Sustainable Living

Plastic Free Bathroom

So Much Plastic

Once you start looking, there is plastic everywhere! Shampoo and conditioner bottles, medicine bottles, make up containers, packaging, toilet paper packaging, toothpaste, toothbrushes…

It can feel overwhelming to look at an extensive list of items that include plastic! My plastic free bathroom journey is still a work in progress. Things like pill or vitamin containers and even my hair comb are items that don’t look to be replaced in the short term. What matters most to me in this process is continuing to take steps forward. So here are some things I’ve been doing so far.

Feminine Hygiene

The Swap: Disposable Sanitary Pads for Reusable Cotton Pads

I tested out a variety of sizes in pads that we were gifted from Blushing Bluebird Essentials, which is a small, family-owned company located close to my hometown.

Why I made the swap: It’s a frightening reality that one disposable sanitary pad can take from 500 – 800 years to decompose. Five hundred years!! I don’t know why this hadn’t registered for me before, but like Maya Angelou says, when you know better, you do better. I started to think about how many sanitary pads I use in one month, multiplied over my lifetime, and that’s what did it for me.

I broke down the math in my post about a plastic free period, but it’s likely a woman will have about 456 periods in her life, which equals around 10,944 sanitary pads used and sitting in the landfill.

What are reusable sanitary pads like?

As I mentioned in this post about Bluebird reusable pads, my main concern with considering reusable pads was the gross factor. Not being able to throw a bloody item straight into the garbage was a barrier for me. But the statistics had me pushing through the grossness and the perceived inconvenience to give them a try.

Bluebird Pads were shockingly comfortable. I don’t know why I was so shocked now that I think about it. They’re made of cotton, so perhaps I should have expected them to feel like clothes, but I didn’t. I talk more about what it’s like to use them here.

Care for these reusable pads was really easy. After using one, I gave it a quick rinse. Before putting them into the wash, I gave them a light spray with a stain remover. Both of these steps aren’t even mandatory, but felt like what I should do. Moral of the story, these were incredibly easy to care for and it actually wasn’t gross at all because the pads were really absorbent.

How I’m changing moving forward: This hasn’t been an all or nothing swap for me. I’m still navigating through what it will be like to use a reusable pad while I’m at work, for example. I also don’t yet have enough of the reusable pads to carry me through a cycle. But I truly believe that we need more people doing the sustainable, zero-waste thing imperfectly as opposed to holding everyone to a standard of perfection.

That being said, I absolutely love the comfort of the reusable pads and will be transitioning over time to be fully using them. My plan is to buy a few at a time to build up my supply of reusables.

Other sustainable choices: If cotton, reusable pads are not for you, there are other sustainable options to make your period plastic free. If you need disposables, there are options such as Natra Care* which, according to their website, will biodegrade in a compost within one year.

Menstrual cups are another reusable option, but are not something I’ve tried. This post from Wirecutter has some great information in it on the topic of these though.

Disposable vs. Reusable

Shampoo and Conditioner

The Swap: Plastic Bottled Shampoo for a Shampoo Bar

Why I made the swap: I’ve never actually counted the number of shampoo bottles that I use in a year, but I have a lot of hair, so it’s a fair assumption it’s a lot of shampoo. If I conservatively guess a bottle lasts me 3 months, that’s 4 bottles in a year. In the next 20 years, I will have contributed 80 bottles to the bin–and that’s not even counting conditioner bottles!

What are shampoo bars like?

To say that I have a lot of hair is an understatement–it’s long, thick, and has a mind of its own most days. This is the reason I was really unsure about using a shampoo bar instead of my regular liquid shampoo.

My main concerns were:

  • that it would be difficult to get enough product on my hair. I was unsure how much lather I could really get from a bar.
  • that my hair wouldn’t get clean. I only wash my hair once every 5 to 7 days, so it needs a good soap to be able to clean it. I wash my hair infrequently because of the effort it takes, the amount of water it uses, and the health benefits for my hair. I was worried a shampoo bar would not be up to the task.
  • that the bar wouldn’t last long and the cost would be too much for my budget.

Each one of my concerns were completely wiped out once I tried the shampoo bar! It was incredibly easy to use and I felt I was able to control the amount of product I needed much better with the bar than bottled shampoo.

My hair got squeaky clean! Even with my routine of washing my hair infrequently, the shampoo bar was extremely effective.

So far I’ve been using this one bar for 3 1/2 months and it is only about halfway used up. This has exceeded my expectations!

Krista and I both have been using Nature Derived‘s 3-in-1 Bar, which is soap, shave cream, and shampoo all in one. We discovered this brand when shopping at our local zero waste store Fulfill Shoppe. It’s the only shampoo bar I’ve tried and it’s the one I’m sticking with because it works! I also love supporting small businesses and local makers.

