Ahhh, there is nothing like a hot shower to wake you up and get you going in the morning or to relax and unwind after a long day.
Take a moment to imagine it. Feel the warm water massaging your back and melting away the stress. Let the steam soothe your senses. Now, take a deep breath in and feel the plastic particulates ooze from your vinyl shower curtain, gently working their way into your lungs and…
Hey, wait a second. Hold on! That doesn’t sound healthy at all.
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Why aim for a plastic-free bathroom?
I’ll admit it, I‘m a huge plastic hater and I know I can go a bit overboard with the whole ‘plastic is evil’ thing. Still, studies show that nearly every plastic we use leaches chemicals, even under the most ‘neutral’ of conditions… including many plastics that are supposedly non-leaching.
That brings us back to the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but even with a fan on, my bathroom gets pretty hot and humid after a good shower. This is important because heat and humidity are two factors that contribute to — and even accelerate — the leaching of contaminants.
For example, hormone-disrupting phthalates readily leach from vinyl (plastic) shower curtains and PVC-lined bath mats – even in cool, dry environments. But like I said, heat and humidity make it worse. Not to freak you out, but every time you take a hot shower, you touch (and breathe in) these particulates.
When we inhale these contaminants, we add to our body’s toxic load. If you’re chemically sensitive, this is definitely no bueno. But even if you’re not acutely sensitive to chemicals, why expose your lungs and wide-open pores to unnecessary toxins?
Don’t worry, you’ve got options.
Bamboo, ceramic, glass and stainless steel are great plastic-free alternatives for durable items like toothbrush holders, soap dishes, cotton ball canisters, and trash bins. For softer items, such as shower curtains and bath mats, you can’t beat organic cotton, linen, and hemp. These days, you can even find some of these items made from natural, chemical-free diatomaceous earth!
Here are some of my favorite ways to un-plastic every area of your bathroom. Since we’re on the topic of showers, let’s start there.
Shower curtains & liners
Organic/pesticide-free cotton, linen, and hemp are my first choice for plastic-free shower curtains. Pretty simple. (I have Rawganique’s hemp shower curtain. It’s definitely not cheap, but it is absolutely gorgeous.)
I’ve seen hemp offered up as a natural alternative for shower curtain liners, as well. For the shower curtain itself, that’s great. But hemp is pretty expensive and not water resistant, so I’m not sure how practical it is as a liner.
A popular alternative is a non-PVC liner made from EVA, which is a type of vinyl that apparently does not leach toxins. I’m still not crazy about the idea, but I couldn’t find anything else, so that’s actually what I ended up with in my own bathroom.
Bath mats & rugs
Natural latex rubber is a great alternative to the typical vinyl (PVC) bath mats inside the tub. Outside the tub, bamboo mats and organic cotton bath mats are a great alternative to microfiber and other plastic-containing materials.
I also love the idea that you can get biodegradable bath mats made from diatomaceous earth. They are completely chemical-free and fast-drying, so they don’t collect bacteria or mold. They aren’t soft and fluffy, but they get the job done.
Skip the microfiber towels and washcloths, as they are made from polyester and nylon. In addition to rubbing this plastic material (yes, both polyester and nylon are plastics!) against your open pores after a shower, their particles shred off and end up in our oceans and waterways when we wash them.
To avoid pesticides from natural materials – as well as any manufacturing chemicals – I’d recommend organic cotton, hemp or linen towels in place of conventional cotton and poly-blends, whenever possible. (By the way, linen is an age-old fabric that comes from the fibers of the flax plant, on the very very off-chance you were curious.)
Even organically grown plants can be dyed with harmful colorants. To avoid chemical and metallic dyes, opt for fibers and fabrics that are undyed, unbleached, and otherwise untreated. Alternatively, choose textiles that have been naturally dyed from plants and minerals.
To ensure you’re getting towels that meet the highest standards, check that they are GOTS Certified. The Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) certifies textiles across every stage of its life, from how the plant is grown to how its fabric is manufactured. This certification prohibits the use of heavy metals, formaldehyde, chlorine bleach, and other toxic dyes. It even covers the social aspects of manufacturing, such as worker safety, fair wages, and child-free labor.
These organic bath towels by Grund (below) are GOTS certified cotton and super soft.
Organic Cotton Bath Accessories by Grund
As you might guess, I don’t care for plastic touching – and potentially leaching onto – my cotton swabs or toothbrush, since they’ll go directly into my ears and mouth. I use glass cotton ball holders, so I can easily see when it’s time to refill, though bamboo and stainless steel are great plastic-free alternatives as well.
This soap dish is also made from diatomite. This square version (below) is also pretty. Apparently, there are tiny particles in diatomite soil that naturally cause water to evaporate quickly, so mold, mildew, and bacteria are unlikely to live there.
This plastic toilet brush is encased in bamboo and stainless steel, which helps to shield us from any leaching or bacteria particles.
Real bamboo trash bins are a beautiful alternative to plastic. Just be careful when you’re shopping for bamboo, because I noticed that some product titles will say “bamboo”, but if you read the description, you’ll often find they are actually MDF with a bamboo veneer. I see this on Amazon all the time.
Enjoy your plastic-free bathroom
With all these options, you can rid your bathroom of plastic once and for all. And you’ll feel better knowing that you’ve created a toxin-free oasis for your next steamy shower. The only thing you’ll be breathing is a healthy sigh of relief.