When you scratch the surface of low tox living, you’ll find an unending list of substances to avoid, practices to take, and products to toss. So rather than throw in the towel before you’ve even started, we’re adopting a simpler, more accessible ‘swap’ approach. Think of it as a ‘one in, one out’ policy, where you take a small, commonly used product in your life and swap it for something natural.
You wouldn’t believe the ripple effects these small actions can have on your entire home, family, and life. And because these positive impacts spur us on (when it feels like it’d be easier to leave everything as it is), we’ve also explained why these swaps are so beneficial. Sure, these steps won’t magically fix the entire world, but they’ll leave a lasting impression on your world - and that’s a big first step.
Swap air fresheners for natural scents
We want our homes to smell inviting, and while a bold scent will bring a long lasting fragrance, what's in these fragrances will have even longer consequences. The good news is the biggest culprit - phthalates - don’t stay in the body for long. So swapping out the ‘fake smells’ in your home is one of the easiest, most effective changes you can make, with the most immediate improvements to your body and health.
All conventional fragranced products are loaded with phthalates – so that’s your perfumes, fragrance sticks, room sprays, and candles. Used to make fragrances last longer, phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that interfere with everything from adrenals, to sex hormones, thyroid and more. They’ve also been shown to increase menopausal symptoms, breast cancer risks, and allergic asthma in children, affect male sperm count and quality, and cause weight, stress and skin conditions.
Phthalates typically show up in ingredient lists as ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’ - and unless there’s an asterisk telling you it’s derived from essential oils - you’re dealing with a fake fragrance. So your first step is to only buy products with naturally sourced fragrance, or switch to a diffuser that only uses essential oils to brighten up your home.
Other ingredients to watch for are phenoxyethanol (preservative) that can cause damage to red blood cells, kidneys, liver, respiratory tract and thyroid with long exposure, and Paraffin (used in candles), which is basically a waste product from the petroleum industry.
If you’d prefer to swap to a DIY substitute, get creative by dipping a bunch of wooden skewers in your favourite essential oil blend and sitting it in a jar by an open window. As for the bathroom - a classic setting for air fresheners - just add a few drops of essential oil to the inside of your toilet roll, keeping the air fresh without the harmful chemicals or costly sprays.
It might be hard to farewell your favourite air freshener now, but trust us - once you’ve detoxed in the weeks after ditching them, your next encounter with a fake fragrance will knock your socks off with how unnatural it smells!
Swap single-use paper towel for eco-friendly, reusable cloths
It’s something we hardly think about - the cheap 6-pack of dish cloths at the supermarket and single-use paper towels to clean up little spills. But it’s another easy, accessible swap we can make that benefits both us and the environment.
First up, look at what dish cloths you’re currently using; are they washable and made to last? Or do you use paper towels or cheap cloths that get tossed in the bin? If you’re in the latter category, don’t stress - just start with the right next step. Instead of just replacing these cloths or paper towels, look into dish cloths made with natural, sustainable fibres that are machine washable. And if you can’t part with your paper towel just yet, at least look at the recycled options like the Naturale brand, available in major supermarkets.
One example of a quality cloth substitute is Resparkle’s Bamboo Microfibre Cloth, which is made using sustainable bamboo microfibres, with zero micro plastics that pollute the waterways every time you rinse or wash them. Plus, they can be added to any load of washing once they’re in need of a clean. No muss, no fuss!
Protecting the environment, keeping more materials out of landfill, and opting for recycled or biodegradable cloths that work harder anyway? It’s a no-brainer swap.
Swap synthetic sheets for natural linen
In amongst all the simple things you can swap is your bedding, because what’s more important than sleep!? We know that shoppers are increasingly looking for more natural fibres, and with good reason. Rayon, viscose, polyester - these materials can irritate your skin, disrupt your sleep, and worse still, are major contributors to environmental pollution and landfill.
Aussies buy an average of 27 kilos of textiles a year, and yet will ditch 23 kilos of that into landfill. Consider, then, that around two thirds of that waste is synthetic - and won’t be breaking down any time soon, if ever. Something like polyester, for example, is a petroleum-derived plastic that doesn’t biodegrade, and during manufacture actually releases toxic chemicals into waterways, while creating three times as much carbon dioxide as cotton.
