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How to reduce plastic in your bathroom

With so many different products on our bathroom shelves, the smallest room is a big source of plastic waste in the home.

Here are some of The Green Shopper's top tips for plastic-free alternatives for common bathroom and beauty products.

How to avoid plastic in soaps and shampoo

Solid soap and shampoo bars 

Swap shower gel and handwash which come in plastic bottles for a bar of solid soap, which is usually packaged loose or in cardboard or paper. If you use solid soap, save the tiny stubs and pop them into a sisal bag for a natural body scrub!

If you buy solid bars, make sure to check the ingredients if you are vegetarian or vegan — some solid soaps may contain sodium tallowate, made from rendered animal fat. Stearic acid and glycerin in soap can be animal derived, plant derived or synthetic, so check the label for vegetarian or vegan certification. Read the separate article about animal ingredients in cosmetics to find out what else to look out for. 

Re-fills for handwash and shampoo 

Another zero-waste option is to choose refillable liquid soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. More companies are now selling their products as refillable options, either through local shops, or online. If you buy online you can often buy large 5 litre or even 20 litre containers, which saves on plastic. If you have a local shop which has a re-fill section you can take your own container and re-fill it from their larger ones. 

The guides to shampoo, and cleaning products highlight the re-fill brands.

Alternatives to traditional soap and shampoo

A Moroccan clay powder called rhassoul can be used to replace both soap and shampoo. It's even possible to wash your hair with rye flour!

Coconut oil, cider vinegar or a herbal rinse of marshmallow root can be used to condition hair.

Tips to keep your mouth and teeth clean without using plastic


Replace your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo or wood alternative.

It's not just the handles though, as most have nylon bristles. A few brands use biodegradable plant-based plastic or boar bristles (the latter not for vegans!).

If you have a bamboo or wooden toothbrush, use pliers to remove the bristles if they are nylon and compost the wooden handle.

If you don't like the feeling of a wooden brush in your mouth, try a toothbrush made from recycled plastic or a toothbrush system with replaceable heads.

You can also repurpose old brushes for cleaning tasks — they make great nail brushes or can be used to clean tricky areas around taps and plugholes.

Alternatives to toothbrushes

Try a miswak (Salvadora persica) root or olive (olea europaea) stick to clean your teeth. These tree products have natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.

Interdental care

To get clean in between your teeth use natural dental floss in a refillable glass jar or a bamboo interdental brush. But be aware that some natural dental floss may be made from silk, which isn't vegan, and traditional dental floss may have a beeswax coating on it, so this would also not be suitable for vegans. 

Watch out for floss marketed as being 'plastic-free' and made from 'natural corn' – it is actually made from bio-based plastic, polylactic acid.

It is now also possible to buy interdental brushes with bamboo handles. 

Toothpaste and oral hygiene products

A wide range of natural toothpastes are available in glass jars — some brands also supply a small bamboo spatula to apply it to your brush. Tooth tabs and powders are another way of saying goodbye to plastic toothpaste tubes, with the advantage of being lightweight which makes them great for travelling with.

For fresh breath, try out some concentrated mouthwash drops in a glass bottle, or use mouthwash tablets. The Ayurvedic practice of 'oil pulling' can also replace conventional mouthwashes. A tablespoonful of oil (usually coconut) is vigorously 'pulled' (swilled) around the mouth for up to twenty minutes before being disposed of in a tissue. Studies show that this can be an effective way of reducing oral bacteria.

If you suffer from gingivitis or peridontitis, ask your dentist about rinsing with a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution instead of medicated mouthwash — it is available in glass bottles at most pharmacies.

Woman with braids cleaning teeth in bathroom

Avoiding plastic and finding an eco deodorant

Many brands of natural deodorant are available as solid bars, cream, or as push-up sticks in cardboard tubes, avoiding the plastic packaging of most deodorants. Natural crystals of volcanic potassium alum are another long-lasting and effective deodorant choice.

The guide to deodorants looks at other issues such as organic and vegan deodorants, and even how to make your own.

Below are some other tips on how you can reduce plastic in your bathroom.

Eco-friendly beauty product swaps

  • Use witch hazel or floral waters as a natural alternative to skin cleanser and toner. These often also come in glass containers.
  • For skin care, look for moisturiser in glass jars, use natural plant oils or solid moisturising bars
  • Exfoliate with salt/sugar scrubs/used coffee grounds/bran/ground rice
  • To dye hair, use natural henna, indigo or cassia.
  • Use refillable make-up palettes, or 'unwrapped' makeup.
  • Make your own beauty products using essential oils, floral waters and natural ingredients.

Plastic free bathroom and beauty tools

  • Wooden comb or hairbrush
  • Stainless steel safety razor and shaving oil or solid soap and a traditional shaving brush
  • Konjak sponge, natural sea sponge (not vegan) and loofah (vegan)
  • Wooden brushes with natural bristles, sisal or hemp scrub mitt
  • Organic cotton flannel, washable makeup wipes
  • Recycled toilet paper wrapped in paper/home compostable plant plastic. See the guide to ethical toilet paper
  • Reusable or plastic free menstrual products, see the guide to eco-friendly menstrual products

Bathroom cleaning eco-friendly product swaps

  • Remove limescale with white vinegar or a citric acid solution
  • Replace cream cleaner with bicarbonate of soda on a natural cellulose sponge
  • Use a UK-made refillable brand for spray cleaners and toilet cleaner

Read the shopping guide to finding eco friendly household cleaners for more about these products. 

Recycling plastic

If you have got plastic bathroom products, when they reach the end of their life, try to recycle them where possible. 

For example, you can recycle your old toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss containers and packaging with free Terracycle schemes if they exist locally (although Terracycle schemes can be problematic), and some councils will take certain plastics in their kerbside waste collections or at waste recycling centres. Check locally on your council website to see what is available. 

As you replace your old cosmetic products with plastic-free alternatives, take advantage of the free recycling schemes provided by several high-street retailers, as some will accept all brands of cosmetic packaging for recycling. Check with individual schemes for details.