How I’m changing moving forward: I am completely sold on the shampoo bar! I have a couple of bottles of shampoo left in my cupboard that I will be using up, but after that I can’t see myself going back to that option. Not only is is more environmentally friendly and natural, it is more cost effective to use a shampoo bar than the bottled version.

I also find this to be a practical option. If you are travelling or want to send a care package to someone, a bar is so much easier than a bottle of liquid.

Other sustainable choices: If you want to stay with a liquid variety of shampoo, you could look into local refill shops.

What about conditioner?

I have not yet tried the conditioner bars, but Krista has been testing one out by Unwrapped Life and LOVES it! It’s the same concept as the shampoo bar, so plastic free and easy to use. I was skeptical that the conditioner bar would be as good at de-tangling my hair, but Krista says it works great!

Soap vs. Shower Gel

The Swap: Shower Gel in Plastic Bottles for Bar Soap

Why I made the swap: Soap eliminates the number of plastic bottles that I bring into the house. We’ve also mentioned why we prefer using soap in previous posts, like when we were talking about sustainable swaps and saving money.

How I’m changing moving forward: I’ve been using soap instead of shower gel for years, so this will continue to be a permanent swap for me. What I hope to do going forward is to focus more on soap with ethical ingredients and less packaging.

Other sustainable choices: A refillery is an option for shower gel if you are not wanting to swap to soap.

Soap Savers

This is not so much a swap, but something to consider if you’re switching over to soap. One way to get the most out of your bar and be able to use it down to the last piece is to use a soap saver, like this one I bought from Pep Soap. Basically, it’s a little bag that your soap bar fits right in and you could add the small pieces of almost finished bars of soap to it.


The Swap: Plastic Toothbrushes for Bamboo Toothbrushes

Why I am planning to make the swap: Plastic toothbrushes take over up to 500 years to decompose. The length of time that plastic takes to decompose is something I have a hard tome wrapping my brain around. And the amount of plastic we use is always a shocking number too.

1 billion toothbrushes are thrown away every year in the US. That’s enough to stretch around the world 4 times.

Probably the most popular swap out there is from a plastic toothbrush to a bamboo toothbrush because the time for bamboo to decompose is only about 6 months–a huge improvement on hundreds of years!

How I’m changing moving forward: I actually have a few plastic toothbrushes that I need to use up, so I haven’t made the swap to a bamboo toothbrush. One reason I have not looked at them before now is the price and how to fit it into my limited budget. I can buy a plastic toothbrush for $1 and when I’ve looked, a bamboo toothbrush costs $5.

Krista has found good deals on bamboo toothbrushes at Winners. She’s tried both Lindo and Humble Brush brands from there and liked them. Doing a search on Amazon* can bring up bulk packs of bamboo brushes that are less expensive as well, but we haven’t tried out these brands. It’s important to read a bit into the brand you buy to ensure it is ethically sourced and biodegradable.


The Swap: Store Bought Deodorant for Homemade Deodorant

Why I made the swap: Krista pointed out in her post about Homemade Deodorant that there are possibly a number of unhealthy ingredients to our mainstream, store bought deodorants. Not only this, but they are each packaged in a single use plastic dispenser.

The cosmetic industry alone produces more than 120 billion units of packaging globally every year. Reusing the deodorant packaging I already have helps to reduce those numbers.

How I’m changing moving forward: I’m going to be using up the remainder of my deodorant that I have at home and, instead of recycling the containers, I’m going to clean and reuse them. Krista and I have talked about joining together to make bigger batches of her deodorant recipe to make it even more cost effective than it already is at $2.72 per container.

Other sustainable choices: There are refillable deodorants and also natural deodorants like the ones our friends at Fulfill Shoppe carry.

Cotton Swabs

The Swap: Plastic Cotton Swabs (aka Q-tips) for Paper Cotton Swabs

Why I made the swap: Not only does the plastic take forever to decompose, but the little plastic sticks from these products are known to be found in waterways and oceans because people flush them down the toilet instead of tossing them in the garbage.

How I’m changing moving forward: I’ve been purchasing the non-plastic version of this product for years and will continue to do so. I am not yet at the stage where I want to buy a reusable one, but may get there some day.

Other sustainable choices: Reusable cotton swabs are an option. (Here are a few on Amazon* if you want to see what they are like).

What ways have you been reducing your plastic use in the bathroom?

Looking for more ways to reduce your plastic use?
Check out our latest Plastic Free July posts!

50 Thoughts on Plastic
Plastic Free Kitchen
Plastic Free Food
Plastic Free Period


    • Meera

      Such a great post with some amazing alternatives!! Like you I’ve started to swap my bathroom products this year. I currently use lush shampoo bars and soap bars and don’t use conditioner and my hair seems to love it!! I had to go through loads of trials though and it’s fair to say my hair did not love that haha. I also use menstrual cups but it’s definitely not as consistently as I would like to. At the end of the day it mostly just ends up depending on how i feel that month. Definitely going to Check out the deodorant alternatives though! Thanks for sharing.

