The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

March 24, 2008

Soap and Shampoo and Deodorant, oh my!

One of the best ways for us to eliminate unnecessary plastic is to eliminate the water. No water = no plastic bottle. The easiest step in that department is to switch from liquid hand soap and bath gels to solid bar soaps. But there are other products that many folks don’t realize come in a solid form, like shampoo, so here’s an update on my experiences with solid soaps, shampoo bars, and even plastic-free deodorant.


Plastic-free soap bars are hard to find in mainstream grocery and drugstores, I will admit. Even Ivory comes packaged in plastic wrap these days. But natural stores like Whole Foods are chock full of Castile soaps wrapped in little to no paper. Dr. Bronner’s is a good choice for many. Right now, I’m enjoying two different solid soaps:

Dessert Essence lemongrass/calendula soaps that I found, believe it or not, on sale at Grocery Outlet for a buck a piece and are packaged with just one strip of paper.

Iyoba Body Essentials handmade soaps that I buy directly from her stall at the Berkeley Flea Market on the weekends. I love the fact that the soaps are handmade right here in the East Bay and that I am supporting my local community. And they smell great. Unfortunately, the kitties think the oatmeal soap is food, so we can’t keep that particular one within reach of little paws.

The thing I have noticed about natural Castile soaps is that they do tend to dissolve fast if you let them sit in water. You need a good soap dish with holes to let the water drain. Or a bowl of little stones, which is what I use. Or a bowl with a strategically shaped and placed seashell, which is what Axelle uses. Or a handmade soap drainer like this one made by The Green Cat (10/2013: The link to her homemade soap drainer is gone. But she has other cool handmade things on her page.)


I’ve tried three different solid shampoo bars to date:

Lush Re-Incarnate Shampoo Bar comes with zero packaging if you buy it directly from a Lush Store. Through the mail, they wrap it in paper for you. (Correction: Per comments below, sometimes they wrap it up in plastic. Not good. Maybe you have to specify no plastic when you order. *Sigh*) As I’ve explained before in my original post about Lush, when you shop at the store, you buy the product by weight and it’s cut to order from a big block. Lush shampoo bars are great from a packaging standpoint. But the ingredients in the bar itself are questionable. This shampoo contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), a detergent which can be irritating to some people. According to their web site, Lush has developed some SLS-free shampoo bars, but I haven’t tried them. [07/24/2012 Update:  It looks like Lush is using SLS in all of its shampoo bars again.  I have sent a message to the company requesting clarification.] My main objection to the Re-Incarnate shampoo was the smell. I just didn’t care for it. And that’s really my main objection to Lush products in general. Most of them are very strong-smelling. In fact, I kind of get a headache when I walk into the store from all the strong fragrances (albeit from natural sources) bumping up against one another. Your mileage may vary.

[05/13/2012: Information about Burt’s Bees shampoo bars removed from this post.  The product has been discontinued.]

J.R. Liggett’s Old Fashioned shampoo bar is the one I’m using right now. It has the mildest fragrance of the three. It comes wrapped in paper with a biodegradable corn plastic inner lining. Okay, but here’s the thing. Read the ingredients: Olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, fresh pure New Hampshire spring water, sodium hydroxide [aka lye], Rosemary-Lavender-Cedarwood and other essential oils for fragrance. My question: how is this any different from the natural soap I’ve been using on my body???

Other shampoo bars that have gotten good reviews are offered by Chagrin Valley, Aquarian Bath, and many other sellers.  Search Etsy for “shampoo bar”.

But why am I spending extra money for a bar labeled “shampoo” when perhaps I could just be using the same olive oil-based soaps on my hair that I use on the rest of me? Iyoba’s soaps are made from olive and coconut oils. The main difference I can see is that instead of pure New Hampshire spring water, she probably uses Oakland’s finest. Not a problem.

So, when these shampoo bars are used up, I’m either switching to soap OR baking soda. Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man, cleaned his hair with baking soda for a year. And there are all kinds of instructions online for “no-poo” hair cleaning and a whole no-poo community using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Life Less Plastic is already doing the cider conditioner portion of the no-poo procedure. We’ll see. I already use baking soda for a lot of other things. Including the next item on this list.

