Bubbles, Foam, Pluck and Polish

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?

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9 thoughts on “Bubbles, Foam, Pluck and Polish

  1. Great stuff. My experiences:
    * I tried shampoo bars earlier this year and they made my hair incredibly greasy within a day or two – total bummer. So I’m back to refilling a container from the bulk aisle at the store.
    * I’ve never bought shaving cream in my life. I use the lather from my shampoo – after I’ve washed my hair I just grab it off my head, and it works great.
    * I use a toothbrush with the replaceable brush-head. http://www.eco-dent.com/where-to-buy.php
    * I adopted the ACV rinse in place of conditioner (1:5 acv/water) which I love.
    * I don’t wear makeup beyond lipstick :)
    * Highly recommend FiveSeed for natural skin & beauty care.

    Note – you don’t have to clean out aluminum tubes of toothpaste. It may seem gross, but actually these things all get melted down so a little excess shtuff goes away at those thousands of degrees they melt it at :)

  2. Loving your new blog!!

    I make deodorant using 1/2 c coconut oil, 1/4 c bicarbonate of soda and 1/4 c arrowroot (you can use corn flour, but corn products have so much controversy surrounding them at the moment). If you apply this, it lasts for up to 3 days—don’t ask why I have, on occasion gone for 3 days without a bath! The coconut oil does need to be shipped here I admit, but comes in reusable containers or can be purchased in bulk.

    There are a few toothpaste recipes out there and I would like to try one from smallfootprintfamily.com. I feel it is important to source toothpaste without fluoride which is toxic and without glycerin, which is bad for teeth. So conventional toothpaste in recyclable packaging holds no appeal.

    I am toying with using my reusable shopping bags as bin liners and washing them. (I have small children who forget to put apple cores in the compost and then other bins end up with a sticky mess).

  3. Wonderful tips … thank you for doing so much research for us! I’ve been using a shampoo bar for awhile … I really like it. Rather than a deodorant, I use the crystals … they don’t prevent moisture but do prevent odor and I personally believe that sweat is healthy. Soaps … again, I only use bars which are natural & Eco-friendly (and never tested on animals). I don’t believe that I have anything which is disposable in my bathroom … I’m not a makeup person so a wash towel works for me. Here’s another area to consider … shower curtains … many of them are made of plastic which off gases harmful chemicals … go for bamboo or a cloth curtain instead.

  4. Hi EcoGrrl – thanks for your tips and especially the note re the aluminium tubes. I’m afraid I had to google ACV as hadn’t heard of that. Apple Cider Vinegar. Will definitely bear that tip in mind if I run short.

    I also tried a couple of different shampoo bars before I found the on I use now. The first 2 were hopeless for my family’s hair and I was on the verge of giving up when we tried the Spiral Soaps one which is fab. Also really envious of the bulk aisle’s that you have in supermarkets in the US. That concept has not reached us yet in the UK other than one Wholefoods store in London. We have a few excellent independent stores selling a full range of bulk but mainly in cities… but we are working on developing that trend. Consumer power ‘n all that ;-)

  5. Hi Amy. Thanks for the tips on the 2 recipes – i will definitely look out for arrowroot powder as an alternative. I’m trying a tooth powder recipe with just 3 ingredients as I’m all for keeping it as simple as possible, but I’ll see how it works :-).

    I don’t use bin liners and the kids have now got the hang of what goes in the compost. When they were really small, I left a little container on the side so if they weren’t sure they popped it in there and at least I only had to sort a couple of bits at the end of the day instead of rummaging through the bin.

  6. Thanks smallftprints – it’s lovely to have feedback on the posts and to have the extra tips. I agree on the shower curtains. We have a shower cubical now but cloth curtains are much more hygenic than the plastic ones too as you can pop them in the wash.

  7. So happy I found your blog! I didn’t have much luck with the shampoo bars that were soap-based, but the Lush ones work for me. I send hubby to the mall (hate that place!), he picks up three or four bars, and we’re good for the whole year. (I wish I could say the same for soap…Kevin must eat it, we go through it so quickly!) I haven’t made much progress in the tooth care sector; floss in particular is rather hard to find a plastic-free alternative.

    I’m a menstrual cup convert, too!

  8. I am trying some dental floss made by Radius, which I am buying off Amazon. They do a silk one and another one—cranberry flavoured, but not sure what the string is.

  9. Hi Amy – thanks so much for the comment. I think I must have quite gappy teeth as I don’t seem to be have to floss much and have been using up a pack of floss that I have had for ages. But I have been researching what I could use as an alternative once its gone. The only thing that I have been able to find is a metal gum stimulator. They apparantly work just as well to remove plaque and aid healthy gums. I found a good ‘how to’ here – http://www.ehow.com/how_2216952_use-gum-stimulator.html

    If you clean the rubber tip properly it seems even they last for ages. The metal ones retail for about £10 and Butler seem to be the make to get – http://uk.shopping.com/Butler-Butler-G-U-M-Gum-Stimulator-Step-3-1-stimulator/info.

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