Plastic toothbrushes have been in production since the 1930s and every one of those toothbrushes ever made is still in existence today. This blows my mind. Dentists recommend that we change our toothbrushes every three months. That’s a LOT of plastic pollution out there from plastic pollution alone.
Bamboo is an extremely fast growing, sustainable material. It’s a brilliant alternative to wood and has so many different uses. It’s an incredible plant.
As you can see, we have quite a selection of bamboo toothbrushes in our house. They, as with their evil plastic evil counterparts, come in a variety of different types. You can get different bristle firmnesses (is that a word?) and you can get natural or synthetic bristles.
The Truth About Natural Bristles
The material of the bristles is a very tricky subject, upon which many companies make false claims. The most recent one I’ve heard is this:
Oh, shut the front door! You’re charging £8.99 and pretending to be better than all the others. Your bristles are 38% Nylon 6. That never biodegrades, you sneaky little wretches. I hate companies being sneaky. Just tell the damn truth! They make their toothbrush sound like they’re the best out there when they’re just being crafty with their wording.
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Some are made from pig bristles, which I’d personally be okay with if I knew how those pigs had been raised, however, I haven’t managed to find any companies that are that transparent with their claims. I suspect they’re intensively reared in China with little regard for the animals welfare. These bristles do just end up as a waste product if they aren’t used for something. The bristles do biodegrade and can go straight into your compost.
This is a very sludgy grey area. Some claim to be made from a material called Nylon-4. Nylon-4 is a petroleum based plastic that is said to be biodegradable under certain conditions (ie, in a lab). Life isn’t like a lab. It’s probably not going to ever biodegrade. Some bristles are made from Nylon-6. Nylon 6 does not ever biodegrade.
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I’m not sure how this would be possible. I’ve read this awesome website and she’s done an awful lot of research about the claims companies make regarding the sustainability of their toothbrush bristles. There are companies that claim to use charcoal enhanced bamboo bristles. Right. I’ve tried these and I also regularly use activated charcoal powder as part of my dental hygiene. I don’t feel like the bristles have charcoal in them.
Our Bamboo Toothbrush Experience
(Ignore the black sludge on my toothbrush – I make my own toothpaste, the recipe which I’ll share with you another time).
LissyLu and I were recently sent a couple of toothbrushes to try from the lovely people at Bamboolu. Bamboolu is a company in its infancy that is yet to open to the public. What they will be offering is a subscription based bamboo toothbrush delivery whereby you get sent a new toothbrush every three months, as recommended by dentists. I really like the company, the people are really friendly (which is always a winner in my eyes), honest and their toothbrushes are lovely.
LissyLu’s is different to mine, I think her toothbrush has synthetic bristles, which is fine, but hers feels firmer. My preference is a firmer bristled brush. I think (I haven’t tested it, which I could do with a lighter because natural bristles would burn where as plastic would melt) mine might have natural bristles. I like it, but I do like a slightly firmer brush. I’ve been using it all week and my toothbrushes need to be quite hard-wearing because my toothpaste is no walk in the park.
The Environmental Toothbrush
I’ve used The Environmental Toothbrush many times. I love that they come packaged in a cardboard sleeve, I love the firmness of the bristles, however, they don’t last five minutes for me. I would probably need at least one every fortnight, as you can see from the photo at the beginning of this post.
Asides from my Bamboolu toothbrush, the one I’ve been using most recently is from Woobamboo. I bought this from my local health food shop. They ordered it in for me. Had I seen it on the shelf, there’s no way I would have bought it because it came packaged in a plastic bubble. I was really incensed by this because I can’t understand the point in creating a lovely bamboo toothbrush for sustainability then wrapping it in plastic that’s going to be around forever. I asked them about it and they said that customers preferred to be able to see the product that they’re buying. Sustainability minded, plastic pollution warriors and ethical customers? Really?? I can’t help feeling that they’re trying to sell to the wrong market.
This is one of the “charcoal infused” nylon bristled toothbrushes. They were too soft for me.
I don’t think there is any “perfect” toothbrush. I feel like there are always going be compromises that we will need to make on our journey to find the most ethical path. I’ll continue using bamboo toothbrushes because for me, I prefer them to the plastic kind which stays around forever.
I’d love to hear what toothbrushes you’re using and how it’s working out for you.