How to recycle half used toiletries

Filed in Blog, Recycle by on October 1, 2010 42 Comments
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How to recycle or reuse half used toiletries

How to recycle or reuse half used toiletries

Over on the Green parent forum, one of the ladies asked about recycling bathroom toiletries. She wrote “How do I dispose of, or recycle all my half used bathroom shampoo’s, bubble bath and creams? Some are very, very old. This includes many, many bottles of unused baby products which I will never use. ”

There were some great suggestions on there, which were really thought provoking and I thought I’d throw the question out to you – what do you do with half used personal care products?

Readers of the forum shared the following ideas:

Dispose and recycle

If the products you no longer want are very old they are probably unusable so you’d have to empty them into the bin and recycle the containers if possible.

Share with friends

Anything still usable could be passed on to friends and family


Smear Vaseline round flowerpots to keep slugs off!

Blow bubbles

Use up the bubble bath for children – let them play with bubbles in a washing up bowl!


Sharon suggested Freecycle the unused baby products; baby clothes, toys and equipment usually does really well on Freecycle

Care homes

Sharon again thought an old people’s home might take items like bubble bath for residents.


Dawn mentioned the option of donating to refuges/hostels (for homeless people or people escaping a violent home, etc). She suggested checking with your council where you can drop things off with them and they will pass them on.


Kate said that she gave some old baby toiletries to her local church. They have a baby changing room with creams, talc etc for toddler groups and Sunday school.

What about you? How do you reuse or recycle the toiletries you no longer want?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (42)

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  1. Attila says:

    I have a friend who passes on to me lots of toiletries that she’s allergic to; things she’s tried that are no good for her or given to her as gifts. I like good quality stuff and don’t buy things I won’t use; but we all make mistakes or become sensitive to something at some point. I use shower gel/bubble bath/ shampoo as handsoap in a pump bottle, as a floor or general cleaner or to wash up. Hair conditioner makes a brilliant shaving gel for men and women; it doesn’t dry the skin like shaving foam can. I grate up old bar soap to make laundry gloop or liquid soap. My mum was given a gift set that included bath confetti that she wouldn’t use so I gave it to my neighbour who has a bath and often has her grand daughter to stay; she loved it. A dampened bar of soap can be used like tailor’s chalk when dressmaking, as long as the fabric is washable, of course. Toothpaste can be used to dry up a zit or as a grout cleaner. There must be more ideas, but that’s all I can think of.

  2. LJayne says:

    You can use any kind of soap/bubble bath etc to scrub your bath and shower clean – do it while you are in there and it saves time!

    A cleaning website I sign up to also suggest using it for loo cleaner. I guess it all goes down the same way so if it’s OK to use products in your bath water, it’s OK to flush them down the loo?

  3. Julie Day says:

    Any I don’t want for say body (say moisturiser that is too strong a scent), then I will still use for creaming my legs when I shave them. Or if it’s bath stuff then I will use it to bathe my feet when I need to have a pedicure. When I changed from using toiletries that weren’t natural to natural ones, some I poured down the sink and recycled the bottles, and others I gave away as a secret santa present at work.

  4. Pat says:

    Old shampoo and bubble bath is great for scrubbing the toilet. Just put a small amount on the brush and it cleans really well.

  5. Sooz says:

    I’ve found toothpaste to be very effective at getting rid of hair-dye stains off skin and my mums white bathroom!
    Our neighbour always used to give us loads of those little bottles off stuff from hotels, we used them up and kept some of the little bottles to put our own toiletries in when we go away.

  6. You could put ads for items for free on EcoBees (a reuse / recycling initiative) at and anybody close to you that could use them would request them. If they are half-used and old then I’m not sure how successful this would be though… my advice, although a tad late, would be to buy smaller amounts of items in the future if possible.

