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How I gave up plastic bottles for shampoo, dish soap, and rinse aid

I tasked myself with buying no plastic bottles for the year; here's how it's going so far.

My resolution for 2020 (and beyond) was to stop buying anything that comes in a plastic bottle, otherwise known as a hermit crab death trap. Yes, among all the reasons one should reduce their plastic use, it was the hermit crabs that did it for me. (Here's the back story: No plastic 2020: The reason I am giving up all plastic bottles.)

I already didn't buy any drinks or perishables in plastic bottles, so I knew this was going to be more about housekeeping and personal care. I also knew that the task of finding workarounds would come gradually, only as current supply levels were depleted. So far, it really hasn't been too bad at all. I dare say, easy! Over the last two months I ran out of shampoo and conditioner, dish soap, and rinse aid. Here are the plastic-bottle workarounds that I adopted instead of buying more crustacean torture chambers.

Shampoo and conditioner

New Wash© Melissa Breyer

This one was very easy because I had already found New Wash, also known as “my perfect shampoo alternative.” It's a detergent-free conditioning cleanser, which means that it both cleans and conditions, in one product. But as for the plastic bottle part? Well if you join the New Wash Refill Club subscription series, you get a refillable stainless steel pump bottle and they ship you a pouch of New Wash to refill it with. Et voila, no plastic bottle required!

According to the site, people use an average of 16 bottles of shampoo and conditioner a year; Refill Club members use an average of three pouches of New Wash a year – which is the equivalent of one and a half plastic bottles. And I think I'll use even less. It is not 100 percent zero-waste – but a few pouches is way better than 16 hermit crab prisons.

Dish soap

dish soap© Melissa Breyer

This one was a real revelation. I am not sure how many plastic bottles of dish soap I used to go through for my hand-wash-only items, but after getting a dishwashing block from the wonderful, zero-waste shop, Well Earth Goods, I am never going back.

The block is made by No Tox Life and it's really cool. It is basically a bar of soap for dishes, as you can see in the video above. It is lathers up nicely, cuts through the gunk, and rinses clean easily. It also has some added aloe vera to pamper your hands. Well Earth Goods points out that, “In addition to being a great no plastic alternative in the kitchen, they also take stains out of laundry, labels off of jars, spot clean your carpet, and can be used to wipe down counters.” This may come in very handy over the next few months.

Rinse aid

dishwasher© Melissa Breyer

Although the control panel of my 16-year-old dishwasher, above, is getting a bit tired, the rinse aid light still screams at me loudly whenever the dishwasher needs a drink of the mystery potion. (Not really a mystery, see: What is rinse aid?) I have never seen rinse aid in, say, glass bottles or in tablet form – only plastic bottles. Most DIY formulas rely on vinegar, but I know better than to put vinegar in my dishwasher.

What to do? Well, feel confused and do nothing is what I did, and guess what? After a few weeks of forgoing rinse aid, I realized that I don't really need it. My dishwasher manual says, “Rinse aid is needed to prevent spotting on dishes and glassware,” but aside from some extra water droplets when the washing is done, everything seems fine and reasonably sparkly.

Consumer Reports also has some good tips to encourage better drying:

  • When loading the dishwasher, place the dishes so they aren’t touching. That improves water circulation.
  • Use heated dry or other available heat options on your machine.
  • As soon as the cycle ends, open the dishwasher door a few inches to let the moist air escape.
  • When emptying the dishwasher, unload the lower rack first. That way any water that might have pooled on your coffee mugs won’t spill on the clean dishes below.

As I am monitoring other products that are getting low, I notice that I am being very stingy in their use – I thought I was pretty conservative that way already, so that's been interesting. I am worried about the Sriracha, will need liquid laundry detergent soon, and I am afraid to use any aspirin! We will see how I handle those challenges in the next installment here.

I tasked myself with buying no plastic bottles for the year; here's how it's going so far.