Ah, the dentist… there’s nothing quite like that biannual plaque scraping and the interrogation over your dental hygiene habits.
“Have you been flossing? Your gums are bleeding.”
Well surely that can’t have anything to do with them being poked and prodded by a sharp metal stick!
While no one likes being guilted by their dentist for not flossing, it can be a super important part of dental hygiene, but how does that fit in with the zero waste lifestyle?
Many believe the best zero waste flossing alternative is simply to not floss! Surprising to know that some dentists even recommend it.
But for those of us who find ourselves on the traditional pro-flossing side, we should try to do it in a more sustainable fashion.
THE PROBLEM WITH TRADITIONAL FLOSS
Traditional floss is composed almost entirely of petroleum-based plastic and nylon. That tiny foot long string of plastic might seem innocuous enough, but when you consider the US alone goes through about 3 million miles of floss per year, suddenly those strings add up.
And if everyone in the US flossed their teeth as the American Dental Association recommends the discarded plastic containers could fill a football field six stories high each year!
That image is horrifying but not nearly as much as those of the many sea animals being strangulated by plastic floss.
Not only does it have a terrible environmental impact, but it’s actually bad for you, too. Traditional floss is coated in a highly toxic substances called PFASs, a subset of perfluorocarbons (PFCs), which are also responsible for some of the most potent greenhouse gas emissions according to the EPA.
PFASs, the same thing Teflon is made from, are definitely not something you want that close to your gums either. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology found elevated levels of PFAS in the bloodstream of floss users compared to non-flossers.
For our own sake as well as the planet’s, it’s time we get picky about how we pick our teeth.
ZERO WASTE WASTE FLOSS BRANDS
Zero waste flossing is no easy task.
In fact, sustainable floss is one of the final, hardest zero waste swaps you can make in creating a zero waste bathroom.
Until recently, there were very few truly zero waste dental floss brands on the market.
Those that were truly zero waste were definitely not vegan because the only fast biodegrading compostable floss solution came in the form of silk, a production process that typically involves boiling silkworms alive in their cocoon.
Some companies have started using “peace silk”, which is harvested from vacated cocoons rather than occupied ones. This supposedly makes it “cruelty-free” but even this definition is question.
The domesticated breeds of silkworms used hatch moths that can’t actually fly, see, or eat. They’re allowed to hatch pretty much for the sole purpose of laying more eggs, from which a large percentage of the larvae will just be allowed to starve.
You can read more about it here.
Threads aside, for a while many comparable “zero waste” dental flosses still came in plastic bags! Where was the logic there?!
Fortunately, the sustainable floss game has been seriously upped over the last couple years and we were able to string together a pretty solid list of vegan and non-vegan zero waste floss options.
FINDING ZERO WASTE FLOSS PRODUCTS AND BRANDS
In doing so, we seek products that are:
- vegan (the best products on this list won’t be silk)
- organic / natural
- palm-oil free (which isn’t really a concern when it comes to sustainable floss)
- have ethical sourcing policies and
- use zero waste packaging.
Floss is unique because the product in and of itself can be a waste product so we need to not only search for naked or reusable packaging, but compostable floss itself.
1. KMH TOUCHES FLOSS POT GOLD
About KMH Touches Floss Pot Gold
A truly zero waste dental floss that’s also 100% vegan and cruelty-free!
This corn-fiber floss is coated in candelilla wax and contains a slightly ginger-mint flavoring. At 164 yards in an order, it’s better value than most and ensures less shipping emissions.
It also comes packaged in a stainless steel jar, which is more durable than glass, (and great for traveling). Refills then come in a compostable cardboard box, with non-toxic ink and glue.
Even the clear window to reveal the product itself (required by Health Canada) is plant-based cello.
KMH is a Canadian company and they hold a Medical Device Establishment License through Health Canada, which holds them to rigorous standards of non-toxicity. Floss Pot Gold is now also available in the U.S. as USDA-certified BIO-based Product.
The corn used is admittedly not non-GMO (because 80% of the world’s corn is now genetically modified) KMH Touches still “believe[s] this floss is superior to any petroleum-based floss overall”.
2. EARTH’S TRIBE AUSTRALIA FLOSS
About Earth’s Tribe Australia Zero Waste Floss
Earth’s Tribe makes two different zero waste dental floss options that come in refillable glass jars.
The first is a non-vegan silk thread with candelilla wax coating. The second is vegan dental floss, derived from bamboo charcoal and corn maize so every component is completely plant-based.
Like many others, they offer refills that come in a plant wax storage bag.
3. GEORGANICS ZERO WASTE DENTAL FLOSS
About Georganics Floss
Georganics is one of the best zero waste dental care brands on the market.
We actually included them on our Best of Zero Waste Beauty list.
This doesn’t mean that everything they make is 100% zero waste. Their activated charcoal dental floss (which is vegan), for instance, does contain 20% polyester yarn so it’s not totally compostable.
However, to get their totally compostable floss, you have to sacrifice the vegan quality.
Their standard peace silk floss is, as discussed above, definitely not vegan friendly but it is considered cruelty-free because it is harvested from vacated cocoons rather than from those still occupied by silk worms.
Still, it’s a bit of a toss up between the two and what ethical choice is most important to you.
Georganics is widely available and have interesting flavours like Cardamom Natural Dental Floss. If cardamon isn’t your favorite fresh-breath flavor, it also comes in spearmint and orange (which is technically for kids, but who’s putting an age on tasty tooth care?).
All their flosses come in glass jars with refill options sans the packaging.