  7. talcum powder: soil amendment for tomatoes and potatoes… will deter slugs around young plants.

    soap leftovers: grate and add a few spoons of water, slowly heat in pan till gooey, put in pump bottle for hand wash.

    shampoo: as basic shower gel or hand wash delicates in cold water, rinse in vinegar water. add 1 teaspoon per quart and use as aphid control and scales problems under leaves of plants; in evenings after cool down. and when out of dish-washing liquid, pour some of that rose scented gel, rinse well
    conditioner: may be added to bath as skin softener. use as foot rub then rinse with warm water.

    tooth paste: excellent metal cleaner, copper, silver, aluminum, use a tired toothbrush as well…

    vaseline: rub the petroleum by-product to soften old belts and cure snake skins for some conversation starter, only previously dead ones please…as accidental roadkill of course. well that’s all i can contribute today, to my favorite greens, to the last drop, we save from dreadful waste.

  8. Jane says:

    Why have you got so much? Don’t open everything you’re given. Presents nowadays are often bought with little or no thought. Can you remember who gave you everything? No? What makes you think they can remember buying it or even giving it? There are more things you can do with unopened toiletries – raffle prizes, gift again, sell. Work your way through the opened ones. Move them to the front of the shelf and use them up. I’ve often cleaned the basin or bath with the dregs of the shampoo bottle or bubble bath. Yet to try the loo – but why not?

  9. Attila says:

    Ah yes! Talcum powder is a good repellant for ants; I put where they come in. I think it sticks to their little feet and they turn back. Unfortunately, it also sticks to not so little feline feet if they step in it.

  10. Magdalena says:

    I have some near full bottles of stuff given to us as Christmas presents and then developed a horrid allergic reaction. I can’t use them even as bathroom cleaner or handsoap. I think I will take them over to the church for their washrom needs – the food bank doesn’t want opened goods but the church washroom crew isn’t as fussy. We use locally made natural bar soaps for everything now. I developed these allergies after a really bad pencillium mold reaction – a lot of chemicals in scents, detergents and even sunscreens mimic the peniccilin chemistry.

  11. First of all, I love what you’re doing here! What a great website to educate people on lowering their waste.

    I love these tips. I’ve never heard of the Vaseline tip on flower pots but will have to try it out!


  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Attila: @LJayne: @Pat: @nadine sellers: Great ideas Attila, Pat, Nadine and Lesley; I have used old shampoo to clean the bath with (couldn’t stand the scent on my hair) and you’re right, we all make mistakes or get given unsuitable gifts from time to time. Sounds like you have some fantastic reuse ideas around the home – thank you for sharing!
    @Julie Day: secret santa is a great reuse idea Julie! and I like @Jane: Jane’s raffle donation suggestion
    @Sooz: toothpaste and hair dye – fantastic πŸ˜€
    @Austen Recycle: thanks Austen – ecobees sounds like Freecycle if I’m understanding correctly?
    @Magdalena: interesting information about the penicillin allergy creating other reactions πŸ™ Good idea to use it in other washrooms for less sensitive folk – thanks for the idea.
    @Aimee @ Ain’t Yo Mama’s Blog: Hey Aimee, welcome to the site! I love that you love it – hope you get on ok with the vaseline on your flower pots πŸ™‚

  13. Elena White says:

    Hi! I’m visiting from the Green Blog Hop. Thanks for visiting me at Life The Green Way.
    I like this post, as it addresses a question that I’ve often asked myself. I am a toiletry junkie!
    I often will give any shower gels, lotions, perfumes, etc. that I no longer use to my mom or sister.
    I like Atilla’s idea of reusing shower gel as hand soap. I’ll have to try that!

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @Elena White: Hi Elena, great to see you! It’s great that you have identified some grateful recipients for your unwanted toiletries and yes, reusing shower gel as hand soap is a great idea!

  15. Dianna says:

    Oh, I’m going to have to peruse many more ideas here! This post caught my eye, since I have a million (give or take) bottles of half used lotion, etc.

