In the bathroom, plastic invades every available surface space: caddy, window-sill and shelf. In the kitchen, it fills the cleaning cupboard and occasionally under the sink. It has become ubiquitous. The turnover is slow compared to food packaging: monthly, often more. The plastic gets in, puts its feet up and demands a cup of tea and our wifi password.

This week I’m looking at cleaning products: cleaning of the body, and cleaning of the home.

Easy Cleans

Changes we’ve made so far:

Bar Soap

We switched from liquid soap dispensers a while ago, no longer comfortable even with the waste that refills create. We already carried bar soap when we travelled, so why not at home? What’s interesting is that this solution seemed obvious, but until recently we didn’t think to look at what other bars are available. More on this below.

I mentioned this last time about milk bottles: often the solution is there if only we care to look backwards. What did our parents or grandparents use when they grew up? Is there any reason why we can’t follow their lead?

Bamboo toothbrushes

Even Colgate has joined the bamboo toothbrush party. Even if you’re not going to a zero-waste store any time soon, chances are your local supermarket will have these.

Entry-level Spray Bottles

Our only experimentation was to create a bleach and water mixture to wipe down our groceries during the pandemic. Now we’re beginning to look at how else we can reuse what we already have (more on this below).

Refillable cleaning products

Bought with good intentions, until we realised how difficult it can be to get refills locally, particularly during the pandemic. We need more intentional action here. The facilities exist, and we shouldn’t be buying new bottles to replace the old.

Hard to Reach Areas

We adopt a policy of replace-as-you-go: whenever a product runs out, we replace it with a sustainable and plastic-free alternative. We say goodbye to it forever and welcome in a green solution.

With groceries, you can quickly see the effects of your changes. With cleaning products, consumption will be slower. Some of these plastics will loiter for months.

Our initial target areas:

Advanced Spray Bottles

Companies like Ocean Saver (UK) are helping to combat the proliferation of plastic under our sinks. They create sachets to mix with water in empty cleaning bottles to act as refills. Those plastic bottles under the sink could be the last you ever buy and will be reborn into something with a purpose beyond the plastics bin.

This week I’ll audit our cleaning cupboard to identify what needs replacing. Not the most exciting activity I’ve scheduled, but worthwhile, and often it’s the mundane tasks that need shouting about.

Toilet Bombs

This post on Instagram recently caught my eye. Mix up the ingredients, drop it in your toilet, and once it stops fizzing scrub away. I’m interested in trying anything that can be homemade but call your product “something-bomb” and you jump straight to the front of the queue.

Haircare

We bought our first shampoo bar last week. I was sceptical, people keep raving about them. The last of our shampoo ran out last night, so I’ll be switching to the bar tonight. I’ll report back next week.

The discovery of shampoo bars opens up a whole world of products that I was unaware of. Conditioner in a bar is the obvious next step, but I’ve also seen people recommend bar dish soap. I’m having a hard time visualizing how that works, but I’m keen to find out. Again, when I get a chance to test it I’ll report back.

Toothpaste and Mouthwash

In the same way that you can get soap-like bars to replace to a lot of your liquid soaps, there are tablets out there to replace most of your dental products. We’ve bought (but not used) tablets to replace our toothpaste, but I wondered if we could replace mouthwash.

It turns out there’s a tablet for that too. Dissolve the tablet in water and swill. Sounds almost too easy, doesn’t it? The real challenge here will be settling on a flavour that we can both agree on.

In summary

There are options for any personal hygiene or household item I can think of. The challenge will be buying something new before the old runs out, and not putting myself in a position where I need to buy a plastic option to cover the gap. The cleaning cupboard audit will be a great help for that.

Follow-up

A couple of weeks ago I talked about veg boxes. Our first box is ordered and it will arrive in the week. I’ve also found plastic-free non-dairy milk; fingers crossed it will be as good as the stuff we buy in tetra-paks because I’d love to cross that packaging off my list.

Plan for Week 5

I missed week 3 (and this post is a few days late) because I was on holiday last week. I wasn’t about to attempt to write something whilst I touring in our van around Devon and Cornwall, but this holiday has given me lots of inspiration; in particular the subject for the last week of Plastic-Free July: Travelling — How to be plastic-free when you’re mobile and your options are limited.


As always, I hope you can join me on this challenge and I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you reduce the plastics on your bathroom shelves and under your sinks, and where have you struggled? Looking ahead to next week, have you any tips for staying plastic-free whilst out and about?


If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, please consider signing up to my newsletter. I publish weekly to highlight my new writing and share things I found of interest.

Related stories: