Going plastic-free in the bathroom was a huge challenge and we are still perfecting our collection. But for travel we have things pretty sorted and have our stock standards ready to go!
Plastic-free toiletries are becoming more and more popular and there is a huge range of options available when it comes to solid shampoos or soaps. But once we switched to those we started thinking about all the little things like razors, tampons and toothpaste that create plastic waste we can avoid.
Soaps and Shampoos
We switched to solid soaps and shampoos before this trip and will keep using them once we settle down. We’ve found no difference to using liquid except that they last longer and we need to dry them out before packing (last minute showers can end in messy soap containers!)
We were using LUSH and a mixture of whatever we could find in the countries we were in but have recently switched to Ethique as I love their ethos, they’re NZ made (which means no shipping around the world), they don’t use plastic packaging or test on animals, they donate 20% of their profits and they make really lovely products including sampler packs.
We buy solid soap all over the world without any hassle although finding eco-friendly soap that comes wrapped in paper can be a little more difficult but because one bar lasts a month or so we can stock up when we find some and have time to find more.
We love: Natural Lemongrass Soap by Nairian (from Armenia)
I found some solid face wash in Dubai and it was a revelation. Again, it lasts way longer than a liquid version (my 100g lasted about 10 months) and it actually helped clear up my skin. I also recently bought an exfoliating pad like this one which is great for scrubbing off a day’s covering of sweat, sunscreen and dust.
We love: Coalface Facial Soap by Lush
We, of course, use solid shampoo for hair washing and often just cut a small piece of our block to carry with us in our bathroom container (the rest is somewhere in the depths of our backpacks!) Finding the solid shampoo for you can be a long process as they are all slightly different and everyone’s hair is different. I’ve recently discovered a shampoo specifically for oily hair and it’s totally my ‘one’. My hair is clean and soft and I don’t feel guilty using it while camping or in stilt villages in Brunei where the shower water goies straight into the river!
I quit using conditioner about three years ago after reading a lot about how your hair doesn’t really need it. I was on holiday and ran out of conditioner so decided it was the perfect time just to go cold turkey (I was actually in Turkey in winter!) and haven’t used it since. I can definitely feel that my hair isn’t as silky smooth but it lasts longer between washes and it’s one less thing to carry around the world. I use a wooden comb to brush my hair as it takes up less space and is plastic free.
We love: St Clements Shampoo by Ethique
We often stay at places with access to a washing machine but it’s sometimes not possible or really expensive. So we carry a block of washing soap for handwashing in the sink when necessary.
We love: Ethique Laundry Bar
We make sure that our travel clothes are made from light, quick-dry materials to make washing an easier process. We love merino wool and light cotton.
We also carry a bar of Dr Bronner’s All in One soap as this can be used for any of the above if we run out and comes in lots of delicious flavours.
We have bamboo toothbrushes which are the best plastic-free tooth brushing option. However, they’re hard to buy in a lot of countries and tend to be more expensive than an average toothbrush. So our ultimate solution is Yaweco brushes which have removable heads. They are made of plastic but it’s bio-based and made in a solar energy run factory. Each time you change the head there is only a small amount of waste compared to an entire toothbrush.
I’ve been using mine the entire trip (over a year) and have had no problems. It’s easy to carry enough heads to last 6 months or so and we’ve luckily been back to Germany a couple of times to restock. At the moment I’ve only found these on sale in Europe but if anyone knows an equivalent in the States or NZ, let me know!
As part of our Plastic Free July attempt (which you can read about here) we became hyper aware of all the plastics we use and toothpaste was one we couldn’t find a solution to, until I found Denttabs.
We happened to be travelling to Berlin right after I discovered them and were lucky enough to meet Axel, the creator of Denttabs who explained to us how they work and set us up with a supply to last us a while on the road.
Basically you chew the pill, wet your toothbrush and brush as normal. The pill disintegrates and foams up. It’s not the same as toothpaste and the texture takes some getting used to but your teeth taste and feel clean after. We even had a dental check-up after using them for a few days and the dentist said our teeth were clean. They also come in compostable paper bags and are eco-friendly which is perfect for teeth brushing while camping etc.
At the moment Denttabs are only available in the UK and Europe but big things are coming. Check their website for where to buy them.
Coconut oil is our new go-to product after our travels in India. We use it as a body moisturiser and Max uses on his hair and face. My skin is too oily so I just use facewash. Coconut oil is also a wonder product and can be used for all kinds of things from cooking and cleaning to washing and moisturising. We pick it up cheaply in many Asian countries but you can also get it online here.
We also use a moisturising cream that comes in a tin for dry skin and lips. The tins are nice and compact for travel and the cream lasts a long time. Have a look at options here.
Currently I use a compact plastic razor with removeable heads (this one here) as I stocked up before we left and still have a couple left. When we get to New Zealand I plan to invest in a metal safety razor which I’ve read are really durable and work well. You only need to replace a single blade which can be recycled so there’s no waste. Have a look at some female options here.
Max carries a travel-sized beard trimmer which, although technically made using plastic, will be used for the next few years and takes the place of many disposable razors. He chose his one particularly as it charges using USB so he doesn’t have to carry a charging stand as well. Have a look at this one.
That time of the month
I started using a cup just before this trip and it is a travel revelation. Besides the fact that is saves the planet hundreds of tampons in landfills, saves me space in my backpack and the hassle of searching for tampons in foreign countries it also only needs changing twice a day (morning and evening) and this can usually be done from the comfort of our private bathroom at our accommodation. They do take a bit of getting used to but once you get the hang of it it makes periods on the road so much easier.
I have the Lunnette which has worked without problems for me - click here for prices and reviews
I don’t use pads often but with the cup I sometimes experience leakage (sorry for too much information but if you’re bothering to read this I assume you’re interested!) so it’s handy to use a pad just in case. I bought some reusable ones which I don’t love (they’re too big and made from weird material) so when I get back to NZ I will look for some lighter eco bamboo fiber ones like these here.
During our attempts at plastic-free July we made our own deodorant using baking soda, corn starch, coconut oil and essential oils to give it more of a smell. Once you mix these together it creates a paste which can be smeared onto your armpits.
Max uses it without any problems, he doesn’t smell (I’ve checked) and is comfortable using it as an alternative to roll on deodorant. I used it without issues for a couple of weeks before my skin reacted with the baking soda and became red and itchy. Apparently this happens sometimes with high concentrations of baking soda and my skin may get used to it. For now, I’m not convinced and will look out for an alternative once we get to a city with some eco-friendly shops.
Have a read of some great natural deodorant options.
Things we haven’t figured out yet
I don’t wear makeup while we travel and only very minimal in ‘real life’ but this is something I haven’t seen a lot of plastic-free solutions to. Let me know if you’ve found any options.
This is a necessity for us as both our skin is very fair and needs protection. We haven’t found a good brand that comes in a metal tin or a stick in a paper tube but we know they exist. We have enough sunscreen to last our trip but will look for alternatives when we next need to stock up. I’ve found these ones here:
Metal tin - Raw Elements
Paper tube - EiR NYC - All Natural Surf Mud Pro Stick
Tablets come in plastic. I assume this is a hygiene requirement and haven’t seen any alternatives. We don’t carry a lot of medication but have a few things for traveller’s diarrhoea and some paracetamol. Let us know if you know of any alternatives!