Six ways to repurpose hotel toiletries

Travel-size shampoos, lotions, and soaps found in many hotel rooms are easy to accumulate when traveling and even easier to become clutter in your house when you return home. Since these items are consumable, can’t be passed on to a future guest once opened, and don’t have a price tag, it really is okay to take them. But, over time, an overflowing stash of these freebies can outgrow your space or take up room that other important “must-haves” should occupy.

Rather than throwing them in a bag in your closet (where you’ll probably never see them again) or putting them in the trash, you can repurpose them:

  1. Use them at home. Instead of saving them up, why not use them? Chances are you still have some half used bottles of shampoo, lotion, or even mouthwash, so start by using those partially consumed bottles first. You can also combine all the shampoos into larger containers (and then recycle the smaller bottles) or all your mouthwashes together, etc. You can also set them out in your guest bathroom in a “For Our Guests” box.
  2. Use them on your next trip. Extra bottles will come in handy on your next vacation that doesn’t involve staying in a hotel, so keep a bag in your suitcase (or backpack for camping trips) with the items you use the most. When packing, you can also put your shoes inside shower caps to help keep them for soiling your clothing.
  3. Use them at the gym. If you regularly shower at the gym after working out, travel-size toiletries are very useful and they don’t weigh down your bag.
  4. Keep them in your car. Are you a road warrior who spends lots of time in your car? Put some lotion, mouthwash, or sewing kit in your car’s glove compartment.
  5. Keep them in your purse or bag. Whether you walk, bike, or take public transporation to work, you’ll likely have a bag with you, the perfect spot for storing those items for easy access while on the job. You can also put some personal care items in your desk drawer at the office.
  6. Donate them. If you don’t have a need for the volume of items you have, donating them to a shelter is a good option. Clean the World accepts unopened and unused bars of soap and shampoo for distribution domestically and internationally to those in danger of hygiene-related illnesses. The Global Soap Project also collects and reprocesses soaps into new bars.

Of course, if you can avoid the temptation, you can avoid having to decide what to do with them by leaving them behind during your next hotel stay.

27 Comments for “Six ways to repurpose hotel toiletries”

  1. posted by Marrena on

    I don’t understand. Just leave the unopened ones on the sink so the next guest can use them. And the opened ones aren’t worth packing home, they will spill all over your suitcase.

    First rule of uncluttering–Refuse!

  2. posted by JT on

    If you end up with them despite your best efforts to refuse, you can donate locally, too. Most domestic violence and homeless shelters will also accept them. Ditto food pantries, which are often prohibited from purchasing toiletries (or any non-food) with grant dollars.

  3. posted by Pammyfay on

    Marrena — a lot of people just think they paid for the toiletries, so they will NOT leave them there!

    Also, some hotels have higher levels of toiletries than others, so the urge to take them home is greater!

    A New York hotel I stayed at a few months ago had Philosophy products, so even tho I didn’t use them there (I had brought a special freshly-colored-hair shampoo), I did take the items home. Turns out I hated them — strange scents! That was a lesson learned!

    One of my sisters, tho, will always take them home (and tells her frequently-traveling husband that he’d better do it, too!) for her guestbath.

  4. posted by Janmary, N Ireland on

    My daughters love them when I bring them home, they use them when they go for sleepovers.

    Donating them is also a great suggestion.

  5. posted by Katie on

    I always wonder whether, if I leave the toiletries there unopened, the housekeeping staff will still replace them before the next person arrives. (Just in case they might have been used?)

    Does anyone work in a hotel and have any insight to this?

  6. posted by KelKel on

    I like to put them in a welcome basket for our overnight house guests.

  7. posted by Valeria on

    My mother brings those tiny bottles from her holidays and very cleverly repurposes them by giving them to me. In all my travels since the early 00’s, I have stayed in hostels, where toiletries are not given to guests. So, I can make good use of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, mouth wash, etc.

    Another issue is the tiny bars of soap that are provided in some hotels. My mom will bring me one or two if they are unopened, but those are not really useful for carrying in your backpack when they are halfway used. Solution: I use them in my bathroom. I haven’t bought a bar of soap in years!

  8. posted by infmom on

    If you walked into a hotel room and found out that the soap had already been used by someone else, would you be OK with that? I doubt the hotels want to take that kind of risk.

    My husband’s adamant about bringing home those hotel toiletries even when we have no real use for them. His parents drilled the “do not waste” mantra into him so firmly and so often that I think it causes real pain to think of those little soaps and shampoos being “wasted.”

    I use the little soaps in the bathroom sink’s small soap dish, and the shampoos go under the kitchen sink so that when we wash our hair there we don’t have to drag the full size bottle from the bathroom. Hand lotion is invariably too smelly to bother with, so I just wait till he’s not looking and slip it into the trash.

  9. posted by Nana on

    If you send packages to troops overseas (through anysoldier.com or other sites), toiletries are always welcome. Slightly used is fine, too. Just put items into individual plastic bags, in case of leakage.

    Just visited a ‘hoarding’ friend…she had a basketful of hotel toiletries on the guest bath sink…old, dried out, yucky. So much better to donate them while they’re useful!

  10. posted by Thrift Store Mama on

    As I was reading through the article, I was astonished to see that none of your hints was “LEAVE THEM THERE” ! Glad to see you ended with it !

  11. posted by DawnF on

    I love to bring home the shampoo, body wash and little soaps. Our guest bathroom cabinet has a small stash and if the stash grows too large (say more than 4-6) I just use a few up for ourselves.