    I may call a local women’s shelter and see if they would be able to use them.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Dianna: Hi Diana, I love the idea of supporting a women’s shelter. Glad you enjoyed the post πŸ™‚

  17. Ben says:

    Another issue with toiletries is the packaging. My perception is that they typically have one of the lowest percentages of recyclable packaging for a product type, and often a lot of packaging per Kg of product too. Non-recyclable plastic tubes are used a lot, and lots of plastic wrapped soap bars (haven’t seen a multi-pack without plastic for years, but frustratingly buying individual bars is costly), and various little pots and jars. I have however managed to go almost completely waste free in the bathroom now, but it does mean avoiding a large selection of products. Fortunately for me I don’t have a big need for lots of different products, or once I’ve found some that work well want to try lots of new things.

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Ben: Hi Ben, I hear you on this. I too have completely downsized my need for toiletries products – if someone had told me, when I was about 15, I would be using the products I use now I don’t think I would have believed them!
    In fact you’ve inspired me to really think about this and I might write a post on it – thanks!

  19. janet says:

    1) Toiletries: I have a sensitive skin and use a facial wash by Clinique. The tube is very thick plastic and it is impossible to empty it by squeezing, so I cut it open and transfer the contents to a small pot (messy). Once I weighed the stuff left in the tube, and it was 30% of the total. I wrote to the makers and suggested that they should reconsider their packaging, but they did not respond except to send me a free tube!
    2) Medicines: It was once possible for unused medicines to be sent to 3rd world countries, if not expired. Why is this no longer allowed? You can’t even return unused medicines to the chemist the day after you have collected them – I tried to do this recently when my husband had been admitted to a nursing home, and the home wouldn’t use them either.

  20. Mrs Green says:

    @janet: Hi Janet, wow – 30%? that’s amazing; well done you for writing – not quite the response you were after but nice all the same! Re the medicines, I have a story about this coming up next week which I think you might be pleased to read πŸ™‚

  21. sara says:

    Sorry for my English but I’m Italian… Anyway… I use old bathroom toiletries with an old brushteeth to wash my shoes.It usually works!

  22. Bev Harris says:

    If you have any unwanted toiletries try leaving them in the changing room at the gym. Whenever I inadvertently leave anything behind it always gets taken. This way you can be sure that someone who really wants it will take it and use it!

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @sara: Hello Sara;I’ve done something similar – I’ve used old toiletries to clean the bath and sink before now. πŸ˜€

    @Bev Harris: Hi Bev, what a lovely thought – an act of paying it forward too πŸ™‚

  24. Marlies says:

    Isn’t it possible to use some conditioners as laundry softner?
    soap = soap, wether it is luquid or solid: useable as home-cleaner.

    take of the label of a little empty bottle, fill with some form the big bottle that is not full anymore, ad a ribbon and a card and use as (thank you) gift or for guests

  25. Mrs Green says:

    @Marlies: Hi Marlies; thanks for sharing your ideas. I’m not sure about using conditioner as a laundry softener but yes, soap for cleaning is an excellent idea

    • Janet Holttum says:

      I have used conditioner for final Prince of hand washed clothes before now. Works fine. Just don’t use too much.

  26. Ann says:

    I don’t know if you’ll see this, so long after the rest, but I used up my old (baby) vaseline, in the garden – perfect for sealing rose pruning and fruit tree pruning.

    Left-over shampoo makes good shower soap, too.

  27. Jane says:

    My first suggestion for half-used bottles of toiletries would be to start using them up, unless there is some reason why you cannot (for example, if you allergic). I would have thought that a lot of baby products could be used by older children or even adults. I keep old slivers of soap in a pot until I have enough, then chop them up small, put them in a dish, cover them with water, and microwave for a few minutes, stirring a couple of time during cooking. I then pour this liquid soap into soap dishes and leave it to set and dry out. This makes excellent new bars of soap. It would be equally effective with any oddments or half-used bars of soap you do not want. If toiletries have not been opened, and you do not want them, I would suggest giving them to someone as a present. Alternatively, I wonder whether a charity shop could sell them? I salvaged a really old unopened bottle of hand lotion from somewhere, but then put it in the back of the cupboard for a few more years! When I finally decided to use it recently, it was much runnier than it should be, but otherwise it was still fine, and it works well. Therefore, don’t automatically throw things away because they are really old. I gather from our local pharmacy that they cannot accept medicines back for reuse in case you have stored them in unsuitable conditions and they have deteriorated. For example, you might have stored something on top of a warm boiler, instead of in a cool place. It does not seem very likely though that someone would have done that and then decide to take their medicine back.

