Have you ever noticed how the ‘lifestyle’ adverts on the telly never have any plastic in them?
This is particularly true of bathroom adverts – that is, the ads that are trying to sell us lovely bathrooms where we can relax and be pampered. There are always glass bottle soap dispensers, wooden toothbrushes and not a half squeezed tube of toothpaste in sight. And yet, the bathroom aisles of the supermarket are the most plastic fantastic of the lot. The labels tell us we need a different shampoo for every member of the family, different bottles of soap for hands, body, shower and bath, and toothbrushes sealed in plastic so impenetrable that you practically need bolt cutters to get at them!
Having decided that the bathroom was next on my zero waste hit list, I suddenly realised that buying for this room was going to take more research than the kitchen. My aim was to source unpackaged products that were as good as the leading brand equivalent, and to cut down on the number of items we seem compelled to bring into the bathroom…
Hair - Zero waste options include liquid shampoo and conditioner bought as a refill (into your own containers); solid unpackaged shampoo bars or a homemade option. Faith in Nature offer a liquid refill service through lots of health food shops around the country. Lush also sell solid shampoo and conditioners bars and even do a 2 in 1. Spiral Soaps do fantastic shampoo and conditioner bars which last really well. I’m afraid the no shampoo option or washing hair with recipes of eggs and honey are not for me (although I did try this as a teenager – once!), but I know there are others that swear by it and there is lots of info on the net.
If you use dry shampoos to refresh hair, try cornflour (cornstarch in the US) instead – trust me on this one. Just a little sprinkle rubbed in works as well as the leading brands.
Hands/Body – Soap bubbly soap, for washing hands and in the shower instead of a shower gel. For grubby garden hands Savon de Marseille is fantastic. I buy a solid block from my local health food shop and cut it in 3. One third is for washing hands, 1 third for pre treating stains on clothes before washing in the machine, and the last third I grate and use for hand washing clothes. All 3 work really well. If you like a liquid soap, add literally 4-5 of drops of liquid castille soap in an empty pump bottle and top up with water.
For the bath, bombs, crumble and other soaks can all be sourced loose. Lush have an excellent range. If you have sensitive skin or eczema (as may son has) the shea butter bar is the gentlest. Alternatively you can make your own bath milk by blitzing some porridge oats (raw!) in the blender, popping it in a muslin bag (or the end of some clean tights) and dropping it in the bath as you run the hot water. This is amazingly good for your skin and so inexpensive.
Teeth - Around 240 million toothbrushes are sent to landfill in the UK every year. Fortunately, wooden toothbrushes are becoming much more readily available in health shops. There aren’t any produced in the UK yet but neither are plastic ones so, for now, being able to compost the end result is a start. Look out for The Environmental Toothbrush and Go Bamboo Toothbrush. They can be pricey compared to the cheapest plastic ones but they last well and you can normally negotiate a discount if you buy a multi box from your local health shop.
For toothpaste there are 3 non plastic options -1) food grade aluminium tubes, 2) tooth tabs or 3) tooth powder: – 1) The aluminium tubes of paste can be recycled but can be tricky to clean out so they can be put in recycling bags. 2) Toothy Tabs are solid tabs that you crunch a little then foam up in your mouth when you brush, leaving you with super clean teeth. They are however a little pricey for every day use for a family of 5. 3) You can buy or make tooth powder. It is much cheaper but maybe more foreign compared to traditional paste as you sprinkle it on your brush. I have been able to source completely loose Bicarb of Soda (rather than in a box) this week so am going to try making it for the first time this week – I will update the results!
Epilation – For shaving try Savon de Marseille or a good quality shaving soap bar instead of cans of foam. They lather well, don’t irritate your skin as much and last longer. Instead of disposable razors, try a safety razor. You may find them locally or this online website is very good – The Traditional Shaving Company. If you wax, you can find recipes for homemade sugar wax on the net, but I have to admit I have never been brave enough!
Deodorant – there are a few non plastic options such as deodorant stones and deodorant bars. Lush do a good range of the latter. Different ones work better for different people. Next time you run out though, try Bicarb and Cornstarch Deodorant – mix 2:1 Corn Starch and Bicarb of Soda in a jar and apply it with a powder puff – give it a go next time you run out and you will be pleasantly surprised.
For Ladies Only… – If you haven’t come across them before, check out Mooncups. I was sceptical to start but after the second month I was a total convert. Most local health shops stock these as well as a range of plastic free disposal pads (such as Natracare). Washable pads can also be sourced online or homemade. Earthwise Girls have a good range as do BabyKind.
General Bathroom – Instead of baby wipes or disposal make up removers, try using washable mini flannels. They are so soft and very effective – BabyKind do lovely ones that last for a really long time. Loo roll can be sourced loose or in compostable packaging from health shops.
Do you have a top bathroom tips to share?