Going zero-waste at your own pace is not an overwhelming process if you time it just right. Start with one swap a month or quarter, until you are completely zero-waste. These environmentally-friendly bathroom swaps will help you on your zero-waste journey.
What can you go without?
One of the best things you can do for the environment is to simply consume less. Do you really need dozens of different lotions, potions and make up products? Try to take a minimalist approach and think about what you really need in your bathroom. It might be a lot less than you think!
Before you start making your swaps
Use up what you have before you start getting new products. It may be fun to start shopping for zero waste bathroom supplies but if you toss your old shampoos and soaps is it really zero waste? If you truly have no desire for these items offer to donate them to a friend who will finish them up for you.
One mans trash…
When possible try to purchase items from thrift and vintage stores. You can find lots of great bathroom accessories like shower curtains, bath caddies and soap pumps at a fraction of the price. Shopping second hand helps keep items out of the landfill.
Another option is to purchase from online second hand stores like Poshmark or Mecari where you can get gently used designer items for way less.
Reusable trash bin liner
Regardless of zero-waste status, reusable trash bin liners are an absolute must for any eco-friendly bathroom because you can:
- throw regular trash into the liners, then transfer into one large trash bag for the dumpster; or
- use the liners for cloth swaps, from flannel makeup rounds to reusable menstrual cloth pads (just transfer them into a mesh bag for laundry day!).Planet Wise Pail Liners are leak-proof, stay on your trash can because of elastic, and can be tossed into the laundry with your towels for years.
Handmade shops on Etsy sell similar bin liners, as well as liners of different styles. You might have to try a few different brands before you find one that works for you.
Bamboo towels instead of cotton
Cotton towels have a greater water footprint, and account for 25 percent of insecticides and 10 percent of pesticides globally.
Bamboo towels are more sustainable when companies create them properly and can even dry you more quickly. They’re also softer and less likely to shrink in the washer and dryer, even when you wash and dry them hot.
Sustainable bamboo products are made from farmed bamboo, so they are not taken from natural habitats. The pandas are okay.
Reusable swabs instead of Q-Tips
First and foremost, do not use Q-Tips, or any other kind of cotton swab, to clean your ears. Nothing should be stuck in your ears to clean them. It’s best to use your finger and a tissue instead, because you have greater control over the tissue.
The two best reusable swab brands out there are NakedSwab and LastSwab.
The textured ends on each brand’s regular swabs make cleaning out ears safe, as long as you stick to the edges and use a gentle twisting motion.
NakedSwab cases and handles are made of bamboo, while just the swabs are silicone. You get two swabs in one case — a regular swab and a beauty swab. The first time you check out your NakedSwab, you might think you’ve broken the case but it’s just held together by a magnet.
By including two in a case, NakedSwab replaces 2000 cotton swabs. Since they’re made with bamboo, cleaning them does require more attention. The bamboo handle will be safe if you use soap, but it will last longer if you only clean the silicone with soap. If you do not want that kind of responsibility, LastSwab is the better choice.
LastSwab is a full silicone replacement for the cotton swab, bud or Q-Tips. One LastSwab replaces 1000 cotton swabs. LastObject has three different types of LastSwab — original, beauty, baby.
Sustainable oral hygiene products
Bamboo toothbrushes, jarred toothpaste, and silk floss — oh my! Oral hygiene alternative products are one of those rabbit holes on the internet. As soon as you find out about one alternative, you keep finding more and more.
Did you know that toothpaste did not have to come in a tube or other kind of plastic container? Toothpaste tabs and tooth powders usually come in jars or tins.
Toothpaste tabs activate by being chewed. Tooth powder jars are dedicated to one individual because a damp toothbrush is dipped directly into the powder. You have much more control over how much toothpaste you use this way, as the powder does turn into a paste.
Neither toothpaste option will feel quite like regular toothpaste, but your teeth might just thank you for it.
Another toothpaste alternative is mouth oil, which can be used as mouthwash or to brush your teeth with.
Switching to bamboo toothbrushes might not be for everyone — especially neurodivergent kids and adults. Preserve toothbrush handles are made from 100% recycled #5 plastic yogurt cups. They have a toothbrush recycling program, which helps keep their toothbrushes out of landfills and the ocean.
