So much stuff in a typical bathroom is rarely used, yet there is so much of it. Nicole Lutze has some ideas to reduce your bathroom waste and spend less.

Bathroom cabinets can quickly become overrun with pricey products in flashy packaging making unsubstantiated claims. We have a lotion for this, a potion for that, and suddenly we’re engulfed in plastic packaging and taking significant hits to the household budget.

The good news: we don’t need half the toiletries we jam into our bathroom storage.

In this series we embrace simplicity and show how to swap out items and replace them with multi-purpose essentials. You’ll save you money and lessen your environmental impact.

The problem with plastic tubes & bottles

Before I dive into specific ways we can simplify the products in our bathroom; we first need to understand why plastic packaging for toiletries and cosmetics is a problem.

As with anything waste related, avoiding packaging rather than relying on recycling is the best solution, though not always possible.

Some bathroom product packaging cannot be easily recycled. Or at least not in your regular council recycling, and not without using significant finite resources in the process. Soft plastic wrappings, various tubes and many cosmetics containers are examples. Some companies have taken responsibility for the waste they generate and offer loyalty reward programs if you return your old packaging to them. Examples include MAC, Kiehl’s, and Lush.

TerraCycle also offers a recycling program which includes a reward point system. Somewhat similar to Queensland’s Containers for Change refund scheme, when you send a box of cosmetic containers to TerraCycle you can earn points which then translate to cash donations for your nominated school or charity.

To see what bathroom items can go in your yellow recycling bin in Brisbane, read this recycling guide from Visy (PDF).

Say hello to Castile soap!

Nothing kills germs and cuts down on unnecessary packaging quite like bar soap. No gimmicks, no foaming pump bottles, just good old fashioned soap is all you need. Put a bar beside each sink in your house, and you’re ready to combat germs and save some money at the same time.

If you aren’t prone to dermatitis or eczema, you can also use soap in the shower instead of body-wash. However, those with sensitive skin should source a pure Castile soap.

Castile soap is a go-to in my house (or when travelling on holidays) because it can be used for anything including washing floors, clothes, dog, hair, face, windows, vegetables and more. However, a word of warning. Many leading brands are not true Castile soap at all, and make their soap using an assortment of oils, making them harsher on skin. Pure Castile soap is unscented and made from 100% olive oil, meaning it is the most gentle soap available. This is what you ideally want to use on sensitive or baby skin. Pure Castile soap isn’t your cheapest bar available, but if you store it away from running water in the shower, it should last a long time. To save money keep an eye out for local Castile soap makers at the markets, or consider making your own bars at home from used or fresh olive oil (they make great gifts).

For extra frugality, get yourself a soap saver bag and put any leftover slithers of soap into the bag to use up in the shower.

Seek solid substitutes

Try banishing plastic bottles entirely by seeking out toiletries in solid bar form such as shampoo, conditioner and even solid moisturising or bubble bath bars. To keep it simple, Castile soap can suffice as bubble bath, and edible oils are perfect as moisturiser.

Solid toiletries can be found in stores like Biome or Lush, and Priceline recently started stocking my own favourite solid shampoo brand, Ethique. Just like solid soap bars, store them away from running water in the shower and they should last many months.

If you’re not convinced solid bars are for you, another option is to bulk-buy your favourite shampoo and conditioner in the largest bottle you can find, and decant it to smaller bottles for each shower in your home. Alternatively your local bulk-shop may allow you to fill a container.

Next time

In in Part 2 of our series we look at ditching disposable razors and show you the wonders of multi-purpose oils like almond oil.