If you’d like to reduce your consumption of single-use plastics and just waste in general, your bathroom is one of the easiest places to get started. There are plenty of swaps you can make to transform your bathroom into an eco-conscious space.
But don’t toss out your disposable razors and plastic toothbrushes just yet! That would be super wasteful. Instead, you can replace these products with eco-friendly ones gradually and say “buh bye!” once and for all.
1. Cotton swabs
Sure, they may look small and harmless, but traditional cotton swabs have plastic handles and cotton tips (that are most likely full of pesticides). Despite the fact that no one should be sticking these suckers in their ears (says every medical expert on the planet), many people swear by them and they’re still a common bathroom staple . The problem is that most of them get flushed down the toilet and end up in our waterways, or wind up in the garbage.
Some women use them for applying makeup and doing touch-ups. Personally, I use them to wipe away stray nail polish during those summer months when my un-pedicured feet are exposed for all to see. Yikes!
Swap out the plastic swabs with…
You can swap out the plastic swabs with more sustainable ones that feature bamboo or biodegradable paper handles with organic cotton tips. Organ(y)c Beauty 100% Organic Cotton Swabs are biodegradable and packaged in 100% recyclable cardboard.
2. Makeup remover pads
I’m not a huge fan of plastering my face with makeup. I go for the minimalist approach by applying a tinted moisturizer with SPF and a couple coats of mascara (if I’m feeling fancy). But I still use makeup remover pads for that pesky mascara that doesn’t wash away so easily with just soap and water. Otherwise, I end up looking like Alice Cooper’s sister.
Swap out the disposable makeup pads with…
Why buy disposable cotton ones when you can buy bamboo pads that you can wash and reuse again and again? It’s seriously such a simple and smart alternative.
Tru Earth Bamboo Rounds Reusable Makeup Remover Pads come in their own mesh bag for easy cleaning in the washing machine. They’re soft and gentle on the skin and can be used up to 1000 times. Sounds good to me, sign me up!
3. Cotton balls
We all use these on occasion to remove nail polish, apply facial toner, clean out our ears after a shower (don’t stick cotton swabs in your ears yo!) and supply our local birds with nest material (huh?)
Swap them out with an organic version…
Better to stick with the ones made from 100% organic cotton which are better for the environment (and for the birds). Organ(y)c Beauty 100% Organic Cotton Balls are a great option and come in a biodegradable and compostable bag.
4. Hand soap dispensers and body wash (double whammy!)
I say ditch the plastic hand soap dispensers and body wash bottles and go with the fancy bar soaps. I’m a huge fan of The Buck Naked Soap Company. Their oversized artisanal bar soaps feel amazing on your skin. They’re vegan, fair trade and 100% natural (no nasty stuff!). There are many delectable scents you can try. My favourites include CocoRosa and Lavender and rosemary. There’s even holiday bar soaps if you want to get extra festive during the holidays.
5. Shampoo and conditioner
I recently discovered an amazing brand traipsing through the Eastern Townships of Quebec. ONEKA, based in the village of Frelighsburg, QC, was founded by a couple passionate about the environment, organic farming and permaculture. Their products are formulated with certified organic and wild harvested herbal extracts, and are free of parabens, sulfates, and synthetic fragrances.
They’re also a Certified B Corporation which means that “they meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
You may be saying to yourself, “but wait! What about the plastic bottles!?”
What I love about this company is that you can refill these bottles at your local participating health food store. Look out for the green symbol that indicates retailers that offer refilling.
Also, my hair has never felt so healthy and soft! Seriously, it’s like touching a baby’s silky head.
“But what about zero-waste shampoo and conditioner bars!?”
I’ll admit that shampoo bars are clearly the best option for reducing waste. But, I have yet to find a shampoo bar that doesn’t leave a residue or build-up on my hair. I’ve had mediocre results using them. My hairbrush is now gross and full of gunk.
So please, if you can recommend your favourite bars, let me know by commenting below. And I’ll try to review them in a follow-up post.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to sing while joyously washing my hair with ONEKA Angelica and Lavender shampoo and conditioner.
