'Ashamed and degrading': Alarming increase in the use of 'hygiene banks'

As the cost of living crisis deepens, many will struggle with soaring energy costs and rising food bills. But hygiene banks have also had an uptick in visitors unable to afford sanitary products.

ITV News' Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports.

Many who have experienced it say hygiene poverty is a hidden impact in this cost of living crisis - because so few people are willing to talk about it.

We are all familiar with Food Banks, but our new research shows the rise of Hygiene Banks.

These give out toiletries and sanitary products to those who can’t afford them.

Our evidence shows a growing need from those who can’t afford things like soap, shampoo, tampons and nappies.

Toiletries seem like everyday products, but increasingly this is not the case for everyone.

Jess Whitehead set up her own hygiene bank. Credit: ITV News

For many, they are becoming unaffordable as rising costs rob some of the basic dignities of life.

Struggling to pay her bills, Jess Whitehead was unable to buy sanitary products. Determined to help others going through what she experienced, she set up a hygiene bank in Blackburn.

She told me: "It's a very big need at the moment, especially with the changes in benefits and the backlash of Covid and the fact that people don't have access to the funds they need to be able to buy things like toothpaste, which is a basic human need."

Many toiletry and sanitary products are escalating in price - one supplier told us ingredients are up by as much as 30%.

Things like shampoo have become optional luxuries for many. Credit: ITV News

With food and other basics also rising - there’s an increase in hygiene poverty.

Information given to ITV News from 160 hygiene bank outlets shows that this week they passed the 1,000-tonne milestone for the amount of goods distributed.

There has been a 50% rise in demand since 2019. Our findings show around 2,000 community organisations are giving out donated hygiene products but 420 are on a waiting list to set up new hygiene banks.One charity warehouse in Telford has supplied more than 100,000 donated tubes of toothpaste and almost 400,000 cleaning products for distribution to those struggling with rising costs.

Neena Modi, president of the British Medical Association, said there is a 'cascade of evidence' that the UK population's health is 'not heading in a good direction'

There is increasing concern from medics and dentists about the health impacts.

The Treasury says it’s already spent billions in support but some facing this rising cost of living are now struggling even with the cost of keeping clean.

How can you support a hygiene bank?

Edgar Penollar, Chief Executive of Hygiene Bank, said anyone who wants to donate could try and find one of their 500 drop off points at Boots across the UK.

All of their drop off points can be found on their website, where they also accept monetary donations.

The drop off points will only accept sealed, unused products not half-full bottles of shampoo.

He said there are 160 community projects in the UK, but there are still areas of the country with high levels of deprivation where they haven't been able to reach and encouraged anyone who wanted to help to get started.

He said: "We focus on the community, if you give local then we help local - if people are donating in their local community then we're helping in that local community."