But before that, I just want to mention one more thing. Conditioner. Remember that homemade solid hand lotion I made a few months ago? Well, a tiny bit of that run through my hair after showering, and I’m tangle-free and good to go. Really.


I’d been using a Lush Aromarant container-free deodorant block since August and for the most part, it worked just fine. But it’s expensive. And after reading that Colin Beavan was also using baking soda as a deodorant, I swore I’d try it when this bar ran out.

Well, the bar is almost gone, but not quite. I was scared to switch to baking soda without having some deodorant bar left as a backup. Just in case. Because I can get pretty funky sometimes, and I was just not at all sure that plain baking soda was going to do the trick.

But a few days ago, I had an idea: what if I added a few drops of tea tree oil to the baking soda, just for insurance? Tea tree oil is an antibacterial. And bacteria are what cause body odor. So here’s my recipe: Add few drops of tea tree oil to a jar (in my case, a tea tin) of baking soda. Shake well. Apply with a fuzzy powder puff (which I already had.) And guess what:

No odor!

And guess what else:

No wetness either!

Huh? How can that be? I don’t know, but my pits are not only odor-free; they’re also dry. I’ve never used antiperspirants because of the nasty ingredients in them. So I just live with sweat-stains under my arms occasionally. Maybe this is a fluke and the sweat will return. Or maybe I’m not drinking enough water. Any ideas?

P.S. You should see me secretly sniffing my pits all day when I think no one’s looking, just to make sure. Am I paranoid about B.O. or what? Another victim of advertising perhaps?

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Jackie Pousson-Cheng

Re: baking soda deodorant
Over a longer period your may “burn” or as some people say “react” to the baking soda. What happens is that the skin’s pH becomes too high which is like using lye on it. I do not know what to suggest for that, but possibly alternate between baking soda and something else. Vinegar?


Nutrition: I believe nutrition plays an important part in all sorts of things. For example, quite a few people report that body odor improves significantly when they increase magnesium in their diet (such as leafy greens or other chlorophyll-rich veggies); this seems consistent with my family’s experience. Similarly, improving nutritional deficiencies can improve hair, skin, nails if the person is deficient in related nutrients, and a lot of people do have deficiencies in various items. I would encourage people to think about whether there may be a deficiency at play. Even if lotion, conditioner and deodorant help with external symptoms… Read more »


I’ve been using a deodorant stone for years. No aluminum or chemicals, just mineral salts. Works great!!


What’s a deodorant stone?


A friend of mine uses half a fresh cut lime for underarm deodorant no smell all day!! However she doesn’t shave I would be careful after shaving if using lime! but it really works!!


Just wanted to say that I love this post! I love baking soda so if anyone read this and was skeptical about it don’t worry! I use baking soda all the time and I go hiking a LOT. I don’t sweat. I keep it in a little tin with some tea tree and put it right on whenever I need it. Trust me. Save your pennies and just use this without worrying about what nasty chemicals go in or on your body.

Mary Van Hoomissen

I’ve been so hesitant to use any of these natural deodorants because I NEED an antiperspirant, too. I routinely pit0out my clothes – and forget wearing anything white…it’s yellow after 1-2 wearings. This has me very interested in the baking soda/tree tea oil. How do you keep the powder from getting all over your clothes, especially darker colors? White pits during a business training would not be very professional. :-)


Tried the baking soda and vinegar for my hair, and just didn’t like the way my hair felt. I am using a solid bar now, pretty good, but not my favorite. Do you know if anyone makes a more conventional shampoo, in terms of it being gel-like (for example I used to use the more natural ones you could get at Trader Joes or Whole Foods), but packaged in a metal or glass container? Seems you could just scoop it out as you need it if it were thick enough. The baking soda as deodorant works better than any deodorant… Read more »


I am your newest fan and I swear I have read years of your blog in just the last few days. I have completely changed the way I shop and what I buy. I have always bought organic and gmo-free but now I try to be plastic free as well. The biggest hangup with alternative deodorants is I’m worried how long they’ll last. I walk over 6 miles every day at my job and I rarely sit down for 12 hours at a time, my borderline prescription strength deodorant barely works. . . hey it’s worth a shot.


Thanks for being the guinea pig and sharing your findings! Will be trying these out myself.


I have been doing some research on natural soap bars and shampoo bars and have started making my own body car products as well. The only difference in the natural soap bars and shampoo bars are the types of oils and butters you use to get a different effect of pH balance (if you have this you wont need a conditionar), cleanseing, moisturinzing, volumizing and whatever other special things you want done for your hair. Other than that the process is the same (cold process). And for the past year I have been on again and off again sometimes two… Read more »


oops…that was supposed to say “baking soda puts out fires…”



OF COURSE baking puts out fires! That’s what you’re supposed to dump on a pan fire in the kitchen….didn’t you learn than in Home Ec? ; )



NO! Using baking soda as a deodorant will NOT raise BP by “osmotic action” or any other action! These silly ideas are the reason why nutters like you all stress so much about your soap and shampoo. Worrying about putting baking soda in your armpits may raise you BP, however, so, in your case, it would probably be contraindicated.


All of LUSH’s plastic bags are biodegradable plastic bags and plastic bottles are made from recycled materials. I realize you wrote this a while back, but I think they may have changed the other bowls as well.

Also, you can exchange 5 empty black pots to receive a new product. They are then reused.


I looked through some of your older posts, and I hope this one fits best for commenting… I’ve always needed some kind of body lotions because my skin gets too dry if I don’t cream it twice a week or so. Body lotions always, always! come in plastic bottles. Before reading your blog that didn’t bother me too much, but now it does. I found a great replacement! Olive oil. Even the organic one is not too expensive, it comes in glass bottles, and it works wonders! Just rub it into your skin right after showering when your skin is… Read more »

Jack Nugent

Oh, I have to get you my shampoo bar to try out. It’s shaped to fit in your hand and I never wrap it in plastic. Oh sure, I still am a complete neurotic when it comes to shipping. Here’s the big question: How do you get a carbon neutral product to customers? We make it with solar power and bike it to the shops in Chicago but now I’m getting requests to ship it out the the East and West coasts. I’m not sure what we’re going to do but I’d be open to suggestions. Cheers, Jack P.S. Can… Read more »

Beth Terry

Alan, check out this post. It has more details about the deodorant recipes:


I tried no-poo for a while, and then I quit, and recently I tried it again for about 6 months.. and it just doesn’t work for me. I am now a total convert to high-quality-soap as shampoo, with an ACV rinse. Here is a good post I found about ingredients in soap as shampoo:

An Old Lady

Just found this website today. Very Informative. About vinegar. Back in the 50’s when I was a child we ALWAYS used vinegar to rinse our hair after shampooing. The shampoos were more like soap then and you HAD to use it. Later on I used wine vinegar on my reddish brown hair gave it a lovely shine. Now that I’m 61, i use white vinegar on my silver hair. Don’t need any special “gray hair” shampoos to keep it from yellowing Gets all the soap out, even hand soap. So use all your bar shampoos to your hearts content just… Read more »


I wanted the deodorant recipe!

Beth Terry

Alice — I really don’t know why you are getting razor burn. I always found deodorant to be very irritating after shaving. I do have to confess that I don’t shave as regularly as I would like to… mostly because I’m always running late. Tea tree oil — you don’t need it. I just used it for insurance when I first started, but after the first batch was gone, I didn’t add tea tree oil anymore, and it works fine. If you do want it, you can get it at Whole Foods or any other store that sells essential oils.


I’ve been using baking soda for the past week and I’ve really liked it. But I’m interested in the tea tree oil. Where do you buy that?

Also, I’ve noticed when I shave I’m getting more razor burn now. I’m trying to figure out why that is? It’s the same razor, the only thing that’s changed is no deoderant. Is it the baking soda? Am I shaving too much? I’m not sure what to do. Any tips?


So much ado about powder puffs! I sprinkle baking soda from a salt shaker into the palm of my hand and pat it into my armpits as I lean over the sink. Whatever b.s. falls into the sink I wipe up with my washcloth, then rinse. The sink and cloth both get clean. Nine months ago I wrote that baking soda ruled my world. I now admit that I’ve returned to occasionally using dishwashing liquid because it really works. I was given a gift of perfumed bar soaps so I’m using them for body and hair. I recently washed my… Read more »


Thank you thank you thank you Beth! I will check out Bodytime next time I’m in San Anselmo: unbleached wool grown in the U.S? Absolutely right up my alley! I LOVE wool… SCORE!

