How to make your bathroom zero waste
The bathroom is simultaneously the easiest and hardest room in your house to get zero waste. While some things like switching out a bamboo toothbrush is a cinch, finding a shampoo that works for you (and getting through the awkward transition period) can be something of a doozy.
When I first switched to shampoo bars, my hair was greasy for a couple weeks and my skin broke out. So that didn’t work out so well. I ended up using the shampoo bar as body soap instead, so luckily there was no waste!
So, you’ve decided to become low waste in the bathroom. Where to start? Let me take you along for a ride.
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Toothbrush & Dental Floss
You have a few to choose from here. I prefer compostable bamboo toothbrushes, with acrylic bristles. These bristles are not compostable, but they last longer and are more effective. To dispose of it all properly, either snap off the head or tweeze out the bristles and throw them out – then you can compost the handle!
I didn’t know that floss wasn’t compostable. But there you have it! This floss is made from 100% silk thread, so you can put it in the green bin without worrying. It’s less durable than your typical floss, so if you have tight contacts you’ll have to go about flossing carefully. I find the thread can break if I’m going too quickly.
I’ve been using the UK brand Noble Apothecary’s oil cleanser for some time now, and it’s completely changed by skin. Using an oil cleanser takes off my makeup (no need for a separate remover! Yep, even for waterproof eye makeup), it moisturizes without leaving excess oils on skin, and balances my hormonal breakouts. Don’t get me wrong, I still get small breakouts – but they’re much more manageable. Using an oil cleanser is a soothing process – using soft, rotating motions with your hands on your face, and wiping it gently off with a warm, damp facial round. Feels like a spa!
The Noble Apothecary also offers plastic free refills and cute glass travel-sized bottles that I’ve been using for months!
I also use Toronto brand, Wildcraft – I love both brands so much that I can’t choose between them. Wildcraft uses olive oil as a base, which moisturizes and calms my skin like you wouldn’t believe. If you have dry skin and are looking for something more local an affordable, this is a great option for you!
Toner can be as simple or specific as you choose! Rose Geranium is antiviral, contains antioxidants and reduces inflammation, which makes it a wonder ingredient in natural toners. The one I use from Garden City Essentials also contains healing and nourishing ingredients like lavender and grapefruit seed extract that help regulate sebum production – making it ideal for any skin type. Best of all, it’s produced locally so I know my carbon footprint is minimized.
I used to be so dry my skin would flake, no matter how much moisturizer I put on. Now, I never have any trouble with my skin. I pick wild cedar bark and leaves and sit them in a jar of jojoba oil for 3 weeks. Once steeped, I strain into a dropper jar and use it as my moisturizer. 4 drops is all that’s needed to completely hydrate my skin. By using the whole plant instead of essential oil, it’s gentler on the skin and less likely to burn or cause irritation.
The benefit of cedar is that it’s antibacterial and antifungal, so it naturally acts as an agent against bacteria-based breakouts.
Jojoba oil is a safe carrier oil that is anti-inflammatory and super moisturizing. It helps ease eczema, rosacea, and helps repair skin damage. It’s also a non-comodogenic oil, which means that it doesn’t over-saturate your skin if it’s naturally oily. It’ll help regulate your skin’s natural oil production.
Facial cleansing pads
Before I purchased these pads, hand-dyed with plants, I used old face cloths to remove my oil cleanser and gently exfoliate. They weren’t pretty, they were worn and stained, but they worked effectively. When I re-did my bathroom, I made the decision to graduate from stained towels and purchased these from Montreal brand, La Petite Leonne. What did I do with my old face cloths? They’re now cleaning cloths for the bathtub and sink – every night and every morning after I’m done in the bathroom, I give the sink a wipe and it keeps my deep cleans to a minimum. Everything stays tidy for so much longer!
I wash my facial pads by hand in the bathroom sink right after use, and hang them to dry on the soap pump. By the evening, they’re dry and clean.
One of the easier switches I’ve made to zero-waste. I use these for toner – one side one night, the other side the next night. They won’t stay white forever, but they last and they work. It’s easy to wash them right in the sink by hand with natural soap, and they dry overnight just like my facial pads.
Beware the safety razor – it’s easy to get nicks, even if you’re being careful! But the best tip is, hold it at a 45 degree angle, and go nice and slow, without pressing down. The weight of the razor will do the work! And careful around the ankles 🙂
A huge benefit to using a safety razor is that when they’re dulled and past useful life for shaving, they make really effective sweater de-pillers. You can read a full how-to here.
Whenever I’m at artisan shows, I pick up a bar of soap. There are always locals who make soaps, and it keeps things so fun – I never have the same bar, it’s always interesting and exciting, it’s like a treasure hunt for great scents and bars. I stock up in the summer, use them all through winter, and rest them on a wooden soap dish from Hamilton zero waste brand, Lekko Life Goods. Having a soap dish of wood not only protects the bathtub, it’s also compostable once it’s past its useful life (which will take a looong time).
I gave up loofahs a long time ago. Scrubbers, on the other hand? Super effective in sloughing off dead cells and stimulating your skin – wet, or dry. I’ve found that my skin is smoother and I feel more invigorated after a shower than when I was using a plastic alternative. When you’re done with it, the bristles and rope can be composted.
