Today I'm sharing how I brush my teeth in a low-waste way, and outlining a few other options you can go with (there are tons!). Read on for way more than you ever wanted to know about recyclable toothpaste tubes, compostable floss, and more. Seriously, way more.
Many zero waste people that I've spoken to brush their teeth with baking soda or with a homemade toothpaste based around baking soda. Before I committed to striving for zero waste but still was re-evaluating my daily routines to be more sustainable, I began using baking soda to clean my plastic retainer each night in lieu of the cleaning tablets packaged in individual paper and plastic tear-open pouches. After a few weeks, I found that the baking soda had abraded my retainer to be really rough in many spots. All this to say, I'm wary of using baking soda on my teeth, and if you are too, I've listed a few other options below.
-Toothpaste in a metal tube: Metal tubes seem to be more widely recyclable than plastic tubes, and they work to help you move toward using less plastic. I've tried a few brands and have really liked them. David's (pictured above) is made in the United States with largely nontoxic ingredients, and it has a really fresh minty flavor that I like. It's pricey but high quality. If you order some, ask if you can receive yours without a metal key to push out toothpaste, which they typically ship with each order. Weleda toothpaste is likewise mostly natural, packaged in a metal tube, and can often be found in stores near you - my local Whole Foods stocks it in a few flavors. If you aren't a fan of mint flavored toothpaste, Weleda has some other options (I purchased their fennel variety when I ran out of toothpaste in Ireland, and it's a fun change). I'd also love to try Goodwell's toothpaste, which is nontoxic and comes in a recyclable metal tube.
-Toothpaste in a recyclable plastic tube: If you don't want to make the switch to homemade toothpaste nor pay the higher price tag associated with some of the brands that come in metal tubes, know that you can recycle tubes of Toms & Colgate toothpaste through Terracycle (sadly, only those brands are accepted - both companies have partnered with Terracycle to make it happen). One further possible option: tubes of Dr. Bronner's toothpaste have a recycling symbol but no number. I'm not quite sure that it's allowable; I reached out to the company to ask why it doesn't have a number, but all they told me is that their tubes are fully recyclable. Before going this route, I'd try to check the rules in your area to see what happens to recyclables without numbers.
-Toothpaste in a glass jar: You can also purchase toothpastes in a glass jar. I've tried Truthpaste, which was lovely, but whose jar came shrink-wrapped in plastic. You could also try the toothpaste packaged in glass jars from Uncle Harry's or Fat and the Moon, or search on Etsy and contact the seller to ask that yours be shipped in minimal packaging.
-Homemade: If you're game to try homemade toothpaste made with baking soda, recipes abound. They range from just baking soda, to a few simple ingredients, to this one that looks the most similar to store-bought toothpaste.
Bamboo toothbrushes, which are compostable except for the bristles, are the gold standard of zero waste toothbrushing. There are many brands - choosing between them comes down to which come in minimal, recyclable, and compostable packaging, and which are made closest to where you live or can be bought in a store near you. (And price - because they're definitely more expensive than plastic toothbrushes). Whichever you choose, know that the toothbrushes aren't as durable as plastic, being, of course, compostable. Drying my toothbrush on a hand towel in between each use has kept them in good shape and helps them last longer. Below, a little review of a few of the different brands out there, including where some of them are made, to help you determine which might be the best fit:
-Brush with Bamboo: Based in the United States, they make bamboo toothbrushes. I especially like that you can buy them in larger quantities at a discount, which is great for families or if you want to stock up.
-Go Bamboo: Go Bamboo is made in New Zealand; they don't ship to the US, but they do to Europe. They're a company on a zero waste, plastic-free mission. Their toothbrushes come in totally recyclable paper packaging, and in an upcycled paper mailer. They also sell orthodontic toothbrushes and end tufted toothbrushes, if you need those.
-Gaia Guy: My bamboo toothbrush from Gaia Guy came in a recyclable mailer, and the toothbrush itself was packaged really simply, in a recyclable cardboard sleeve. The round handle is nice and weighty, a pleasure to use.
-Bogobrush: They're based in the US, and they make a biodegradable (non-bamboo) toothbrush, which comes in simple cardboard boxes with no extra plastic.
-The Environmental Toothbrush: A classic bamboo toothbrush, made in Australia.
-Goodwell: Goodwell's bamboo toothbrush heads are screwed on to a reusable base, so less bamboo is used each time you need a new toothbrush head. I think this system is totally genius, and once I've used up the last of the toothbrushes I have on hand I may switch to theirs'.
-PearlBar: My PearlBar toothbrush was shipped to me in a fully recyclable manila paper envelope. The brush itself was packaged in a paper carton with a clear plastic window, which they say is compostable. Their toothbrushes are made in China but ship from Australia.
-WooBamboo: WooBamboo's bamboo toothbrushes are currently in packaged in a combination of cardboard and recycled/recyclable plastic - however, this year or next they're switching to backyard compostable plant-based plastic, so check back in with them.
-Green Revolucia: These toothbrushes come packaged in cardboard and a compostable inner wrapper. The handle is thicker and more rounded than other models, which makes it more similar to a plastic toothbrush in terms of comfort and ease of use.
Once you've used up your bamboo toothbrush, use pliers to remove & recycle the bristles, then compost the handle. Or, you can upcycle your brush before it hits the compost.
-EcoDent: Theirs' is only floss I know of that's packaged in paper and is itself compostable, too. The floss comes wound around a little plastic spool that isn't recyclable, but, you know, you win some, you lose some. I've been using it for a few months now and like that it's low-waste but offers the same experience as conventional floss. I never thought I'd say those last four words, but hey. I like my floss to feel like floss I guess.
-Silk: Bea from Zero Waste Home recommends unraveling a piece of silk fabric and using it as floss. I haven't tried this yet, but when a silk shirt of mine recently became ripped beyond repair, I did set it aside to use in the future when the rest of my floss runs out.
-WaterPik: Do you have one of these collecting dust in the very back of your bathroom cabinet, left over from your orthodontia days a decade ago? Yeah, me too. It makes a good floss alternative, but on the other hand it does take electricity to use. Plus you can't use it while reading in bed, which is the only way I can get myself to make flossing a daily habit. Your call on that one!
Clearly, it's easy to go down the rabbit hole with this one. I say, pick the options that seem to hit the sweet spot of being affordable, easy, local, and sustainable for you. Maybe it'll make sense to sacrifice one of those categories for more of another. And then, if you don't like what you've tried, shake it up and try a new one. Hopefully you'll hit on a routine that works well for you.
And now, I'm curious...what have you been using these days?
Disclosure: I received samples from some of these folks while researching products to include in this post. All opinions are my own. Thank you for reading!