How We Found The Best Zero Waste Toothbrush Brands
What is an eco-friendly toothbrush? And what makes a toothbrush sustainable?
In matters of the mouth, materials matter (now there’s a mouthful).
The most popular plastic-free toothbrush handle alternative is bamboo.
It’s also one of the fastest-growing least water-consumptive plants and, once it’s harvested for toothbrushes, it can continue growing because harvesting doesn’t kill the core plant.
Bamboo may be the best sustainable toothbrush for now, but we’ll see how the industry continues to evolve. For example, recycled and reusable aluminum handles paired with a compostable toothbrush head would further eliminate waste.
However, to make a bamboo toothbrush zero waste in every way, we have to consider the bristles, too.
The Challenge Behind Zero Waste Toothbrush Bristles
Now we get to the real complication in the world of eco-friendly toothbrushes: bristles.
It’s not too difficult to have a biodegradable toothbrush as far as the handle is concerned, but bristles often get in the way of a toothbrush being fully compostable.
Also, remember that nearly all materials (even if they’re made of plastic) will technically degrade after some time, but oftentimes it takes hundreds of years.
Compostable materials are biodegradable, biodegradable materials aren’t necessarily compostable. Pretty simple concept, right?
Well, not for some brands who fall a bristle short and confuse the two and end up greenwashing.
My Plastic Free Life did some extra brushing (in a circular motion, of course) to discover supposedly “biodegradable” nylon bristles were in fact not biodegradable.
So what’s the best way to brush?
Well, we really only have a few “zero waste” toothbrush options:
1. Boar bristle toothbrushes:
Boar bristles would yield the only undoubtedly compostable toothbrushes currently available to us—but brushing our teeth with pig hair sounds like the worst way to get a fresh and minty mouth.
2. Castor bean toothbrushes:
While castor bean (AKA Ricinus communis) is a flowering plant, the bristles made out of it aren’t always as wholesome as they might sound.
Some brands claim their castor bean oil bristles are home compostable, some state they’re industrially compostable, and some still place them on the list of what not to compost and recommend recycling. We’re inclined to err on the safe side and agree with the latter.
3. Miswak sticks:
This traditional oral care tool was popular in Pakistan, India, and parts of Asia and Africa. Studies show that it’s as effective (or perhaps superior) to other types of toothbrushes.
You can find several sellers for these organic chew sticks on Etsy.