How To Build Your Zero Waste Travel Toiletry Bag

How To Build Your Zero Waste Travel Toiletry Bag
8 Minute Read

This summer, I’m taking (2x) three-week trips abroad, and I’ll be packing everything I need into one carry-on bag. Yes! You heard right: 1 bag for THREE WEEKS! I’ve always hated checking luggage on a plane for fear of waiting in baggage claim for hours, or worse yet, having my bag lost. I also love the ease of walking off the plane with everything I need in-hand. And I appreciate not having to lug around a heavy-ass bag on cobble stone streets, down subway stairs, or through airport terminals. So today, I’m gonna share my zero waste essentials that are essential to my travel toiletry bag.

As I sat down to write this post, I looked at my toiletry bag, and questioned whether it was “good enough” to share with you. My first thought was: “I have a bunch of reusable plastic containers here. People are gonna shred me for this.” But the truth is, there are items in my travel toiletry bag that I had long before I made the decision to lower my waste, and those items should be used to their full potential.

I’d be such a hypocrite if I threw out my existing plastic containers and replaced them with metal or glass ones. My goal is not to share a sugar-coated version of myself. Instead, I wanna you to see that sustainable living is not about being perfect. It’s about being mindful and making conscious decisions about what we use. And to start things off, here’s my first tip…

The Best Way to get Zero Waste Toiletries is to Make Your Own:

Below are the plastic containers I use when prepping my travel toiletry bag. They’re perfect for things like deodorant, face wash, tooth powder, and cream. And by portioning out my own toiletries into refillable containers, I avoid buying travel-sized products that are limited to just a handful of uses.

Because these containers are so compact, they also keep you in check with TSA restrictions. Hello TSA approved toiletry bag!  Where have you been all my life?!?!

Image of four plastic containers Travel Sized Containers containing deodorant cream, face wash, skin cream, and tooth powder


Side note: A few years ago, my husband bought a huge pack of these containers. Even though they’re made of plastic, I intend on using them for as long as they live. Then, and only then, will I replace them with sustainable alternatives.

If you need refillable containers for your travel toiletry bag, here are several options that are plastic-free (or mostly plastic-free):

Glass Jars with Bamboo (and plastic) Lids

Metal Tins with slide-top covers

Metal Tins with Screw Top Covers

These are all the essentials that go in my travel toiletry bag:

This has everything I need and is light as a feather (well . . . almost! 😉 )

see all my bathroom essentials

1. Shampoo Bar:

Not only do I use this when traveling, but I also use it at home. Of all my toiletries, shampoo bars are probably my absolute favorite since they eliminate the most waste. Truth is: there’s really no need to use liquid shampoo that comes in a plastic bottle when you can get the same level of cleanliness with a shampoo bar. When using the bar, you only need to condition your hair every 3-4 weeks with diluted apple cider vinegar (I know it sounds weird, but it works!). So if you’re traveling for less than a month, there’s no need to pack conditioner. Plus, since this ain’t no liquid, it’s the perfect addition to your TSA approved toiletry bag #yeyahhhhh!



J.R. Liggett’s Shampoo Bar

2. Bar of Soap:

I use soap that’s either package-free from the grocery or minimally packaged from the farmer’s market. If the bar is too big for my travel container, I simply cut it down to size. You can also get an all-in-one bar that can be used for shampoo, shaving, and your body, which means you have one less thing to pack!

Image of a Bar of Soap being held in a person's hand, which is ideal for your travel toiletry bag

3. Lightweight Metal Container:

These are ideal for keeping soap separate from everything else in your travel toiletry bag. I have one that I got from Lush, and I use an old Altoids container for my other bar.

Image of a metal Altoids container with a bar of soap in it

Recently, I was speaking to a friend who said she uses beeswax wraps to carry her soap when traveling. I thought it was such a great idea because the wraps can accommodate any size bar, are easy to clean in between uses, and wouldn’t leak once since the wax locks in moisture.

4. Bamboo Toothbrush:

I think this one is pretty self explanatory. Bamboo toothbrush = Good! Plastic Toothbrush = Bad! Here’s more on that.

Image of a WooBamboo Standard Toothbrush with green bristles Bamboo Toothbrush

5. Face Wash:

I have been experimenting with DIY face wash, but have not found a winner just yet. Until then, I’ll continue to use Acure Facial Cleanser, which is made with organic ingredients, is paraben free, and isn’t tested on animals. I simply squeeze what I need into a travel container, and I’ve got the perfect sized face wash for my TSA approved toiletry bag.

Facial Cleanser

6. Natural Deodorant:

I get my deodorant from Meow Meow Tweet. It comes in a cream form (rather than a deodorant stick), and is packaged in a glass jar. To lighten my load when traveling, I scoop the deodorant into a travel container, so I never have to worry about stinkin’ up the place.

Image of a jar of Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream, an ideal option for your zero waste travel toiletry bag Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream

If a deodorant stick is more your vibe, Gaia Guy makes the most cost effective, plastic-free deodorant stick I’ve tried. They also have one for sensitive skin.

7. Tooth Powder:

Using tooth powder instead of tooth paste completely eliminates any worry about complying with TSA’s liquid restrictions. I make my own tooth powder with just 3 ingredients. It takes about 30 seconds to mix, but if DIY ain’t your thing, you can also buy pre-made tooth powder in a glass jar.