6. Disposable razors
Safety razors aren’t just for your grandpa anymore. They’re a sustainable, plastic-free alternative to disposable razors and blades. They’re also more cost-effective in the long term.
I always considered disposable razors and razor blades a necessary evil. Eyeing those colourful packages on the pharmacy shelves with disdain, I’d begrudgingly throw a package of razor blades into my shopping basket. Not only are they expensive but they’re terrible for the environment. So much plastic waste!
Luckily there’s a simple solution. Embrace the sasquatch look…just kidding.
Swap out disposable razors with…
The Well Kept Dusty Rose Safety Razor is a sustainable alternative for your shaving needs. Its handle is made of solid brass and the safety razors are 100% recyclable (they can be safely shipped back to Well Kept in a nifty blade bank).
Using a safety razor is surprisingly more cost-effective in the long run, and will give you a superior shave than your drugstore disposable razors.
Well Kept is a Vancouver-based company started by a couple of eco-minded gals.
7. Shaving cream
Skip the aerosol cans (and the nasty chemicals) and go for a nourishing bar soap, hair conditioner, or a DIY shaving cream instead.
To be honest, I typically use my fancy bar soaps (see #4 on the list) to shave my legs and armpits. They’re packed with nourishing oils that never leave my skin dry or irritated after a shave. Plus they’re zero-waste.
Some people swear by hair conditioner, which coats the hair making for a smoother and knick-free shave. Use a brand that offers a refill station in your area (see #5 on this list).
If you prefer the texture of a shaving cream that lathers up, here’s a DIY recipe to try at home by the Modern Hippie Housewife:
8. Mesh sponges or poufs
Oh! Don’t get me started on those puffy mesh poufs. These suckers made their appearance in the late 90’s when they started popping up in bath product gift baskets everywhere. They’re made of cheap plastic which ends up in landfills after a few months of use. Plus, they’re a breeding ground for bacteria. Gross!
Not only that, but microscopic plastic bits get washed down the shower drain and contribute to the accumulating plastic in our waterways and oceans. No Bueno.
Swap these poufs out with…
You know what’s a great substitute for these? Face cloths! Preferably the organic cotton variety. Not only do they do a great job of cleaning and exfoliating your skin, but they are super easy to clean and disinfect. Just throw them in your washing machine.
There are eco-friendly alternatives to these mesh poufs, such as natural loofah and konjac sponges which are 100% biodegradable. But again, these need to be replaced every 2 to 3 months because of those nasty, moisture-loving bacteria.
9. Deodorant and antiperspirant
In high school, during the peak of puberty, I’d have to wear loose fitting shirts to cover up my sweaty armpits. I could literally feel the droplets of sweat forming from my pits which would drip down the sides of my body. Wearing a fitted grey t-shirt was a huge No-No for me. Unless I wanted to be pointed at and ridiculed for my huge pit stains. Um, no thanks. Let’s just say, I was thankful for the grunge era and baggy clothing.
So I’ve been on a mission to find the perfect deodorant for over two decades now.
Luckily by early adulthood, my overactive sweat glands calmed down a bit. I realized that much of my sweatiness was caused by social anxiety, and that no amount of aluminum-laden antiperspirant would be effective.
In my quest to reduce my exposure to toxic chemicals, I decided to ditch antiperspirant and go with natural deodorant. Although the verdict is out on the dangers of aluminum-based antiperspirants (researchers haven’t reached a consensus), I made a personal choice not to use them.
I’m still in the process of finishing up the deodorants that are in my bathroom drawer. Unfortunately, I’ve accumulated many in my search for the perfect deodorant. I have about 6 or 7 plastic deodorant containers which I’m slightly ashamed of. They’ll be recycled eventually but as far as I’m concerned, it’s still very wasteful.
Here are the deodorants that are next on my list to try:
- Attitude Natural Deodorant – biodegradable cardboard tube, mineral based, aluminum-free, and available at well.ca and your local pharmacy. Very affordable Canadian brand!
- Bottle None Deodorant – compostable cardboard tube, aluminum-free, baking soda-free option for sensitive skin. Another amazing woman-run Canadian brand! Available for our American friends too.
