Waste free guide – the bathroom

Waste free guide – the bathroom

My January 2021 mission started quite simply with the plan to make a couple of bathroom swaps I’ve been meaning to make for ages – cotton buds and dental floss. I need them to be home compostable – currently they go in the rubbish. This has led me down the rabbity-ist of rabbit holes. Let’s preamble before we proceed to what this has turned into – a monthly room by room eyeball.

The preamble

I think a lot about the waste involved in products I buy and just as importantly the impact it has on our health and the environment. I make a lot of my cleaning and beauty products and we’re not big consumers anyway but there’s still room for improvement.

The rabbit hole

My plan was to do a couple of bathroom swaps – to replace the plastic stemmed cotton buds and synthetic dental floss. I came back from the supermarket with new cotton and bamboo ear buds (winning) in a plastic sleeve (fail) and no non-synthetic dental floss as there was none available. I also bought new toothbrushes which came in the usual plastic packaging. My purchases made hubby comment – I’m surprised you bought these with all this waste. Ok, so 2021 wasn’t starting quite as I’d hoped with my bathroom revamp. As I think we all know, the supermarket isn’t your go to for eco products. It was meant to be a quick blog but it’s where I started going down the rabbity bathroomy sink hole involving waste, sustainability and my usual avoidance of nasty ingredients in products. Yep – the bathroom is filled with so many items that need discussing – not just cotton buds and dental floss.

It also includes hair, skin and beauty products along with cleaning products. I’ll cover these separately in the following months.

January – my waste free bathroom options – part one of two

Here’s my list of bathroom items. It’s things I’ve changed, am changing and realistically might not change. It’s not an exhaustive list but I hope it gives you some ideas about what changes you could make yourself. Don’t set yourself up for fail. There’s no way you’re going to change every single item. One is good. Two is better.

This month I’m changing – cotton ear buds – dental floss – tooth paste

Cotton ear buds

OK this is probably a controversial one upfront as we aren’t meant to stick them in our ears at all. I know! Hubby has narrow ear canals or something. I changed ours to a biodegradable one where the stick is made from bamboo rather than plastic. I’m going to compost or worm farm these as I assume they’ll break down ok in my home situation.

I recommend buying them from your favourite eco-store rather than the supermarket as I did as they came in an annoying plastic bag!! Doh!

A permanent option is the forever buds which are washed to reuse rather than having something that gets thrown away – re-use is always better than Recycling or Rotting (composting). Will I get this past the line with hubby though? I also wonder how it would stack up considering the resource required to make something like a re-usable option vs bamboo/cotton.  At the end of it’s life it’s probably not recyclable. I’ll let the bamboo ones settle in, do more research then try a further swap.

Dental floss

I’ve replaced our synthetic one with one from The Eco Floss. It’s made from silk and comes in a cute glass jar. I can get refills when it runs out. It works just as well, if not better than our synthetic one. I think it will also break down fine in the compost/worm farm – I’ll let you know. I got mine from The Coastal Cabin. Kim is local so I can pick up and she is also a great supporter of sustainable options.

Re-use – I also think you could rinse it, hang it to dry and re-use it. If the thought of a fly landing on it in between uses didn’t gross me out so much I might do this.

A permanent option – dental picks are available but these are mostly made of plastic and designed for a single use. While some are bio-degradable they will only do so in the right situation. IE a commercial composting facility, not landfill. I think it should be easy enough to make a dental pick that can be washed and re-used over and over. I’d love to know if there is one.

Another option is to DIY your floss using an old silk shirt or hemp fibers. Even though I love to make my own this does sound like a faff so I’ll stick with the Eco Floss one.


Pads and tampons are costly and are another single use item that creates waste. Two great options are material washable pads and silicone cups. I’ve used both and the ‘moon’ cup is something I recommend. It might not be something you can manage to use all the time depending on your work and schedule but even if you can use it half the time that’s a great saving in waste and dollars.


Hubby uses an electric razor so he’s all good but I’m still on the plastic disposables. In my defense, I don’t need to shave my old lady hair much. I bought a pack quite some time ago and it’s silly to throw them away instead of use them so when I run out I’ll look at something less wasteful.

A permanent option – there are plenty of options here rather than buying plastic disposables. Again, check your favourite sustainably friendly website/shop.

Toilet paper

I’ve been getting a regular delivery of Greencane toilet paper for many years and can’t fault the product and service. It’s one less thing to worry about when supermarket shopping and I have no need to panic buy it – I’m already stockpiling it 😊 It’s made sustainably using bamboo and sugarcane by-product and there’s no plastic waste involved. Customers can swap out a box for a mix with paper towels and tissues as well. Brilliant to do every now and then. (I’ll look at the use of paper towels and tissues when I get to Kitchen don’t worry). Price wise they don’t stack up to a supermarket brand but as we don’t go through a lot I can wear that.