Beth Terry

Hi Nollij. Actually, the powder puff that I use is probably synthetic. It came with some sparkly powder that I bought a long time ago and finally gave away. I thought of you and your comment today when I was in a thrift store — they had a fluffy powder puff for sale and it didn’t look like it had ever been used. It was probably synthetic too. But check it out: Body Time has natural unbleached wool powder puffs (pricey at $15) and cotton ones (about $2). I don’t know if there is any packaging involved. There’s a… Read more »


A related question: where does one find a plastic free fluffy puff for applying said baking soda? Being of the male persuasion, I have never bought a puff so I’m at a bit of a loss in the first place.. and a plastic free puff? I’m guessing it’s not easy to find, but someone please correct me if I’m wrong!


I love that your “deodorant” is stored in a Mariage Freres tea canister. In Paris, their original site was on my block and they are a favorite of mine. So enjoy your blog Beth, I forward bits to the fam from time to time.


As a former Aveda employee, I cannot reccoment them at ALL! Not only do they use SLS’s and SLSE’s but they also use tons of parabens, and are owned by Estee Lauder. Their essential oils are not 100% and instead a mix of other oils…and Aveda will franchise out to anyone! The guy that owned the place where I worked drove a Hummer and lived in a million dollar penthouse condo.

Eco friendly? No, they’re just pretending!


If you want to be sure to get a response, please note in your comment that a response is desired.Thanks for posting….
Anna- Designer PetLine Cat Shampoo


Someone mentioned Chagrin valley soaps, and Ida packagesher bars (soap and soap-based shampoo) in small brown paper sacks, like you would get a few ounces of nails in at a REAL hardware store.Samples are in smaller bags, full bars (about 4-5 times the size of samples when I have ordered) in larger bars, shipped in a carboard box.I quarter the full size bars, and reuse the sample bar bags. So the nice sticker says, say, Scarborough Fair, but I have written on two other scents since.I second reading over at long hair community. Lots of good ideas and reviews of… Read more »


I live in a high-risk fire zone and a recent scare got me thinking about what I’d pack if I had to evacuate. Beauty-wise, I pared my needs down to baking soda, which now rules my world! I haven’t used bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, or hand or body lotion in four days and have used almost no liquid dishwashing detergent. I haven’t used toothpaste or deodorant since January, either. If I can figure out how to make sunscreen out of baking soda, I’ll be set. Baking soda seems to be the beauty secret of no one and I don’t understand… Read more »


Jojoba oil doesn’t really work for me – I tried to extract my own from a package of Hostess Jo-Jos and it was just messy.


sorry. couldn’t resist.


A really good source for alternative grooming techniques (I can’t believe I just came up with that phrase in total seriousness) is It isn’t a conservation focused comm, but we find that commercial hair care is way too harsh if you want to keep your hair, and are all over ways to wash it without shelling out for SLS, parabens, and fancy salon bottles. If you sign up and hang around a while, there are off topic forums for body cleaning, but I think most of that info is also on and open to the public, just with… Read more »


Re: bubble bath, one can make solid bubble bars. I have a recipe somewhere. Then you break them into pieces under the water and they foam just like regular bubble bath.

If you want to try shampoo bars and don’t want to use Lush, Chagrin Valley makes ones that come highly recommended, I just ordered some to try.

And the comment about tea tree oil…interesting that the NIH points out issues about herbs when we have so many highly toxic and carcinogenic body care products on the market. What, those are OK?


It just occurred to me that the soap mixed by pedal-power is probably in considerably larger batches for retail than what any of us would execute… hence the need for pedal, instead of elbow, grease.

Crunchy Chicken

The different between most body soap bars and shampoo bars (and I’m talking about the ones that are SLS free) is that shampoo bars have castor oil in them. Apparently, it’s what gives the shampoo bar extra sudsing power, but coconut oil is good for that as well.

As for the bicycle powered soap mixing, I just mix my handmade soap… by hand! Go figure – no extra equipment involved.


I just found a bar shampoo that is mixed by bicycle power!


