If you’re looking to reduce your plastic waste, using an alternative toothbrush is a great place to start. Toothbrushes are so very necessary, and with a world population of around 7.6 billion, us humans get through an awful lot of them! Officials advise replacing brushes every three to four months, so that’s a lot of plastic heading for landfill. It hasn’t always been this way—early toothbrushes were made from chewed twigs, bone and animal hair. Across the world there are still many natural solutions to oral hygiene, and I’ll give you an unusual option later on in this article.
One of the things my partner Joe and I had in common when we met was our eco-friendly toothbrushes: we both used the Monte Bianco replaceable head system. When Monte Bianco disappeared from the shelves last year, we were forced to track down an alternative toothbrush solution. Here are my findings:
Plastic Brushes (Replaceable Heads & Recycled)
- The Yaweco* brand make a range of brushes with the replacement-head system. They are made in Germany from phthalate-free plastic, in a solar-powered factory. Sadly, the head only lasted a week in my man’s care before fraying, as he is a ‘heavy brusher’. Yaweco also make a disposable brush from bio-based plastics called the Ya’Pure Bio.
- If you’re looking for a really high quality replacement-head brush, the Silver Care range from Norwex is great. Manufactured in Italy, the replacable heads have a silver coating which claims to reduce bacterial growth. The curved brush is sturdy and leaves my mouth feeling really clean. When Joe tried it out, the bristles lasted a whole month!
- If you’re in France, Lamazuna make a replaceable head brush using 70% plant based plastic.
- Preserve* brush handles are made in the US from 100% recycled yoghurt pots. They also offer a recycling service within the US with collection points and by post. The brush is a pleasing shape with a tilted head which makes it easy to reach right to the back.
Bamboo and Wood Brushes
- Environment Brush* offer the cheapest wooden option I’ve found. A thin bamboo handle with a flat row of simple white nylon bristles, available in medium or soft. I found it rather basic, but it’s still a step in the right direction! If this is the only brand of bamboo brush you’ve tried, please don’t let it put you off. The following brands have a much better ‘mouth-feel’.
- Try out the Swedish-designed Humble Brush*. Their Bamboo handles are ergonomically shaped, and the row of nylon bristles has a gentle curve to help reach the far corners. They have a choice of colours and are available in soft, medium and child size, so there’s something for all the family. The company operate a ‘One Brush, Two Smiles’ scheme, so when you buy a brush, the Humble Smile Foundation provide oral care for children in need. I bought one for Joe, but on his first use a bristle came off and lodged in the back of his throat, which was an unpleasant experience to say the least. However, the Humble brush company lived up to their name, sending four replacement brushes and some toothpaste by way of an apology. I would definitely use their brushes again, but Joe is unconvinced.
- Hydro Phil* bamboo brushes have a stylish modern design, with a chunky cylindrical handle, a narrow ‘neck’ and a flat row of bristles made using castor oil. They also have a choice of soft or medium, and a childrens brush which was perfect for my three year old. The company are water neutral and all the products packaging is plastic-free. You can even buy a matching ceramic stand and bamboo travel case. Hydro Phil are also sold in the UK by A Fine Choice (their website is well worth a visit for a great range of plastic-free products).
- Welsh company Bristle offer a bamboo toothbrush subscription service, so you can have a brand new bamboo brush posted to you every 1-3 months! They even give advice on recycling your brush: “Our toothbrush handles are made of 100% biodegradable bamboo. But first, you need to remove the bristles! This is so so important, but so so easy to do! Just grab a pair of pliers or tweezers, pluck them out and pop them in the bin. Then the handle can be popped into the compost or garden waste bin! Easy!”. Joe subscribed, but sadly the brush only lasted a few days before fraying.
Plastic Free Options
- All of the bamboo brushes (except Hydro Phil) have got nylon bristles, so they aren’t completely plastic-free. The only totally natural toothbrush I’ve found is made in Germany by Naturborsten using untreated beech wood and boar bristles, so it isn’t a good option for vegans. If you want to take it right back to basics, the Miswak stick is a root from the Salvadora persica tree. They are a popular solution for oral hygiene in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asian countries. As you chew and scrub, the stick releases antibacterial sap, so you don’t even need toothpaste! I’ve found that my teeth feel great using the stick, although its shape makes it hard to reach a few places in my mouth so I’ve had to be extra careful when brushing. You can buy both of these options from Natural Spa Supplies (a great resource for natural cosmetic ingredients—I’m using their Rhassoul Clay as a natural shampoo). NB. The Miswak sticks are supplied shrink-wrapped in plastic.
I’d love to hear about your adventures in eco-friendly oral hygiene—have you got a favourite type of bamboo brush or an ingenious use for old toothbrushes? I’ve got a mountain of old brushes which I’m about to package up and send to Terracycle for recycling using their free service The Colgate® Oral Care Recycling Programme. Anyone can sign up, and you can send off all your old brushes, packaging and clean toothpaste tubes with a free downloadable collection label!
IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR ANYONE WITH GINGIVITIS OR ORAL HEALTH PROBLEMS: After using plastic-free dental care alternatives for around a year, I visited the dentist for a routine check up. Although I’ve suffered from bleeding gums sporadically for my entire life, the problem had got much worse and needed 45 mins of invasive interdental scraping to remove pockets of gum disease. With a heavy heart and a sore mouth, I’ve started using an electric toothbrush and plastic interdental sticks. I hate plastic toothbrushes, but not so much that I’ll risk losing a tooth to gum disease…
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