A permanent option – Cloth wipes – I haven’t gone as far as to use a washable wipe instead of toilet paper although when I started researching it I wondered – why not? I think this is an area for improvement for us.  Even if I just swap out using a wipe instead of paper at home for wees it would be a saving on resource needed to make the paper. I wouldn’t ask guests to do it (would I ??). I’ll keep you updated.

More info – Juliet at The Great Eco Journey has written a brilliant blog about the different toilet paper options available to us in NZ. It includes pricing and packaging. There’s no need for me to re-invent the wheel – open up her blog in a new tab and read away. She has loads of informative blogs on ways to reduce waste around the home – well worth a look.


I bought a bamboo toothbrush a while ago but can’t stand the feel of it in my mouth. Is that weird? (For the same reason I can’t do the tongue scraping). I’ll try and get use to it or at least buy brushes that don’t come enclosed in so much wasteful packaging. There are companies (Eco-store and Grin) who will take back your used toothbrush and recycle it. I’ve also since found out about the TerraCycle recycle program which takes back some items and recycles the plastic into new items. I could have done this with the plastic in the packaging. I’m looking into this for the Whangaparaoa Community Recycling Centre so, locals, follow us on Instagram to find out more details.

Consumer has an interesting article about eco brushes here.

A permanent option – electric toothbrush. This needs a whole lot of research on my part. How does it stack up? Dentists certainly rate them and I use to have one which I loved. What happens to it when it dies (which it did?). More waste.

Alternatives – There are also other ways to brush your teeth which involve oil pulling and sticks – all out of scope for me to look into now.


I’m still using my Eco-store toothpaste which leaves me with a tube to get rid of. I could send them back for free but they currently aren’t being recycled. Grin also have a recycle program (along with the toothbrushes as above). Once you have 10 used tubes you can send them back to them to be recycled. Both Eco-store and Grin toothpaste is made in NZ and is baddie-free (SLS, fragrance etc). A great reason to support them although, after reading the Consumer article, I’m not 100% sure the tubes are currently being recycled.

Other options – one is to DIY. Of course I’ve played around with making my own using baking powder and coconut oil but haven’t settled on anything I love. I’ve started using a powder made by the Whangaparaoa Recycling Centre. I don’t love it but I use it some of the time and am getting use to it. Making your own does of course involve that other rabbit hole – buying all the ingredients often involves plastic waste anyway…..

The DIY tooth powder is made with equal parts of baking soda, xylitol and bentonite clay.

A waste free option – Toothpaste tabs. I don’t have experience with these but will try them at some stage out of curiosity although I can’t see either of us switching from a paste to a dry tab. Never say never though.


I’m not a fan of these single use items for removing make-up or for wiping hands or little bottoms and I don’t have any experience of using them. If you want to stick with disposable wipes then please don’t flush them down the toilet as they don’t break down – putting them in the rubbish is better.

A permanent option – It’s a no brainer for me to use a face cloth or something washable in the bathroom. I often see people selling washable cloth make-up wipes at markets – endless choices of material to suit your décor. This is a much better option than something disposable and they can also be used for more than just removing make-up.

Water reduction

With our increasingly dry summers a bathroom blog has to include water usage. Not leaving the tap running when brushing teeth and using the half flush option on the toilet are obvious ones. When water is getting low we –

  • Save the water that is used running the sink tap to get hot water through – this goes in the shower tub (below). If you have a lot of house plants it could easily get used on these.
  • Apply the toilet motto – ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow’
  • Use a large tub in the shower to catch water. It’s amazing how much water is collected with just a quick shower. Again, a lot of water is run through just getting the water hot. This goes out on the garden and can also be used to flush the loo. Don’t worry about a bit of soap in the water – it’s fine on the garden. If you’re worried that your hair and skin products will have a negative effect on the garden then you should probably consider what they’re doing to your body. Just saying.
water saving tips

Soap, hair, skin and beauty products is up next. This blog was getting so involved I couldn’t address it all in one hit. January is nearly over too!

Cleaning products – I haven’t included these here, I’ll include them when I look at laundry. I make most of my cleaning products so this will be very DIY.

I hope this has got you thinking about one or two easy changes to make in the bathroom. Don’t throw away what you have now – make the swap when you run out.

Let’s hit Plastic Free July a little bit smug.

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