Shampoo & Conditioner Bars
Okay, this took me a LONG time to get the hang of. First thing’s first: there are a couple ways you can use a shampoo bar. Some people rub it directly onto their scalp. I found this made my hair too greasy. I lather it in my hands, put it down, and use the lather on my hands to scrub my hair like I would if I had just dropped a dollop of shampoo on my palm.
I have very dry skin. So naturally, I was worried when I made the switch that my scalp and hair would get too dry. Instead, I found that I could go without conditioner at all! For months, I’ve just been using a shampoo bar. I later once, rinse it out, lather twice and that’s it. No more conditioner needed.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
I DID replace conditioner – just with something completely different. Because of my dry skin, I found out that apple cider vinegar is very effective in regulating the oils of your scalp and keeping your hair healthy and shiny. I spray it directly on my scalp after I’ve rinsed out my shampoo, keep it in while shaving, and rinse it out right before I get out of the shower. (just be careful to not get it into your eyes, because that’ll sting!) Since I’ve started using this rinse, I haven’t had any of the dandruff problems I used to get – which is a huge victory!
How I make my ACV rinse:
- 5 tablespoons of ACV
- 3 tablespoons of witch hazel (calms sensitivity & itchiness)
- 2 drops of rosemary essential oil (promotes hair growth)
- 2 drops of argan oil (hydrates & softens hair)
- Fill the rest of your 16oz jar with cool water
All ingredients from mine are from Public Goods!
Refillable Natural Hand Soap
If you’re looking for zero waste options for hand soap, you have a few options. Bar soap is the easiest and most accessible solution, but it’s just not my cup of tea for a main bathroom (all that residue). I use bar soap in my guest bathroom, and it’s perfect. But for the main one, I wanted to be able to easily refill my amber pump without the soapy mess.
Your second option is castile soap, which is made from vegetable oils. It’s non-toxic and biodegradable, and you can create your own mix of pure liquid castile soap, a few drops of your favourite essential oils, and water. It takes a little getting used to, because it’s more liquidy than your typical hand soap.
Your third option is an all-natural, refillable soap like the one I have from The Unscented Company. If a refill station isn’t available near you, they sell bulk refill boxes that minimize the total plastic to just an interior bag. This is the closest to a regular hand soap that I’ve found, and it’s safe enough to wash my facial rounds with in the evenings.
Recycled Fibre Toilet Paper
I remember the moment I first found out that most large toilet paper brands used new materials. I thought, “why on earth would you use new trees for something we just toss out??” Since then, I’ve been on the hunt for recycled toilet paper that’s not packaged in plastic. You can find paper-wrapped toilet paper at Staples (linked here), or if like me, you haven’t been able to find a Staples that actually carries it near you, Seventh Generation is a good alternative and I find it’s still nice enough that it doesn’t feel like sad office single-ply paper (linked here). It’s wrapped in plastic, but if your city recycles clear plastic, you can carefully remove and put it out with your jars – or use it as a bag for whatever other non-compostable waste you might accumulate.
This was definitely a weird switch for me. It took the longest to get used to, but once I did, it became my favourite zero-waste switch. It’s a remarkable thing to realize no matter where you are, all you need is one thing: your cup. No more counting pads and tampons by the hour. On heavy days, I need to switch it out every 4 hours – but on lighter days, I can run the full 10 hours no problem.
A few tips for first-timers:
- Your first cup might not be the one that fits you best.
- You’re going to have to experiment for a month. Or two. Or three.
- Try all the different folds. There are quite a few ways to fold it small enough to get in there, so you’ve got to test out which one works the best for you.
- Watch YouTube videos. I watched so many on how to insert it (the best are when they use a shot glass to show you how).
- It won’t get stuck, so just relax. Use your “poop” muscles to push it gently down and help you remove it.
- Grasp not just the handle when removing – grab the bottom of the cup and pinch it so it collapses in and removes the seal (it works on suction, so you’ve got to allow air in before you remove it).
- If you can feel it and it’s uncomfortable or makes you cramp, you might have to try a softer or smaller cup.
- If it’s leaking, it’s not in properly. You’ll know when it is – it’ll kind of pop into place. If it doesn’t, as ungraceful as it is, try pulling it out a little bit to allow the cup to pop open, try rotating it, or doing a squat or two to get it in place.
- Sometimes it seems like it’s leaking, but it might just be residue. Keep your eye on it!
- It might be more difficult to pee. Mine tends to compress my urethra, so I have to press down on my bladder to pee properly when the cup is inserted. It’s comical.
- Yes, you can poop in it. It won’t fly out.
My cup of choice? The Saalt cup. I have two sizes for my variance in flow, but you could go for just one. I am going to try the soft version so that I can combat the difficulty peeing with it in – I’ve heard great things about it!
This was a natural switch when using the cup. Although the cup is brilliant, you do sometimes get some residue after changing it here and there. Leakproof underwear is great to just capture whatever happens, without worry.
I use Knixwear – the regular bikini style, and the cheekies. I prefer the regular style, as it’s more full-coverage and the underwear line shows less.
I wear them for the day, and once I’m home, rinse under cold water (I do this in the bathtub). If you have natural soap, you can lightly clean it right there and hang it to dry. They dry super quickly, so it’d be ready to wear the next day. You can also throw it in the washing machine after a quick rinse if you prefer.
So those are all my bathroom swaps! Curious about anything in particular? Pop a comment down below!