the fabric waste that circles create and they’re bigger so they don’t need to go in the wash so often. One side is soft and luxurious, the other is a gentle exfoliator. You can also mix a little witch hazel or aloe with your favorite oil (i.e. coconut, jojoba or safflower) and use this as your makeup remover with the wipes. Easy!
Most nail polish bottles still test on animals (so aren’t cruelty free), aren’t vegan and have plastic lids. Zao, Habit and Sienna Byron Bay are much better brands. We’d recommend just using old scrap fabrics when removing your varnish but if you want to buy something you can use our face wipes. Mark one for this purpose!
At the toilet
Talking about toilets isn’t really sexy until you head out into the wild for a weeks and realize how much you miss yours. Our tips below offer a few ways you can save your waste in the toilet too. Did you know that Dutchies are quite snobby about their toilet paper (we promise we’ve been given permission to be allowed to say this, it’s Lis’ home country!)? The Netherlands therefore has figured out how to extract this high quality paper from the waste and build roads and other constructions from it (more here).
It’s not secret that we love Who Gives a Crap (you’ll received $10 credit to use on your first order). They build toilets across the developing world and this is really needed. Lis used to work in education projects and one of the key issues for girls education is no toilets. It’s also really helpful with family hygenie and women’s men This will gross some people out but you can also buy reusable cloths for toilet paper instead if you really want to be waste free!
Try a bidet!
You don’t need any toilet paper if you have a bidet! Popular with the Europeans, particularly in places like Italy, and South East Asians, this trend somehow didn’t really make it everywhere else out in the big wide world. You can buy a bidet attachment for your toilet like this one or this one from Hello Tushy which somehow makes toilets fun.
Plastic free periods
This will need a whole guide to itself too but for now, know that there are numerous options and that if you can’t find plastic free tampons it’s pretty much because they don’t exist. Health regulations stipulate that each has to be wrapped in a hygienic wrapper and only the applicators can be wrapped with paper. It’s not you, it’s them. Instead of tampons and pads thought you can wear a cup. Like this one, or this one (the branding wins!), or this one, or this one. Period underwear has also made it big. Thinx and Dear Kates lead the way. Washable pads are also making a comeback like Hannah Pads and Luna Pads.
No robots yet
Cleaning your bathroom is a drag (seriously, there is surely nobody in the world who enjoys doing this right?). The less products in your bathroom, along with some smart storage means you’ll hopefully have to clean less too. Send us a picture of your zero-waste space if it helps you get the job done this weekend! Tag us on the ‘gram we’d love to see it.
Toilet cleaning brush
There are lots of plastic free toilet brushes on the market these days such as this one or this one for Australian homes, this one in the UK, this one in the States and this one globally.
The cheapest & easiest method is to grab your cleaning spray bottle (preferably a glass one) and fill it with vinegar, lemon and a few dried herbs or essential oils for scent. Then, get spraying! Check out the Hello Glow blog for hundreds of amazing homemade cleaning recipes for every corner of your bathroom (and more). Hot tip? Those old bamboo toothbrushes are perfect for cleaning hard to reach places and grout before you compost them.
Low waste can still be high luxury
In the bath
We shouldn’t be taking baths every day (or even multiple times a week) but baths are a luxury we love and they can easily be without waste (outside of the water usage).
Bath bombs & soaks
Wonderful small businesses also make delicious soaks and bombs like this one (Australia), this one (USA) and this one (UK). Lush also have great bath bombs (check for palm oil) and Neal’s Yard have this bath oil in glass. Our favorite method though is to buy epson salts in one of our produce bags at the bulk food store and pour those into the bath with some bicarb soda. Silky smooth skin and good for the muscles to soak in! You can also add a bag of oats (these ones work great for that too) for a milk bath and let the oats soften your skin.
Plastic free candles
Most baths aren’t complete without them! These days you can buy tealight holders that are reusable until they accidentally break (unlike the little flimsy ones packed in plastic from the store) and you can buy naked tealights (not vegan due to beeswax) that pop into them. There are even very luxurious ones like this and Etsy is full of beautiful ones. Otherwise, your lovely local candles will work on the edge of baths and you can shop for them in accordance with your values (beeswax or not, soy or a blend, coconut wax etc). Bon Lux also do these small babies in tins. We’re also big fans of Rewined candles that use recycled wine bottles to make theirs. Looking for more holders you can make yourself? This blog covers a few great ideas.
These are another one of those items that are delightful to make yourself (and make for great gifts to friends too). Throw in some natural salts and coconut oil and you’re already half way there. Coffee grinds work well too and it’s a great way to use them up. Plus many commercial scrubs are these ingredients you can make at home. We also appreciate the many businesses creating luxury scrubs with natural ingredients like this one (UK) and this one (USA). Your local zero-waste store might also have a beautiful option available.
We’ve got all natural ones made from a combination of sustainable hemp and either lyocell or cotton depending on availability.
Time in the bathroom may mean the wearing of a bathrobe (it is one of our secret adult pleasures on team N&E!). We have robes made from recovered linens redirected from landfill. If you’re looking for a new one avoid synthetic materials and go with linen or hemp which out perform cotton for the environment.
Bath caddy / tray
Look we never really understood these until Lis needed to work one late weekend night…and figured, why not do it in the bath? A wooden board kept for recycling sufficed just fine and taking a slat off a wide palette for this works a treat. You can also purchase a lovely handcrafted wooden tray to suit your needs because most people aren’t crazy and prefer wine, an iPad and chocolate on their tray instead. Etsy has a great lineup here (some from reclaimed wood which would be ideal).
Downloading this checklist will be joining our email community. We only send out awesome, helpful environmental emails every couple of weeks and never spam. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Zero waste kit
Unstuff Your Bathroom
Our bathroom kits are beautifully designed in an ocean theme (one of the things we’re trying to protect!). Use them to start your plastic free bathroom journey or gift them to friends and family.
Our bathroom kits include a number of our own handmade items and our favorites from other small businesses. Teaming up with them makes the kits the best they possibly can be full of the highest quality and sustainability and gives you time to play with different brands and options.
Some more tips
Place a bucket in the shower and let the water fill it up (whilst not using any chemical soaps or shampoos) and then use this water for the garden. And time your showers or use a water saving head. We all love our showers, but less than 10 minutes please (5 or fewer would be ideal)!
Low flow toilets
rEDUCE REDUCE REDUCE
Most people don’t need a different product for every element of their skin care, hair care, body washing and makeup. It’s all important but try and work with the essentials for your skin type & needs and cut down on all the extra. It reduces resources and packaging a lot and helps you save significantly too!
Instead of a rubbish bin, make yours a compost and/or recycle bin! Your toilet paper wrapping (if paper) can be composted or recycled. Your hair, nail clippings and tissues can be composted. All our bathroom products can be composted too. Bamboo toothbrushes can have their bristles removed and then buried or composted.
Plastic free containers
Save your jars from the kitchen as storage for your bathroom (they’re great for holding toothbrushes and hairbrushes too). If you’ve got some paint in your garage you can spray them with that too for a different look.