    Another good reason to have a few hotel toiletries on hand at home is if you run out of shampoo ~ you have a back-up to hold you off until the next trip to the grocery store.

  12. posted by Alison on

    At one point I had read that shampoo is good, gentle soap to wash hand washables in and conditioners can double as shaving cream for legs. I have tried the former (works fine) and suppose the latter might do ok as well.

  13. posted by pan on

    I only bring shampoos and i use them for hand washing my lingeries and also I use a few drops of shampoo to clean hair brushes and comb. et voila! good smelling hair brush!
    Body lotion , after a while they turn rancid.

  14. posted by Jodi on

    For the bars of soap, you can fold a washcloth in half. Sew one of the short sides and the long side; use velcro on the third side (the “fold” creates the fourth side). Slip the slivers of leftover bar soap into the washcloth and close it. When wet, the soap will lather up and can be used. :)

  15. posted by Maciej, Poland on

    As I hate hotels and hotel rooms as unpersonal and unfriendly places, I just leave such small things there.

  16. posted by SarahN on

    I retake a half bottle to the hotel! I used to spend a night a week in a hotel, and so then I would take back the bottle (it stayed in the bag) til it was used up. And left the others full ready for the next guest!

  17. posted by Ramie on

    We gather them and send them to school with the kids for the drives they do to gather things for local shelters, or we send them to our friends who are on overseas assignments (we are a Navy family, so know several people deployed at any given time). Yes, they have access to buy soap where they are, but having something better than the generic version, or that smells good, when you are far from home, can make someones day that much brighter. They really appreciate shower caps too….most use them over their shoes inside, to keep their spaces cleaner (dirt and sand get EVERYWHERE). Unless the area looks completely untouched, I’ve seen dozens of hotel maids toss them. I’d rather take them and donate them then have them wasted.

  18. posted by Susan in Florida on

    I live in an area with a super warm climate and don’t think putting lotion or mouthwash in my car’s overheated map/glove compartment is a good idea.

  19. posted by Megan on

    I do many of the things suggested here with hotel products. If a bottle is less than 1/2 full I leave it at the hotel. I only bring home soap that’s not been unwrapped, though I am a little horrified at the waste. I’m seeing more hotels with dispensers at the sink and in the shower, which seems much less wasteful but I really want to make sure they are clean!

    I also bring little bottles of moisturizer in to my office and keep one or two in my desk. It’s neater than having a giant bottle of lotion out for everyone to see, and nice to have for those times in the middle/end of the day when I realize my hands have gotten dry.

  20. posted by Maciej, Poland on

    I think it does not make sense to take this toiletries. 10 grams of soap is worth about 2-3 cents but consumes time for packing and unpacking and brings clutter at your home. These cosmetics are really nothing special even in 5 stars hotels. In my opinion it’s not worth to take them home. I agree with Thrift Store Mama – LEAVE THEM THERE.

  21. posted by krystl on

    Usually, I just leave them because I cannot use them (I have over-sensitive skin). However, if they are a brand/type I actually use, I DO take them and they are then placed in my carry-on travelbag and used for the next trips. Some hotels leave high-end toiletries (I have received philosophy, biotherm, origins, etc.). In this way, I never have to buy/decant travel-sizes for the TSA and when I am finished, I just recycle the plastic in my vacation location/airport.

    When we were in Disneyworld, the rooms were restocked daily, whether we used them or not. My step-son loved the unscented mickey mouse bar soap. When we went home, the all the unopened bar soaps came with us and were used in the kids’ bathroom for months. There was never a problem, except that he suddenly had a “handwashing obsession” that reinforced a great habit that until then had been a struggle of reminding.

    My friend takes the “single use” samples from magazines, hotels, etc. with her and just uses and disposes of everything including parfume, etc. daily throughout her travels (she is a hostel traveller). Another use if you know someone going on a backpack/hostel trip this year.

    I do second/third checking the dates if they are in the guest bath–I used an expired lotion after shaving my legs at my mom’s and landed in the ER with a horribly painful allergic reaction.

  22. posted by Melanie on

    This article can be summarized in sentence: If you take home hotel toiletries use them or given them to someone else to you.

    Is that really re-purposing since the original purpose of the toiletries are for your use?

  23. posted by Ginger on

    I take the bottles with me whether opened or unopened and finish using at home. I refill the small bottles with my own products for traveling. I always pack extra ziploc bags and have never had a leak in my suitcase. I also donate bags of toiletries to homeless shelters where the individual bottles can be distributed to the residents. The price of the toiletries is already included in the room rate. Might as well pass them along to someone who can use them.

  24. posted by olga on

    What to do with all those little bottles and tubes? Not a problem! give them to your kids during bathtime – and a) they get a lot of fun blowing bubbles and making suds b) your own nice and carefully chosen shampoo is safe.

  25. posted by Sharon on

    We donate ours to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where they are given to parents and other loved ones of children who have to be brought to the hospital suddenly. Their focus is on their child, not on packing for a stay. Then, when the hours turn into days or weeks, they have toiletries to use.

  26. posted by Dixie on

    I always bring them home with me to donate to our Domestic Violence Program. They make up bags with shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, colors and colorbooks if there are children. Its a very good cause.

  27. posted by eric on

    most people leave the shamppoo for the next guest??? huh?? if you use it the staff will surely replace it. I leave the foo foo stuff and conditioner but will take the soap and shampoo for sure,,, and yes you pay for that.

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