Get a Bidet
Bidet’s have come a long way in recent years and having been growing in popularity, especially since the great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020. Bidet’s can be easily hooked up to your existing toilet with just a couple tools. No plumber required! Check out this video on how to install one yourself.
Use Sustainable Toilet Paper
Toilet paper companies like Who Gives a Crap and Reel Paper have changed the game when if comes to bathroom tissue. These companies sell TP that is made from recycled paper and bamboo. They don’t use any plastic in their packaging or shipping and they donate partial proceeds to charity.
Environmentally-sound cleaning products
Nixing the harsh chemicals used in common household cleaners turns cleaning into a safer experience for all. Once you find sustainable cleaning products that work for your home, you’ll never want to go back. Get tips for spring cleaning your bathroom here.
For example, Meliora All-Purpose Cleaner is sold first as a glass spray bottle with three refill tablets. The base is coconut oil, which has antimicrobial
properties. Meliora is 100 percent single-use plastic-free. You just add water and shake — scent with essential oils of choice, if desired.
Replace your liquid soap with bar soap.
Even if you only replace your hand soap and body wash, you’re still making a difference! Bar soap will last longer over time, so you will spend less on it even if it feels like you’re spending more.
Zero-waste soap brands:
- The Earthling Co.
For sensitive skin, look for soap bars containing coconut oil, shea butter, and rice milk or goat milk. Method’s Simply Nourish soap bars smell like a coconut dream and are made with rice milk. Activated charcoal and shea butter soaps also work well for sensitive skin, while still providing a fresh, clean feel.
Since bar soaps can be drying to people prone to skin breakouts, changing your soap might not be the best for your skin and health. Don’t force your body to withstand what doesn’t work in the name of zero-waste. Organic products often lead to the diagnosis of skin sensitivities or allergies you didn’t know you had, so be sure to consult your doctor or dermatologist if your skin reacts badly to the new soap.
Reusable facial rounds instead of disposable cotton balls and makeup remover pads
Each pack of facial rounds replaces approximately 1,000 cotton balls or cotton makeup remover pads. They can be washed in with your regular laundry or in the dishwasher and work just as well, if not better.
Different companies use different fabrics. Cotton and bamboo are the most popular options, though it’s not difficult to find flannel ones if you prefer them.
Marley’s Monsters cotton rounds come in natural, undyed colors as well as rainbows and patterns.
Tru Earth makeup remover pads are made from bamboo and cotton.
You might even find them in your grocery store!
Fix leaks and conserve energy
Leaky faucets and toilets can waste gallons of water every day. Check for leaks and get them fixed as soon as you can. Here’s a handy guide on how to fix a leaky toilet tank. You can also lower the temperature of your hot water heater, install a low flow shower head and swap your lightbulbs for ones that use less energy. Leaky bathroom sink? We have a guide to fix that too.
Don’t Forget Feminine Hygiene Products
There are many alternative options to traditional tampons and pads. Menstrual cups are reusable and a much better for the environment. If you prefer, Thinx also makes underwear that absorbs blood so you don’t have to use a tampon or pad. If you still want to go the traditional route you can buy organic pads and tampons that are made with non-bleached organic cotton.
If you find choosing your own sustainable swaps overwhelming, Mighty Nest has you covered. They’ll send you one fix each month based on your needs and wants. Just tell them you’re focusing on the bathroom — and be sure to include what you don’t want.
For example, if you tell them you’re allergic to metal or nuts, or that you don’t want cleaning rags, they won’t send you that. Each fix is selected by an actual person based on your profile, reviews and the notes you add.
Switching to sustainable, eco-friendly products isn’t an overnight process. Use the disposable items you have before using your replacements, so you don’t create more waste. Only keep the swaps that work for you and your home, and donate, gift or return what doesn’t work.
Don’t forget to recycle
Despite our best efforts to create a sustainable home that is produces zero waste and still serves us, there is probably still going to be some type of trash produced. Make sure you make an effort to recycle the items you can instead of throwing them in the trash.
Check out this great zero waste bathroom tour from Glittemary Johansen: