Whether you’re fully embracing Plastic Free July or are looking at a longer term change, there are a wealth of plastic alternatives out there to make your bathroom that bit greener and more sustainable. While it used to be tricky to find good and effective switches, brands big and small have been upping their game.
And there’s good reason too: it’s estimated there are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans and that it is set to treble by 2025. Every year one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled up in plastic waste.
From solid toothpaste and mouthwash tablets to biodegradable body sponges, old school safety razors and refillable deodorant, the range of eco-conscious and plastic free toiletries is constantly growing.
For Beth Noy, founder of online sustainability shop Plastic Freedom, the best place to start is by looking at what you use everyday in your bathroom and identifying those products you could switch out to plastic free alternatives. “Toothbrushes and toothpaste are a good place to start,” she advises. “Hair products are also easily switchable. Think how much plastic you would save over a lifetime even if you just switched out your plastic shampoo bottles.”
Beth, whose own personal passion for seeking out plastic free items has turned into a business that stocks more than 1,000 plastic free items, also stresses the importance of not overwhelming yourself by thinking you need to replace everything all at once. “It takes time to find the plastic free alternatives that work for you. For plastic free novices, bit by bit is definitely the best idea.”
Whilst initially going plastic free might require some investment, she explains, long term you can actually save money. “For example, investing in cotton face pads which you can use again and again, is far cheaper than continuing to invest in the disposable kind.” A menstrual cup or safety razor are also good examples of investment buys that can save you money in the long run and be good for the planet. While some items are likely to cost you more, the same doesn’t go for everything, she says, so look around and try different products.
Here are our top picks for curating a plastic free bathroom:
Plastic-free toothpaste and oral care
Denttabs Toothpaste Tablets
Regular toothpaste tubes use a mixture of plastics and are generally not recyclable (although Colgate have teamed up with Terracycle to offer an oral care recycling programme).
There are a mixture of plastic free options on the market though, from pastes housed in tins or glass to individual tablets in compostable bags. Many plastic free options don’t contain fluoride but Denttabs do which is a plus in our book. All you need to do is pop one in your mouth and chew to turn it into a paste before brushing your teeth. Unlike regular toothpaste you won’t get a foamy texture but they do still leave your mouth feeling minty fresh.
£2.40 for one month’s supply | Anything But Plastic
Hydrophil Bamboo Toothbrush
With a handle made of 100 per cent biodegradable bamboo that can go in your compost bin once finished with, and petroleum-free bristles made from castor oil, this toothbrush is an easy swap for your traditional plastic laden version. Just snip off the bristles before popping the handle in your compost once you’re done with it.
You can choose between soft or medium strength bristles and the coated end, which cleverly protects it when standing in a toothbrush pot, comes in a range of colours, all of which are natural and free of mineral oils or other chemical additives. There’s also a children’s version available.
£4 | Plastic Freedom
Georganics Spearmint Mouthwash Tablets
Made of entirely natural and non-toxic ingredients and flavoured with organic peppermint oil, these little mouthwash tablets come in a small glass jar. Simply pop a tablet into 20ml of water and watch it dissolve. Et voila, minty mouthwash minus the plastic bottle. They are however fluoride free so keep that in mind.
£8.90 | Georganics
Georganics Spearmint Natural Floss
Step away from the plastic dental floss. Georganics’ brand new compostable floss is made of corn starch and is housed in a neat glass tube, with a metal cap dispenser. You can also reuse the tube with the brand’s 30ml refills, and the floss comes in three flavours: activated charcoal, spearmint or sweet orange.
£4.90 | Georganics
Plastic-free soap and skincare
Thick Cotton Pads
If you haven’t already, it’s definitely time to rethink the disposable face wipe. Not only are they bad for the environment, there are many beauty experts out there who would recoil in horror if presented with one (they can be harsh and irritate skin).
Holland & Barrett’s reusable thick organic cotton pads are both soft and a good substantial size for cleansing. Simply dab some micellar water or a facial cleanser on and wipe away any make-up or dirt and grime. They’re gentle enough to be used on the sensitive eye area and come with a handy travel bag to pop them in for when you throw them in the washing machine (just make sure not to use any fabric conditioner).
£8.00 | Holland & Barrett
Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter
This super soft cleansing butter, which uses camomile extract sourced from Norfolk and is housed in a metal tin, is one of the Body Shop’s best sellers. It’s great for removing make-up and cleansing sensitive skin, and it also comes recommended by no-nonsense beauty guru Caroline Hirons.
£11 | The Body Shop
UpCircle Face Moisturiser
This chic and sustainable, vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand has a range of delightful skincare options, including this fast-absorbing face moisturiser which is housed in a glass jar with an aluminium lid.
Known for using what would usually be discarded products, such as coffee grounds, in their skincare, UpCircle’s face moisturiser is made of finely-ground powder of discarded argan shells, a natural by-product of the argan oil industry. Not only does it smell lovely (cocoa butter and blood orange are combined with aloe vera and the argan shells), the brand’s face mask was recently nominated for the Vogue Beauty Awards 2020.
£18.99 | UpCircle
Wild Sage + Co Vegan Lemongrass and Tea Tree Shaving Soap
You don’t need a plastic tube of shaving cream to get a good lather fit enough for a safety razor. This lemongrass and tea tree shaving soap can be used with a shaving brush to whip up a creamy lather and can be used on both face and body. Homemade in the Herefordshire countryside, the shaving soap from Wild Sage + Co is made with a base of olive oil, coconut oil and shea butter giving the moisturisation you need when shaving. It also comes in a tin and two other scents: lavender and orange or lavender and cedarwood.
£12 | Plastic Freedom
Shade All Natural Suncream SPF25
Bet you didn’t think you’d come across a plastic free sunscreen. Well, this all-natural SPF25 broad spectrum sunscreen is an award winner and only contains four ingredients: coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter and zinc oxide. It comes in a tin, is fragrance free, is marine friendly and tested to EU standards. Fans of the product say the texture takes some getting used to as it’s a bit stiffer and harder to apply but once you’ve got used to, you won’t look back.
£10 | Plastic Freedom
Plastic-free bath, body and deodorant
Kankan Starter Set 1
Whilst a simple bar of soap is a great and simple swap for hand wash in a throwaway plastic bottle, there are also some other innovative options if you prefer liquid hand soap, such as this offering by Kankan which comes in an aluminum can (a material that is infinitely recyclable).
Made in small batches by artisan makers in the UK, these botanical soaps are free of SLS silicones, sulphates, parabens, artificial colours and fragrances. They are also palm oil free, vegan and cruelty free. Yes, it’s not cheap but this hand soap certainly feels luxurious and a little goes a long way. We tried the delicious smelling mandarin and clary sage hand wash but you can also find a lemongrass and juniper body wash and chamomile and lavender baby wash in the range. This starter set comes with a refillable glass bottle – simply pop the can, pour the hand wash into the bottle and use any remaining next time you’re in the shower.
£24 | Kankan
Fragrance Free Body Cleansing Konjac Sponge
Forget a plastic shower puff and instead give the humble konjac sponge a try. Made from the porous fibre of a root vegetable, the konjac sponge has been a skincare staple in Asia for more than 1,500 years. This fragrance free version with bamboo charcoal is great for sensitive skin and super gentle exfoliation.
The konjac roots are sustainably sourced and both the sponge and its packaging are compostable. Although when dry, the sponge can appear abrasive, once under water it transforms and is silky smooth. Just add a dab of shower gel or soap lather and you’re good to go.
£7.50 | Beauty Kitchen
The Olive Branch Naked Shower Gel
Lush’s solid shower gels have been a real hit with fans of the environmentally aware brand and a number of their most popular shower gels are now available as ‘naked’ versions (meaning they come with no packaging, except some paper to protect them). The Olive Branch fuses together fair trade olive oil with fresh mandarin juice and vine leaf extract, to create a nicely scented and moisturising alternative to your traditional bottled shower gels.
£9.50 | Lush
Wild Refillable Plastic-free Deodorant
If solid naked deodorants aren’t quite your bag but you like the idea of finding a plastic free alternative, then why not give Wild a try? Their reusable deodorant case is made of aluminium and is completely plastic free while the refills are compostable. Choose from silver, aqua, coral or purple for the case and from five different scents for the refills: coconut, orange, bergamot, mint or rose. You can either sign up to a flexible subscription from £12 or make a one off purchase of the tin and three refills for £25.
From £12 | Wild
Plastic-free shampoo and hair care
Ethique Pinkalicious Shampoo Bar for Normal Hair
Formulated from pink grapefruit, vanilla, organic fair trade coconut oil and cocoa butter, this solid shampoo bar produces a foamy lather once wet and rubbed between the hands. You can also apply it directly to the hair by smoothing it from root to tip.
The New Zealand brand, which founder Brianne West started out in a kitchen when she was a university science student, has a global fanbase and calls itself the ‘first zero-waste beauty brand’. Water, which is often the main ingredient in beauty and hair products, is taken out of the equation to produce a solid shampoo bar which packs the equivalent of three bottles of liquid shampoo. The brand also produce in-shower containers made of bamboo and corn starch to make the bars last longer and keep any soapy mess at bay.
£12.99 | Holland & Barrett
Organic Broccoli and Rose Geranium Hair Conditioner
What a combo this conditioner packs: beautifully scented rose geranium and vitamin packed organic broccoli oil which promises to promote smooth, silky hair in place of silicones. Packaged in a glass jar with an aluminum lid, it’s a great option for getting rid of your plastic conditioner bottles. A little goes a long way, so start off with a pea-sized amount and work to the ends of the hair, leaving it in for a couple of minutes before rinsing.