I found that I don’t need to use deodorant after eating whole foods for several years. Even after spending a month in Florida people were not running away from me. It seems like I read something about a yogi whose sweat smelled sweet because of his diet. I haven’t reached that point yet but what you eat really makes a difference.


Hello, I’ve been telling people for years that I just use baking soda as a deodorant and would never go back to normal stuff and they look at me like I’m crazily gross, so thanks for the reassurance that I’m not. I also just use regular old body soap on my hair (I get it unwrapped, delivered in big boxes, and for .59 and is the same I use to brush teeth with…ironically I use fake Oil of Olay body wash on my body….I’m working on it) but back to the hair, the biggest thing I found to make a… Read more »


I have tried a bunch of different things. The shampoo bars didn’t really clean my hair. Using regular soap bars left it feeling gunky, like I couldn’t rinse it all out. Baking soda and vinegar work the best. I just scrub the baking soda into my scalp, then I squirt a little vinegar onto my head, rub it in while it’s fizzing, and rinse with water. I tried apple cider vinegar at first, but I HATE the smell, so I just use plain vinegar now. For a special treat, mix baking soda with honey until it’s stiff enough to form… Read more »


What about Aveda? I know it is not plastic free but I was reading that they try to make their shampoo bottles as thin as possible, PVC is banned in all packaging, some of their bottles contain recycled content etc. Also, you can buy the huge bottles that would surely last at least a year… Not 100% ideal but at least it’s a shade greener than many of the drugstore brands…


we not uze ur computer tho u leve on on table we logz in direck 2 internetz thru chipz u implantz in us also get satlyt TV dat way


Of course I don’t mind you peeking- just let me know first so I can spare you watching me floss.

By bubble bath I mean the liquid stuff- like Aveno Baby Wash. I have been looking into flake-type bath soap- but haven’t found anything.


Hi Beth – the site is looking good – lots more plastic free people coming out. I have given your site a write up on mine – trying to put together a list – see
Take care


This is so amazing! I learn so much form your site. I didn’t even know they had such a thing as shampoo bars, nor did I ever think about how much plastic we throw away each year by using it!


I just broke down and bought a plastic bottle of shampoo today. I tried the Burt’s and it did not clean my hair. I tried an Amish one i ordered on ebay (which came wrapped in plastic) and it did not clean my hair. I think I can use this one on 2 of my kids because it has more oil in it. How would I try the vinegar/baking soda thing?? My hair is fine and needs to be washed daily. I also heard the issue with the lavender…after i bought 12 packets of Mrs. Meyers lavender dryer sheets through… Read more »

Beth Terry

Screw it. I’m just gonna start taking baths in vodka. How ’bout that?

Beth Terry

Re: Lush. I am sooooo dis-recommending them! In fact, as soon as I finish this comment, I’m going to post an update at the top of my original Lush post so people who stumble upon it will be warned about the packaging through the mail. That just does not make any sense, does it? Why would a company sell naked product in the store and then package it in a ton of plastic to mail it? Organicneedle: Yes, I have been spying on you in the shower. Sorry. Does it bother you? But regarding bubble bath… isn’t that supposed to… Read more »

Blue Collar Crunch

Green Bean – the same thing happened to me just today! I ordered one each of the shampoo,soap, and deodorant bars. Each of them, plus a sample of something else, was wrapped in a paper, with a sticker on top, then in individual plastic bags with a sticky plastic tie around the top (the kind that sticks to itself). I couldn’t even get into them without tearing into the bags and making them unusable. Not impressed, considering that getting rid of the packaging was my primary goal. A 12-pack of Dove from Costco would probably have had less packaging.


Arduous – I guess I should have been more clear. I’m talking about two people: my hair is long, straight and fine. I swim 3-5x/week. I wash my hair daily — I have to otherwise it really looks (and smells) dirty. The boyfriend has hair that is fine like mine, but big curls – if he doesn’t wash it, it smells dirty. If he washes it without using “product” it gets poofy (which I don’t mind but it bothers him) – and conditioners make his hair look oily. FWIW – I never use deodorant. I shave my underarms and just… Read more »


careful with tea tree oil and lavender essential oils, they are endocrine disruptors (research study showed they caused breast development in children exposed to them, both boys and girls)