      • A Sustainably Simple Life

        Thatโ€™s so awesome youโ€™ve been making these swaps too! Iโ€™ve heard a lot of great reviews on the Lush bars. So great that you persisted through to find one that worked for your hair. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience with how your plastic free journey is going!

  • Roni

    These are some great ways of reducing plastic in your bathroom. I’ve been wanting to try out shampoo and conditioner bars for a long time but have been worried that they’d cause further dryness to my already dry and frizzy curls. I suppose I won’t know for sure until I give it a go tho – I’ll have to pick some up and try it out x

    Roni |

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I was truly surprised at how effective the shampoo bar was. I’m currently still using my regular bottled conditioner because I had a few bottles in my cupboard, so that might be a good way to try out the shampoo bars at first to minimize dryness. Would love to know what you think if you do try one out! Thanks for commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • gabbyabigailll

    This was so interesting to read! Wow, I love how you’ve found so many ways to reduce plastic in your bathroom. I really want to try shampoo bars and bamboo toothbrushes. I’m still very hesitant about the reusable paths (I don’t think I can handle it lol) but I am trying to be more conscious of my purchases. I’m also going to check out the cotton swabs you mentioned! Thanks for sharing these tips.

    Much love always,
    GABBY |

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Totally understand about the hesitation with reusables! Some products Iโ€™m having to ease into lol. But the great thing is there are so many more environmentally friendly options put there now! Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Once I started looking, it seemed like single use items were everywhere in my house! That’s awesome you’ve been making those changes too! I think small consistent changes are really the way to go. Thanks for commenting and sharing what you’ve been using! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jaya Avendel

    I tried shampoo bars when I went away to cook at a camp last year and did not want to worry about bottles splitting open in my suitcase. I was amazed at how much a shampoo bar does, since I could use it on my hair and the one I used was also good for washing my body. On the note of soap, soap savers are awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I was really blown away by the shampoo bars too. They are so perfect for travel! The one I used was good for the body as well so it just makes so much sense to pack that on a trip instead of a bottle. Great if you’re just using a carry on too, because you don’t have to worry about the liquid size restrictions. Thanks for sharing your experience and commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Boomer EcoCrusader

    Thanks for the great post. For me, the bathroom is an area where I have made huge progress. My biggest challenge with plastic is food. Every day, my plastic-free lesson is about food.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      That’s so great you’ve made a lot of progress in this area! I’ve found food a challenging area too. There is so much plastic in food packaging–even if it’s just a sticker or a tie for the package, it seems to sneak in there. Thanks for sharing how your plastic free journey is going! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Louna

    Thank you for the wonderful post! Really useful information and It has inspired me to keep trying new things. I’m going to some shopping soon for some plastic free products. Lush is a fave of mine.

    Stay wonderful!

    Louna | burstsofautumn

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I’ve seen a lot of people sharing their experience with Lush shampoo bars and they seem to really enjoy them! I’d love to hear what items you try and how they work for you! Thanks for commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Grislean

    I love my meow meow tweet shampoo bar. I was so scared of trying them at first, but I love it more than my Plaine Products liquid shampoo. Also, Native deodorant just announced their package free cardboard container. Just ordered two yesterday! ? All these swaps were hard at first but now Iโ€™m glad I switched!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I just googled that shampoo bar brand. I am so intrigued by the one with avocado in it! The idea of cardboard containers for deodorant makes so much sense. Love hearing that companies are bringing out those options. Thanks so much for sharing what you’ve been using and introducing me to a new brand! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • a Life on a Dime

    Some bathroom swaps have been easy, others… not so much. I’ve gone with biodegradable tampons with a cardboard applicator (one time use, but no fuss), a natural toothpaste, and shampoo bars did NOT seem to like my hair. I stopped buying cotton swabs and cotton balls. I never really bought disposable makeup removers. Everything else if I don’t like the plastic free alternative I just make sure I can recycle it.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I’ve found that too, some swaps came more naturally than others did. It sounds like you’ve covered a lot of ground in going plastic free! That’s so awesome! What brand of natural toothpaste have you been using? Krista’s been testing some out, but we’re still finding one we really love. Thanks for commenting and sharing how you’ve been reducing your waste! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Clarissa

    Thanks for this! I live on one of the outer islands in Hawaii, and it’s sad how much plastic washes up on certain beaches. ? I already user paper qtips, and changing to a bar form of body soap/shaving and shampoo sounds super doable! I usually use a dandruff shampoo. I wonder if they have bars for that? Thanks so much for the ideas on this important topic!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      There are so many heartbreaking pictures out there of plastic kn beaches. It must be hard to see it in your backyard. Thatโ€™s a great question about the dandruff shampoo. I think I remember Plastic Free Mermaid mentioning something about that. If I find it, Iโ€™ll send it to you! Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts! ๐Ÿ™‚

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!