  28. Susan says:

    I just called and checked in with a local food bank. They said they would happily accept ‘not quite new’ toiletries to pass on to people who need them.

  29. Mrs Green says:

    @Susan: Wonderful news Susan; thanks so much for sharing!

  30. Lori says:

    I am actually trying to get rid of unused toiletries (shampoo. conditioner, bath wash) because I am trying to use natural products and less chemicals. I also have so many because when I bought them I intended to use them, but they didn’t do what they advertised (i.e. hair gel to control the frizz). How would I get rid of these? I’m thinking that homes for those who are “temporary” guests could use them. I just didn’t know if I could dump the contents in the garbage in order to at least recycle the bottles. I dumped some down the drain one time, since it would have gone down there anyway with use; however, it wouldn’t all get dumped at one time and water may have a harder time breaking it down. I’m giving all my old household cleaners (409, Clorox) to my parents, since they will use anything and don’t care about being green as much as I do. While I want them to safe and healthy, if they’re going to use it anyway, I might as well give it to them rather than pour it down the drain.

  31. SarahN says:

    Lpori – I would suggest trying a woman’s shelter. Alternatively, a basket in your work ladies room with ‘free to good home’ might also work (and be simple). At least the products are used up – but the waste is then in another person’s hands.

  32. flo says:

    We’ve used unwanted or highly perfumed soap/bubble bath etc for washing the car or caravan. Also bottles that are unopened you can give it to a local school for their xmas bazaar for tombola or raffle prizes.

  33. Angela says:

    This is my first visit to this site and I am firstly drawn to the issue of using/disposing of half used unloved toiletries. I really cannot bring myself to waste anything, so I mix them up in one container and use it when I have a shower. Ignore what it says on the label, shower gel/shampoo/bubble bath, they are all pretty similar, ie they make bubbles and I use them to wash my hair and in the shower. You get some unusual combinations of smells, of course, and inevitably some interesting layers of colour. Husband isn’t too fussed about the scent, anyway, so I don’t think he notices when I top up his shower gel with bubble bath. (That’s because the bath is only used about twice a year, if that).

    • Mrs Green says:

      Hi Angela, Welcome to the site – I’m so glad you found us! I think your idea is brilliant and I’ve been known to do the same myself. Like you I think most products are just the same – a bit of soap, lather and fragrance. πŸ™‚

  34. giftedlyn53 says:

    Son moved out leaving behind an array of half used edcologne and moisturiser. If you water down the edc it makes a reasonable cloakroom spray and the moisturiser works as an overnight foot balm.

  35. Kim says:

    Wow. These ideas are so excellent. I am thinking of hosting a Swap Party with some girlfriends to swap and share toiletries we no longer want or use. Since we know and trust each other, opened items should not matter. I’ll put a limit on how old products can be so we don’t have poor quality items. Add some snacks—should be fun!

  36. Debbie says:

    When I use a bar of soap down to the last sliver, I simply press the wet sliver onto the new wet bar of soap, and leave it to dry overnight, it adhears, so you can just use it up as you use the new bar, piggyback on the new soap bar… Have not had to throw out or chop up slivers of soap in years… Saw lot of great ideas here!

  37. Hales says:

    You can use old hair gel to make sensory bags for your kids… Put some in a ziplock, seal it and tape it, and they can draw designs in it! Add glitter and sequins for added effect. You can also mix baby oil with flour to make cloud dough( just don’t let babies eat it, as the baby oil is not fit for consumption).

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