Reclaiming dignity for those who can't afford things such as soap, moisturiser and sanitary items is at the heart of a toiletries drive planned for Wellington.

Soap for Society is holding its first toiletries drive from July 23-30 to collect hygiene and beauty products for people who would normally have to sacrifice them in favour of buying food or keeping the heater on in winter.

The new, non-profit organisation is working to highlight the issue of hygiene poverty in New Zealand.

"Personal hygiene is a matter of, really, mental health and dignity," said Wellington blogger Lucy Revill, who started the organisation.

Social worker Olivia Lange, left, blogger Lucy Revill, and artist Maureen Placente are working together to raise awareness of hygiene poverty. Photo / Melissa Nightingale
Social worker Olivia Lange, left, blogger Lucy Revill, and artist Maureen Placente are working together to raise awareness of hygiene poverty. Photo / Melissa Nightingale

"When you feel clean and you look clean, you feel better about yourself. It can be a really big thing for people who are struggling, because those products are also the kind that are more expensive at the supermarket."

Some people were regularly having to make the choice between buying food and petrol, or getting tampons, she said.

One single mother who the Wellington City Mission has been working with can't afford sanitary products for her two teenage daughters, social worker Olivia Lange said.

The city mission tops up the family's food parcels with these items so they don't have to go without, but it is a common struggle for people who are barely getting by.

"Some of the women have had to use toilet paper, which again is really expensive, and the embarrassment of having that move and leaking through while they're sitting or walking ... this is just one other thing that, you know, 'great this is my life and reality'," she said.

Lange, a community programmes manager for the city mission, said they also provide a shower and toiletries for people who are sleeping rough, or who, for whatever reason, can't shower at home.

Things such as moisturiser might seem like luxuries, but were important to keep people's skin and lips from cracking in winter, which could lead to infections.

Basic hygiene items are "really important".


"It really lifts your dignity actually, to have those basic items that every other person in the community is able to access."

The products were also for people working jobs who still couldn't afford them.

One single mother of three children the city mission works with makes $800 per week in her full time job, and spends all of it on rent and childcare.

"For someone like her it's a disaster," said City Missioner Murray Edridge.

People could be given all the budgeting advice in the world, but "if there's just not enough money then it's not going to work", he said.

Revill said hygiene poverty in New Zealand was an under-discussed issue.

"We look at the beauty industry being very skin deep and superficial but it has the power to really transform people in something as simple as somebody getting a lipstick ... it's enough to lift their spirits."

Revill wants to use social media to raise awareness and collect toiletries.

"In an ideal world social media should be about being social and sharing social movements, and it's not just selfies ... that's where it can actually be a really amazing force for good."

Soap for Society aims to gather enough toiletries to supply to 1000 households, and also wants to fundraise $1000.

People can drop off their donations to the Wellington City Mission in Newtown, at the city mission store in the CBD, or at Sable Fine Hair on Lambton Quay. People can also post boxes of products to the city mission, and for anyone not in Wellington, they could donate to their local one.

What to donate

• Sanitary items

• Razors

• Shaving foam

• Deodorants

• Shampoo and conditioner

• Body wash

• Toothpaste

• Travel sized products are important for people without permanent homes

• Anything else will be gratefully received, including combs, hair bands, face wipes, sunscreen, and make-up products.