Last week I wrote about hair washing with bicarb and vinegar, and I promised all the non-believers that I’d follow up with a post about other alternatives to plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Here it is: more ideas to wash your hair without plastic.
1. Bicarb and vinegar.
Okay okay, I know I talked about this last week, but I want to say that it’s worth considering! No, it doesn’t work on everybody’s hair, but it’s honestly worth a try. You won’t smell like fish and chips, promise.
I tend to use rye flour rather than bicarb because the pH is closer to the skin’s pH, but the principle is the same. Here’s the instructions.
Okay, moving on…
2. Shampoo and conditioner from bulk stores.
Not all bulk stores have a non-food section, but many do. Bulk stores with a focus on waste reduction (such as my local store The Source Bulk Foods) usually stock these products, and you can buy bulk shampoo, conditioner and other products in your own containers.
Health stores often stock bulk personal care products too, so if you don’t have a bulk store locally, check out any health stores close by.
3. Bar shampoo and conditioner.
Many people who take part in Plastic Free July make the switch from liquid shampoo to solid shampoo because of the reduction in packaging.
Although I’ve never used them myself, Ethique products are definitely the most popular option with my readers. This New Zealand company packages everything plastic-free.
My husband has used bar shampoo from Beauty and the Bees. They are an Australian company based in Tasmania but also with a US online store. I’m not sure if all their products contain honey (and if they do they won’t be suitable for vegans), but the one my husband used was beer and honey.
Lush Cosmetics is another option, with stores across the world (including Australia, USA and UK). There’s also heaps of micro businesses at local markets (I’ve seen several here in Perth) and online via Etsy. Whilst I can’t recommend anything in particular (I wash my hair with bicarb and vinegar, remember?!), I do love supporting local and independent businesses, and encouraging others to do so too.
4. Shampoo and conditioner in refillable bottles.
I don’t recommend purchasing shampoo and conditioner in glass (or other non-plastic containers) as a zero waste option unless they are going to be refilled. Recycling is such an energy intensive process, and there are so many other alternatives, that I truly see it as a last resort.
Rather than recycling the bottles, some companies will allow you to return your bottles for cleaning and refilling. This means you buy a product from them, and can return your empty when purchasing a new one. You don’t actually refill the container yourself, the company takes it away, cleans it, and refills on the production line.
Whilst these companies are not easy to find, they do exist. Plaine Products in the US is one example: they allow customers to return bottles for refill and reuse. I’m sure there are others – and if you know of any, please share in the comments! I also think this is something we will begin to will see more and more of.
(This isn’t to be confused with companies collecting containers back for recycling – such as Lush’s black pot recycling scheme. Recycling takes far more energy than simply washing and reusing.)
If you buy from someone who makes their own, ask if they can refill your containers. Before switching to bicarb and vinegar I purchased shampoo from a small business called Earth Products in refillable, returnable bottles that I provided. The owner didn’t sell refills as such, but was happy to refill my bottles when she made a new batch. I simply had to drop my bottles off in advance.
5. Soap Nuts
Soap nuts are often touted as a a laundry detergent alternative, but recently I met a lady on a course I was running who washed her hair with soap nuts. Soap nut shampoo? I was intrigued.
Soap nuts are dried brown wooden berries, slightly sticky, that have a saponin content. I’m always keen to try new things, so I gave them a go. I followed Monique’s instructions.
Place 9-10 soap nuts in a jug and pour over 500ml of boiling water. Allow to sit overnight. Remove the soapnuts from the liquid (they can be reused several times) and store the liquid in the fridge until ready to use.
I filled 1/4 measuring cup with the liquid and used in place of shampoo. It doesn’t foam like shampoo. I finished with vinegar rinse like usual. My hair felt soft and clean. I’m at day 3 now, and my hair could do with another wash, so it doesn’t last as long as bicarb vinegar, but definitely works better than plain water (for me).
6. Shampoo and conditioner in glass.
As I mentioned above, from a zero waste perspective I recommend the other alternatives over choosing glass unless it’s going to be refilled. Of all the options, it’s the more wasteful one. There’s a huge carbon footprint associated with transporting glass, not to mention that shampoo is 70-80% water. Then the glass has to be collected and recycled.
However, we’re not talking about zero waste, we are talking about plastic-free. I definitely purchased non-refillable products in glass at the beginning of my plastic-free journey, and sometimes these choices are important stepping stones to better ones down the track. If you’re not ready for bicarb or bar shampoo and don’t have access to bulk stores, this might be a good step.
If you do decide to look for products packaged in glass, try to find products made locally first. They will have a lower footprint. Try crafts markets and farmers markets, or investigate health stores to see if they stock locally made products.
Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have an eco friendly solution for washing your hair? Any other method you’d recommend? Any experiences with any of these that you’d like to share? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
(Disclaimer – I’m an affiliate for Plaine Products, meaning if you click the link and choose to make a purchase, I may be compensated a small amount at no extra cost to you. I choose to recommend them as I believe wholeheartedly in their commitment to creating zero waste and plastic-free solutions.)