Something we don’t think about often are our toothbrushes. However, toothbrushes can be one of the most wasteful products we use regularly! From the materials, to the production, to the packaging, to the amount used, to the discard, there is constant waste. (Not to mention the toxic chemicals that are contained in plastic toothbrushes and their manufacturing). For the health of ourselves, our children, and our environment, here is a little snippet about toothbrushes. (Scroll to the bottom to skip to sustainable and eco-friendly toothbrush alternatives.)
Considering tooth health is directly linked to heart health, teaching our children how to properly care for their teeth (with the safest, healthiest tools) will set them on a path of living their healthiest life.
What are typical toothbrushes made from?
The first evidence of cleaning our teeth is from around 3,000 BC, from Egyptians who used twigs and leaves to clean out their teeth. We of course have a much more thorough way of cleaning our teeth now, but the Egyptians definitely had the most sustainable way! Now, our toothbrushes are sadly made from plastic handles (which typically contain BPAs and phthalates – both endocrine disruptors – in addition to other harmful chemicals like crude oil) and nylon bristles.
The manufacturing process itself also uses harmful chemicals and non-renewable energy sources.
Where do they end up?
Where most of our waste ends up: Landfills! This might not seem awful at first since toothbrushes are small items, but when everyone replaces their toothbrush 2-3 months (which is recommended) we end up with OVER ONE BILLION toothbrushes in a landfill EVERY YEAR in North America ALONE. (That elicits capitalized emphasis!)
Plastic toothbrushes take over 400 YEARS to decompose! The nylon bristles take roughly 30. And when these materials decompose, they leak toxic chemicals into our earth, which seep into water supplies and could potentially affect food supplies as well. I emphasize all of this to show why using an eco-friendly toothbrush is so important for us now, but also for our future generations.
What should I use as an alternative?
As an eco-friendly alternative, many toothbrushes are now being made with bamboo wood! Bamboo is a fast-growing, sustainable resource. It is also anti-microbial, meaning that your bamboo toothbrush won’t hold nasty bacteria.
Bamboo toohbrushes with nylon bristles are the most common eco-friendly toothbrush you can find, but the most sustainable toothbrushes are those made without plastic handles OR nylon bristles. Thus, bamboo toothbrushes with boar bristle is the #1 most sustainable toothbrush since the boar bristle biodegrades much faster than nylon.
However, I have yet to find a boar bristle kids’ toothbrush. Plus, we are a vegan family and don’t use any animal products or byproducts anyway, so we don’t use the #1 most sustainable toothbrush. Instead, we currently use toothbrushes with bamboo handles and BPA-free, dye-free nylon bristles (listed below).
These are all packaged in sustainable (aka compostable) packaging. We did not list any with non-compostable packaging, as we don’t consider those truly sustainable. We also listed the best adult bamboo toothbrushes, because we as parents lead the way for our children by example.
#1 sustainable toothbrush: Bamboo handle with boar bristle – unfortunately can’t find in a children’s size
#1 sustainable kids’ toothbrush: Bamboo handle with BPA-free and dye-free nylon bristles
#2 sustainable kids’ toothbrush: Bamboo handle with organic COLOR and BPA-free nylon brisles
#2 sustainable toothbrush: Bamboo handle with BPA-free and dye-free nylon bristles
For the health and future of our children and our earth, it is best to use a bamboo toothbrush that comes in compostable packaging, as these biodegrade the fastest. The BEST and most sustainable toothbrush option is a bamboo handle with boar-bristle bristles and zero-waste packaging. However, as of this posting these are not found in a children’s size and are not suitable for those who refrain from using animal products.
Thus, we have concluded that while not technically most sustainable, the next safest and eco-friendly option is a bamboo handle with BPA- and dye-free nylon bristles, which come in kids’ sizes and adult sizes. As parents we need to set examples for our children, so when you add kid-sized bamboo brushes into your cart, be sure to add some adult-size ones in there too!
What are your favorite eco-friendly toothbrushes? How long has your family been using more sustainable options? What would you like to see us write about next? We love hearing from you; let us know in the comments below! 🙂