£20 | Wild Sage + Co
Lush Damaged Hot Oil Treatment
Now don’t mistake these for the hot chocolate on a stick that you stir into milk, although they may well have taken inspiration from them. Lush, a pioneer of packaging free beauty products, have created these fun hot oil treatments for the hair. There’s one for damaged hair and one for adding volume. All you have to do is fill a mug with boiling water and stir in your hot oil treatment until it’s all melted. Allow to cool, apply to dry hair and relax for 20 minutes while it does its magic, before rinsing out. Very clever. If you have any left over, Lush says you can keep it for up to four weeks.
£7.50 | Lush
Washable Baby Wipes
Made from ‘zero twist’ cotton, these white premium cotton terry wipes measure 15cm x 15cm. Not only are they durable but they are also soft enough for little bottoms, hands and faces. Fans of the wipes praise their absorbency, quality and ease of use. They’re available to buy as a pack of 10 or 25 and can be machine washed at 60c.
£16 | Cheeky Wipes
Plastic-free bathroom essentials
100% Recycled Toilet Paper
Not only does a delivery of these double length toilet rolls made of 100% recycled paper seem to last forever (saving you numerous trips to the supermarket) but they’re also wrapped in cute, printed paper with fun and thoughtful messages on them. Goodbye plastic wrap!
Plus, the company donates 50% of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. There’s also a premium toilet paper option made of 100% bamboo if only the softest will do for you peachy bum.
Subscriptions start from £24 for 24 rolls | Who Gives a Crap
Hydrophil Biodegradable Cotton Swabs
It’s hard to forget photographer Justin Hofman’s heartbreaking image of a seahorse clutching onto a discarded plastic cotton bud. For many, it illustrated perfectly the devastating impact of plastic pollution in our oceans. With an upcoming ban on plastic cotton buds, straws and stirrers in England, and a ban already in place in Scotland, now is the time to switch to a more planet-friendly option.
Made from bamboo and soft organic cotton, these swabs are 100% biodegradable and come in a recycled cardboard box. After use you can easily discard the swabs by chucking them in your organic waste or compost bin.
£1.85 | Big Green Smile
Traditional Chrome Safety Razor
In the US alone, at least two billion razors and refill blades are thrown away each year – that’s a lot of plastic waste. One of the best ways to avoid adding to the grim stats is to invest in a safety razor. It not only can save you money in the long term (replacement razor blades are pretty cheap) but it also promises a closer shave with less irritation.
German family brand Mühle has a rich pedigree of creating sleek, simple designs that stand the test of time. Their chrome safety razor is a great investment buy if you’re looking to make the switch. Not only will it look swish in your bathroom, but you know you’ll get endless use from it over the years.
£43 | Mühle
Beauty Kitchen Organic Vegan Refillable Hand Sanitiser
Hand sanitiser has become an essential part of our daily life over the last few months. While washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is still regarded as the first line of defence in avoiding Covid-19, it’s not quite so easy to wash your hands on the go at the moment. Step in hand sanitiser, but there is an awful lot of plastic waste that comes with it isn’t there?
Beauty Kitchen’s hand sanitiser refillable starter pack comes with a 5oml aluminium spray bottle and 500ml refill, also in aluminium packaging. Whilst the spray pump does contain some plastic, it is by far the most sustainable option we’ve found for a hand sanitiser. Synthetic hand gels generally contain high levels of microplastics whilst Beauty Kitchen have worked with the Plastic Soup Foundation to ensure theirs is microplastic free. They also offer a Return, Refill, Repeat programme which means you can send the packaging back to them to wash and reuse.
£17.50 | Beauty Kitchen
Patch Natural Bamboo Plasters
Some serious thought has gone into the eco-credentials of these little plastic free heroes. Patch’s Natural Bamboo Plasters are made of soft organic bamboo and enriched with coconut oil gauze, while the individual wrappers are made from rice paper on one side and biodegradable paper on the other. Even those little tabs that cover the sticky part of the plaster are made from rice paper and the whole load comes in a recycled carbon carton.
£6.99 | Ethical Superstore
OrganiCup The Menstrual Cup
Here’s something to think about: an individual goes through approximately 11,000 disposable pads and/or tampons in a lifetime. Now imagine the full scale of that.
There are a host of smart brands out there offering plastic free alternatives, from organic cotton tampons to reusable period wear and menstrual cups. OrganiCup, made of soft 100% medical grade silicone comes in three sizes, including a mini version which can be better for younger customers. It might take a little bit of time and effort to get used to using a menstrual cup but the benefits are great: it can offer up to 12 hours protection, is reusable for several years and saves you spending money on disposable period products.
£15.74 (currently 25% off) | Holland and Barrett
It’s a tough choice as we were so impressed by the creative and innovative nature so many of these brands have shown in creating plastic free products. For the fact that switching to these would mean saving a whole load of single use plastic in the form of toothpaste tubes, we give our nod of approval to Denttabs, closely followed by the Hydrophil bamboo toothbrush. We also loved the simplicity of switching to the Holland and Barrett cotton pads which are lovely and soft and think UpCircle deserve a shout out for making great use out of by-products which would normally be discarded. We also can’t forget Lush who have a treasure trove of plastic free items on offer. Bravo!
Best alternatives to wet wipes: the eco-friendly options that work