Your semi-synthetic fibres like rayon and viscose aren’t much better. To convert rayon into its final form, factory workers are exposed to highly poisonous chemicals that are produced during manufacturing, and these cause damage to their health, as well as polluting air and waterways. If it’s doing that much damage while being made, imagine the ongoing effects it can have for the people spending hours each night sleeping on these materials, or the environmental impacts of every wash.
Opting for natural linen sheets and organic latex pillows can be the next step in your low tox swap journey. In doing so, you’ll enjoy more breathable fabrics while you sleep, less risks of mould, bacteria or allergens being trapped in your bedroom, and the reassurance that you’ve swapped to a more ethical, long-lasting form of bedding.
In particular, you’ll want to look for organic certified bedding companies that wave all the vital green flags. GOTS-certified means farming practices are the real deal, with no pesticides, synthetic fertiliser, poisonous dyes or chemical washes, plus the workers are protected and fairly paid. To learn more about the materials to trust - and which ones to avoid - check out our breakdown here.
Swap conventional deodorant for natural deodorant
Now, before your eyes glaze over at this suggestion, we’re not advocating for going without or stinking up the train and office this summer! But once you learn about the health implications of mainstream deodorant chemicals, it’s hard to unlearn. Get ready to say goodbye to your’ Lynx Africa’ or ‘Pearl & Beauty’ scents.
So what are the main offenders in deodorant? Unfortunately, there’s a few. There’s talc, which is a mineral with strong links to ovarian cancer, parabens, that can interfere with male reproductive functions and have been detected in breast cancer tissues, and our old friends, triclosan and synthetic fragrances.
Most deodorants also contain aluminium, which blocks the sweat ducts to stop you from sweating - although it doesn’t really stop the sweat, it just traps it all beneath the surface - not ideal. You’ll also find the likes of triethanolamine and diethanolamine in many deodorants, which over long periods can cause liver and kidney damage and are restricted in Europe due to carcinogenic effects.
This swap certainly takes a bit to get used to - but from all the people who’ve made the switch (and still work in offices, share apartments, and play sports) - once you get used to it, you won’t even notice the difference. There are natural and DIY steps you can take, or you can look into tried and tested natural deodorants that are only getting better! Just watch for the above ingredients and try a few until you find your perfect fit. A few we love include Fresca, Black Chicken, Mukti, and The Bearded Chap.
Swap plastic soap bottles for bars
Soap is another easy swap - that’s just as affordable and convenient as the conventional stuff - and it applies all over the house. But let’s start this simple swap in the bathroom. Countless soaps come stacked with the now-familiar nasties like triclosan, parabens, synthetic fragrances, and phenoxyethanol. There’s also the commonly-found ingredient of benzalkonium chloride, a known irritant reported to cause asthma, dermatitis, eye and skin irritation, and nervous system issues.
On top of that, you’ll have the soaps that come with microbeads for exfoliation, which are then washed into our waterways, ingested by animals and fish, and alarmingly, are now being found inside the seafood we catch and consume. Yikes!
We hate to pile on, but the plastic packaging used for every soap in our bathrooms means we’re also contributing to the 3.5 million tonnes of plastic that Aussies send to landfill every year. So with all those side effects in mind, it feels pretty simple to swap those soap bottles for bars, right? As a bonus, soap bars have come a long way in terms of quality, natural scents, and aesthetic too.
In your mainstream supermarkets, you’ve got brands like Freshwater and Ecostore that are making strides in providing more naturally derived soap bars, while online you can’t go past Dr Bronner. With their 100% biodegradable, pure castile soap bars, shampoo and conditioner bars, which come in a range of scents, they’re a one-stop store for almost every household product.
Dr Bronner is also an affordable and versatile option if you still like liquid soap, as you can buy in bulk and use in a variety of ways minus the guilt, thanks to their 100% post-consumer recycled packaging. For other no-waste options, look for companies that offer liquid soap refills so you’re not buying a new plastic bottle every time. Check out brands like Resparkle, with their compostable refill packaging, and Zero Co, who sell natural soap in recycled materials diverted from landfill, which you return to them for your refills.
Slow and steady swaps
In the quest for a low tox life, try to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. At different times, you’ll be able to afford different investments - whether it’s swapping to natural deodorant or swapping to an organic latex mattress. For that reason, the swap system is the perfect way for everyone to get involved.
Once you start making small swaps and feeling a big difference in your home, environment and health, you’ll see opportunities for swapping everywhere. It’s all about making the next right step - what will be your first?