The Dirt Tooth Powder

8. Face/Body Cream:

Meow Meow Tweet has a skin cream that’s perfect for both your body and face. Products that serve more than one function are ideal for putting together your travel toiletry bag because they free up space for other necessities.

Image of a jar of Meow Meow Tweet's Skin Cream Meow Meow Tweet Skin Cream

9. Toothbrush Case:

A few years ago, I bought a plastic toothbrush case because there weren’t any alternatives. Today, there are more sustainable options available (like bamboo or silicone), but I plan on using the one I have as long as it lasts me.

Bamboo Toothbrush Case

10. Lip Balm:

If you’re anything like me, you have at least 5 chapsticks lying around that you’ve had for YEARS! So truthfully, I probably won’t need lip balm for at least a decade.

If you’re in the market for a lip balm that’s vegan, small enough for traveling, and packaged in a compostable tube, you can try this one by Meow Meow Tweet. They also have an all-purpose Repair Balm that can be used for both your lips and body, which is especially useful for keeping your skin hydrated on long haul flights.

Image of a tube of Meow Meow Tweet's Repair Balm, ideal for your Zero Waste Toiletries Meow Meow Tweet Repair Balm

11. Compostable Dental Floss:

Mainstream dental floss is essentially made out of plastic (you can learn more here). I carry compostable dental floss when traveling, and also use it at home. This one comes in a refillable container, which is compact enough to fit in your handbag for any sticky situations.

Compostable Floss

12. Non-toxic Sun Screen:

I have yet to find an affordable non-toxic sunscreen that doesn’t come in a plastic tube. I recently started using this tinted sunscreen by Badger, which is perfect for sensitive skin and doesn’t cause me to break out. Because it’s tinted, it also doubles as a cream foundation to even out my skin (at least I think that’s what it does). It comes in a 2.9 oz tube, so it also complies with TSA’s liquid restrictions.

I have found only one non-toxic sunscreen that comes in a tin container. Check it out here.

All Good Sunscreen ButterImage of a tin of All Good Zinc Sunscreen Butter

To learn more about non-toxic sunscreens, check out this post for all the benefits and options.

13. Razor – TBD

I’m still on the lookout for a plastic-free razor that would qualify to go in a TSA approved toiletry bag. The metal safety razor I use would not be allowed on a plane since the blade is detachable. So until there’s an alternative that I can take in my carry-on, I’ll continue to use a disposable razor that I got a few years ago. In an attempt to preserve the blade, I earmark it only for traveling and since that’s the only time I ever use it anyway. If you have a plastic-free option that’s permitted on a plane, please share it in the comments below. I’d be eternally grateful and I know a lot of other readers would be too!

14. Makeup – Optional

I don’t usually pack makeup when traveling (since I don’t really wear it). However, if I need makeup for a wedding or event during my trip, I will pack a small container of coconut oil, which can be used for makeup removal and also doubles as a moisturizer. In addition, I pack a few reusable cotton rounds to get all that gunk off at the end of the night. If you are interested in sustainable makeup products, you can check out my blog post here.

See my eco-friendly faves on Amazon

I’d love to hear about what goes in your travel toiletry bag or if you have any hacks for converting your toiletries into a TSA approved toiletry bag…that can be a little tricky with all the new regulations!

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12 thoughts on “How To Build Your Zero Waste Travel Toiletry Bag”

    • It’s amazing the things that plastic has snuck its way into. In the past, I used to dispose of things like floss and contact lenses in my toilet, not realizing that they were plastic. Now I shudder at the fact that I did that, but try not to be too hard on myself though, because I simply didn’t know at the time.

      • Shannon, What do you use in place of contacts? Glasses give me a headache, and I’m not a candidate for LASIK. Would love feedback! M

        • Hi Mary,
          I also used to wear contacts and glasses. I gratefully received Lasik 2 years ago and no longer need to wear lenses. I’m sorry that you are not a candidate for Lasik 🙁 . Unfortunately, I’m not sure that there is a plastic free alternative to glasses or contacts. If wearing contacts is your only option, perhaps you can portion out the amount of contact solution you need into a refillable container each time that you travel. In addition, if you get your contact lenses at a local doctor/shop, you can politely decline getting a new contact lens case each time you get a new prescription (a thorough cleaning of your existing case is perfectly sanitary). Lastly, make sure to never dispose of your contacts in the toilet or down the sink, as those will go straight to the ocean and our waterways. I’m sorry I don’t have a plastic-free alternative for your contacts, but hopefully the ideas above will help you to minimize your use of plastic within the realm of contact lenses.
          – Shannon

  • Just a heads up– I always travel with my safety razor (yes, even carry on!) and I have never been stopped. I didn’t realize it would ever be an issue. Might be risking losing it, but just wanted to share 🙂 Thanks for all the tips! Currently preparing for long term travel with just a carry on and am aiming for plastic free. I also like to bring my 1 oz face oil blend in a class dropper container. I’ve been having such trouble finding metal tins that aren’t on amazon, so I guess I’ll have to break the boycot and buy em.
    Any recommendations on a travel toiletry case?

    • Mountain Rose Herbs has refillable metal and glass containers in every size that would work beautifully for travel toiletries.

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