- Kali Refillable Deodorant – Refillable plastic container, vast assortment of fragrances, refills come in biodegradable bag, all-natural formulas, baking soda-free options. Quebec company. Products only available in Quebec and Ontario. Check store finder for a retailer near you.
I’ll let you know how my journey to find the perfect deodorant goes!
Hundreds of millions of plastic toothbrushes are tossed in the trash every year in North America. It’s such a shameful waste. They’re non-recyclable and so most will end up in landfills, or accumulate under the bathroom sink as cleaning tools (which is where mine mostly ended up because I couldn’t bring myself to chuck ’em in the garbage).
I’ve heard through the grapevine (and Instagram ads) that bamboo toothbrushes are the newest obsession in the eco-friendly movement.
Bamboo is a highly sustainable and renewable material that is also biodegradable. The issue with some of these toothbrushes is that the bristles are typically made of nylon, a synthetic plastic material. Others that claim to be 100% compostable have boar hair bristles (not great for our vegan friends). So you have to do your research and choose wisely!
Fully compostable toothbrushes are quite expensive and unfortunately, according to many consumer reviews, don’t stand the test of time. The bristles splay after just a few brushes. Your toothbrush should last 3 to 4 months.
Swap out your plastic toothbrush with…
After a lot of research, here are the brands that are doing it the right way, in my humble opinion.
Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes are made with 100% compostable materials, including USDA certified “biobased” bristles which are made from castor bean oil.
I thought these were too good to be true, but so far the reviews have been pretty convincing. It’s a US company, but the shipping fee to Canada is pretty reasonable at $8 (just be mindful of customs fees and duties). They’re also available on well.ca, for all you eco-minded Canucks.
Preserve toothbrushes are made with 100% recycled #5 plastic handles and new nylon bristles. Nope, these aren’t made of bamboo, however, their business model is so amazing that I had to give this Certified B Corporation a special mention.
The toothbrushes are made from recycled yogurt containers, which helps to divert plastic waste from landfills. Preserve has also implemented their own recycling program called Gimme 5 which collects #5 plastic and transforms it into new products such as tableware.
I was happy to find these also available on well.ca, my favourite online store. The medium bristles got a better review than the soft, so I’d recommend going with those.
These toothbrushes are supposedly 100% recyclable as well, but you’d have to check with your curbside recycling program if they’d accept this type of item. Otherwise, if you’re a US resident, you can always take advantage of Preserve’s mail-in recycling program.
Those pesky plastic tubes that get ditched are non-recyclable and so end up in landfills. Boo-urns!
Here are some earth-friendly alternatives to conventional toothpaste tubes…
If you’d like to go zero-waste, you can try a DIY recipe. Just be mindful of the essential oils that you use, especially if you are pregnant/nursing or if making for your kiddos. Peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon and citrus oils are the safest and most popular. These products should NEVER be swallowed, so I don’t recommend them for very young children.
A couple DIY recipes to try at home:
- Dentist approved tooth powder
- Super simple home made toothpaste by @wanderlightly
- Kid-friendly toothpaste
Swap with low-waste alternatives…
Otherwise, there are some low-waste alternatives such as Davids Premium Natural Toothpaste that has a recyclable metal tube, and Crush and Brush Toothpaste Tablets by Nelson Naturals that also features plastic-free packaging.
Regular dental floss seems harmless enough, but it’s made of nylon (a form of plastic) which means it takes almost a century to biodegrade. Not to mention the unnecessary packaging it comes in.
Some waxed versions may actually contain Teflon. Yup! You read that right. That same chemical coating used on non-stick frying pans. I don’t know about you but I’d rather not ingest any chemical that has been linked to thyroid disease or cancer.
Even regular waxed (Teflon-free) floss that contains petroleum-based substances may contain toxins that can leach into your body. Bet you didn’t think flossing was a potential health hazard.
Now before you stop flossing altogether, please know that flossing is essential for good dental hygiene.
Studies have shown that regular flossing will actually increase your lifespan!
