Reduce wet wipes and cotton wool use with these alternatives for removing make up

Filed in Blog, Reduce by on January 30, 2015 17 Comments
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Cotton-Wool-Sheep-Step-5Over on Twitter, Rachael asked about alternatives for cotton wool and wet wipes when removing makeup.

And the answers from the Zero Waste community came flooding in!

Here’s Rachael’s original tweet:

There must be something in the air because the following week I had an email from Fiona who asked:

“Do you have any ideas for waste free make-up removal?”

Here are some of the suggestions:


Although some people said flannels weren’t terribly soft, others were advocates of the old fashioned soap (bought naked or in a cardboard box without plastic) and flannel idea.

Recycled fleece cloth

Emma favours recycled fleece cloth for removing make up. She buys fleece from her local scrapstore and cuts it up into small squares.

Use your hands!

I have to admit, I don’t use a ‘thing’ to wash my face; I use my hands!

Konjac sponge

A new one to me but a konjac sponge is vegan, as it’s obtained from a plant, and will last 2 or 3 months after which you can compost it!



Mary suggested old fashioned hankies. These are soft and thin, so perfect for the face!

Muslin cloths

Laura suggested muslin cloths, like the ones Ikea sell for babies; chopped into smaller squares.

Washable cotton wool pads

If you’re into crafts, these crochet washable pads are for you. Here is the tutorial to make your own.



What about the actual remover?


Well I use olive oil from the kitchen cupboard! It comes in glass bottles which I can recycle and you only need a couple of drops. Using oil might seem counter-intuitive to some but I love it because you don’t need moisturiser afterwards.


You can buy Rhassoul clay in paper bags or a cardboard tube from Sally at Natural Spa Supplies. You just rehydrate the clay with water and rub it into the face to remove makeup. A little goes a long way and I seldom need moisturised afterwards because it doesn’t dry out my skin.

Coconut oil

There seems to be a bit coconut oil movement at the moment! You can use this product in a myriad of ways from cleansing your face to conditioning your hair. Buy it in glass jars which you can reuse or recycle.

I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Are you using an alternative to disposable cotton wool or make up wipes to cleanse your face? And what product do you use for the actual cleansing?

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 (17)

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  1. Rae Hodgetts says:

    I read halfway with déjà vue before the penny dropped! I have been using a very soft towelling headband to remove any eye makeup (using up existing remover product) and a flannel (with cleansing lotion designed for ‘mature skin’ and given to me for Christmas) for face powder. Yes it’s a bit rough but I reckon it’s maybe an exfoliant into the bargain. I’m a convert!

    • Mrs Green says:

      Looks like you’re a natural, Rae! I quite *like* using a slightly rough towel to dry my skin – like you I enjoy the free exfoliant qualities 😀

  2. jadwriter says:

    I only use wipes if I don’t feel like using a flannel or haven’t got much time between programmes to cleanse my face properly. Otherwise I use a flannel and warm water. I don’t like muslin cloths as I have found their too hard on my skin. Might try hankies, as I do have those.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Seems like a good old fashioned flannel and water are quite popular still. Interesting you find muslin too harsh…

  3. Philippa says:

    …and don’t forget that you can put wet cloths into the microwave to help clean them – especially useful if they miss the machine wash.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Great reminder Philppa – thanks! I don’t have a microwave but this sounds like a great idea!

      • Philippa says:

        Me neither… but elderly parent does and also insists on using flannels which need more regular washing than anything else and often get forgotten!

  4. …or you can decide to not use makeup 🙂 You won’t be alone!!

  5. Naomi Teeter says:

    I use an activated charcoal Konjac sponge and it works great!!

  6. Sarah - Italy says:

    I use a small natural sea sponge (super soft!!!!) and some coconut oil…A++!

    • Mrs Green says:

      Hey Sarah; thanks for adding to the conversation – it’s good to hear what works for us all 🙂

  7. Åsa says:

    Just found your website today. I have two suggestions for waste free make up removal 1) washable pads e.g from a company called Honour Your Flow that specialises in washable sanitary pads jn lots of lovely colours and shapes 2) believe it or not but a thin slice of raw potatoe works really well, no need to add any makeup remover at all!

  8. Barbara says:

    Hello, good post. Thank you!

    I loved the dual ingredient make-up removers, because they dealt effectively with different make-up types, but these are artificial, so my way of replacing them was:

    I took the recipe for oily base from here:
    And follow up with a few drops of fresh cucumber juice or if I can get it, agave juice (not the drinking variety ofc 😉

    These work best for my sensitive, acne-prone skin, but I know that simple things like milk and yoghurt work too.
    Also they have extra uses:
    Milk with almond oil is a great way to actually soothe eczema outbursts and clear natural yoghurt soothes sunburns.

    For actual fabric to spread these on I use cleansing pads I’ve bought from Etsy, there’s a post on my blog about them 🙂 because I love them really.

  9. Stephanie says:

    For moisturizer, I like grapeseed oil because it’s really lightweight, but when it gets cold, I need a stronger moisturizer, so I use coconut oil. For the grapeseed oil, I just pour a little in the cap, dip my fingers, rub it on. For coconut oil, I just dip my fingers, rub it on. For both of these, I wait a minute or two, then wipe on my towel. Of course, I use a dedicated bottle of oil, so that I can dip my fingers without worrying about getting it dirty.

    Both of these oils work as makeup removers, but I find that you may need to add some baking soda and exfoliate now and again. You can add the baking soda to the oil, or you can just rub it in with water. Rinse until you stop feeling gritty. Don’t use much, as a little goes a long way.

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