I’m a huge plastic hater, so I’ll gladly admit that I tend to go a bit overboard with the “plastic is evil” sentiment I’ve been known to spew. That said, studies do show that nearly every plastic leaches chemicals under even the most ‘neutral’ of conditions… including many supposed non-leaching plastics.
I don’t know about your bathroom, but even with a fan on, mine can get pretty hot and humid after a good shower. This is important to consider, 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, as mentioned, it’s made worse by heat and humidity. Not to freak you out, but every time you brush against your vinyl shower curtain, you’re taking some phthalates with you. And when you take a hot shower, you breathe them in.
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 open pores to unnecessary toxins?
Bamboo, ceramic, and stainless steel are great plastic alternatives for durable items like toothbrush holders, soap dishes, cotton ball canisters, and trash bins. Organic cotton and hemp are great for softer items, such as shower curtains and bath mats. And I’ve recently learned that you can also find some of these items made from natural, chemical-free diatomaceous earth! (I’ve posted a couple below.)
Shower curtains & liners
Organic / pesticide-free cotton, linen, and hemp are my first choice for 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, 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.
Natural latex rubber is a great alternative to the typical vinyl / PVC bath mats inside the tub. Bamboo mats and organic cotton bath mats are a great alternative to microfiber and other plastic-containing materials outside the tub.
I’ve also recently discovered that you can get biodegradable bath mats that are 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, as they are made from polyester and nylon. Not only are these synthetic fabrics essentially plastics (made from petrochemicals), but their particles shred off and end up in our oceans and waterways.
To avoid pesticides, as well as manufacturing chemicals in towels and washcloths, I’d recommend organic cotton, hemp or linen in place of conventional cotton and poly-blends, whenever possible. (By the way, linen comes from the flax plant, on the very 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 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 Magnolia (pictured below) are GOTS certified cotton and super soft.
As you might guess, I don’t care for plastic touching 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 (pictured below) is also pretty. Apparently, there are tiny particles in diatomite soil that 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, 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.