There are plenty of healthier and more eco-friendly versions available like silk and bamboo floss. The waxed versions are typically made with a plant-based wax or beeswax.
Skip the drugstore floss and go with…
Life Unpacked offers a corn-based or bamboo floss which comes in a nifty refillable glass container. You can purchase the floss refills separately. I love that this Canadian brand strives to reduce their carbon footprint by limiting the amount of packaging and requiring a minimum product order (since shipping is a major carbon contributor). All their products are vegan friendly.
For something a little more durable, you may prefer KMH touches pure silk dental floss which also comes in a refillable mini glass mason jar. This product is not vegan since it is made with fibers harvested from silkworms (which are killed in the process). KMH Touches Flosspot Gold Vegan Dental Floss is a great alternative for vegans.
Dental Lace Refillable Dental Floss is fun for those who like a more stylish refillable container. This product is also available on Amazon. But I’m not a big fan of Amazon. When possible, buy local!
13. Feminine hygiene products
Last on the list, but certainly not the least, are disposable feminine hygiene products like sanitary pads and tampons. Their ecological impact is astounding when you think about the billions of plastic applicators and plastic-laden menstrual pads going in the garbage dump every year. Not to mention all the individual plastic wrappers that encase these products. Even the tampon strings are made of polyester or propylene. It’s an ecological nightmare.
Thankfully, there are a few earth-friendly options for menstruators everywhere…
A menstrual cup is a flexible cup-shaped device (typically made of silicone) that you insert into your vagina during your period. It collects your period blood for about 8 to 12 hours. It must be dumped out and washed before reinserting.
There’s a bit of a learning curve to using these and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on an individual’s anatomy.
There are many brands of menstrual cups on the market. I would highly recommend checking out Amazon reviews and doing your research (as far as best fit) before purchasing one.
Nixit offers a unique one-size-fits-all, suction-free design. Plus they’re proudly made in Canada.
MeLuna is a US company that has a convenient size calculator to find the perfect model for your body.
Diva Cup is a popular brand with positive reviews that offers two models.
Reusable cloth pads
Reusable pads are a great option for periods, post-natal recovery, and incontinence. An old-school alternative to disposable pads. You can use these in combination with your menstrual cup for heavier days.
Hannah pads are made with organic cotton and are suitable for all flow types. They come in a variety of cute designs too, with handy snaps to hold them in place. They offer free shipping within Canada on orders over $99.
Amazon offers many brands at varying prices. Do your research and check out the reviews. Don’t forget to visit your local pharmacy or eco-store for these hand-made products.
Tampons without applicators made of natural fibers
For those who prefer the convenience of tampons, Natracare Organic Tampons feature 100% organic cotton that is free of perfume and chlorine. They come without disposable applicators, so waste is reduced to a minimum. Since cotton is a natural fiber, it is completely biodegradable.
These natural tampons tend to be a bit rougher and less absorbent than your standard tampon, so you may want to consider that before buying.
Please don’t flush your tampons! Throw them in the trash instead. It’s terrible for wastewater-treatment plants and septic systems.
I’ve just discovered this amazing new Canadian company called Joni. Their pads are organic and 100% biodegradable, plus the packaging is compostable! They also give back to the community by donating pads to underprivileged women. We all love charitable companies!
Joni also offers an easy subscription program so you can get your pads delivered straight to your door.
Knix wear is an awesome Canadian company that offers leakproof period undies for all flow types. Their fashionable designs and triple layer absorbent technology make them an obvious choice for menstruaters.
Women with mild incontinence may also benefit from these, as well as women experiencing postpartum.
Knix wear is available in Canada and the US! Woohoo!
Here they are again, for you skimmers! 😉
Click on the links below for earth-friendly alternatives to the most common bathroom products…
- Cotton swabs
- Makeup remover pads
- Cotton balls
- Hand soap dispensers and body wash
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Disposable razors
- Shaving cream
- Mesh sponges
- Feminine hygiene
I actually had to skim this list from 21 swaps to lucky 13! If there’s a bathroom product that you’d like me to mention in a future blog post, please let me know in the comments below!