4. TREEBIRD BAMBOO FLOSS
About TreeBird Bamboo Floss
Just like Georganics, TreeBird’s floss comes with a bit of an ultimatum between zero waste and vegan.
If you want something 100% compostable, they make a non-vegan pure silk floss, but their newly launched vegan charcoal floss is mixed with a form of polyester that’s biodegradable but not compostable.
They also come in glass jars and are shipped in kraft paper boxes, compostable down to the plant-based sealing stickers and soy ink label.
5. BRING YOUR OWN JAR
About Bring Your Own Jar Sustainable Floss
California knows how to party, and since there ain’t no party like a zero waste party, let make sure to BYOJ!
In all seriousness, we love the name of this California company and the looks of their sustainable floss.
It’s not just zero waste floss, but totally vegan as well.
This minty floss is made from 100% plant-based maize straw PLA, which is only proven to be compostable by commercial composting facilities. Not the best option if you plan on composting at home.
It comes in a glass jar with a stainless steel thread cutting lid for which you can then order discounted. The box it’s shipped in is also 100% earth safe, with no colored ink or gloss finish.
6. DENTAL LACE “ORIGINAL” ZERO WASTE FLOSS
About Dental Lace “Original” Zero Waste Floss
We’ll give credit where credit is due: Dental Lace was one of the first award-winning sustainable dental floss options on the market.
However, earlier this year they made the exciting announcement that they will soon be offering a totally compostable plant-based vegan floss. Stay tuned!
“Earth forward, fashion friendly”, each floss initially comes in a glass jar with fun colored patterns painted printed right on (which encourages reuse even more!).
The floss inside the jar comes in a polylactic acid bag that looks like plastic but is actually made from the lactic acid of plants. It’s totally compostable!
The glass jar is then packaged in a post-consumer recycled cardboard box that’s certified FSC and PFC-free and made using renewable biogas energy.
They even sell a mini compost bin for floss you can keep right in your bathroom to collect floss each night (we just use an old moisturiser jar which works just as well).
After so many years in the biz, you can tell they have it threaded perfectly 🙂
7. THE ECO BRUSH ECO FLOSS
About The Eco Brush Eco Floss
This one gets tossed around a lot in floss talk, and unlike a lot of the flosses on this list, it’s easily available to our Australian readers out there.
The Eco Floss provide a vegan friendly PLA-based floss made from cornstarch.
Because this floss is technically a bioplastic, it is renewable and compostable, but just like BYOJ’s vegan floss, however, it isn’t home compostable.
Instead, it’s only compostable at an industrial composting facility.
8. WOWE ZERO WASTE SILK FLOSS
About Wowe Silk Zero Waste Floss
As with other peace silk floss options, Wowe’s zero waste silk floss isn’t ideal from a vegan standpoint and they unfortunately don’t make a vegan alternative.
However, we included it because we appreciate that Wowe partners with One Tree Planted. They donate 1% of sales to this program which uses those donations to plant trees in deforested areas.
It also comes in a super handy stainless steel jar, which unlike glass jars is pretty much indestructible and thus great for on the go use.
9. LUCKY TEETH FLOSS
About Lucky Teeth Floss
They also offer vegan bamboo floss – in addition to charcoal and bamboo, which contains organic tea tree oil as an antibacterial agent and pain alleviant.
The organic peppermint oil is for flavor and its analgesic, anti-inflammatory properties. Otherwise, there are no sweeteners or artificial flavoring.
The one questionable ingredient is the “biodegradable polymer” that makes up 20% of the floss.
We aren’t sure exactly how natural this polymer is, but Lucky Teeth claims the floss biodegrades completely in 60-90 days.
ZERO WASTE FLOSS ALTERNATIVES & ACCESSORIES
DIY SUSTAINABLE DENTAL FLOSS
As with everything zero waste, you can also make your own, too!
One common recommendation we found was to use horse hair as floss. This might be a viable option if you happen to have a horse (or know someone who does), but we’re suspect of the ethics behind buying horse hair if not.
You can also use non-abrasive thread to floss your teeth. Regular cotton thread isn’t ideal because it can break easily and can get stuck in your teeth.
Bea Johnson, in her book Zero Waste Home, recommends using upcycled silk cloth. So if you have an old silk blouse hanging around in your closet, consider letting it act as your zero waste floss supply. It’ll last for ages!
We’ve also heard of hemp clothing / fabric being used in the same way!
Could this be worth a try??
ZERO WASTE FLOSS HOLDER
Obviously the best zero waste floss holder is your own two hands, but as some people don’t like getting that close to their mouth (or can’t open their jaw wide enough to get a thorough flossing), we wanted to find some zero waste floss holders.
Disappointingly we found no compostable or zero waste options out there. They’re all made of plastic (except the option below). While using a plastic floss holder isn’t the end of the world provided you plan on making it last a long time, it wasn’t what we were hoping for.
The best zero waste floss holder we found was by My Floss Friend, which makes a polished stainless steel flossing tool with long reaching handle.
The only downside is that these handy floss holders are not yet widely available. As of now, they’re only available on My Floss Friend’s website, though they do ship globally (with appropriate shipping costs outside the US).
ZERO WASTE FLOSS PICK
We also spent a good bit of time picking our brains as we try to find a sustainable floss pick.
It’s surprisingly challenging, especially when you’re as pick-y as we are 😉
A quick Amazon search reveals lots of biodegradable and “sustainable” floss pick options, but unfortunately, none of them are truly all-around zero waste floss picks as they are not compostable.
For example: Lucky Teeth makes a charcoal and cornstarch floss pick that’s biodegradable and PFA-free… While they claim both the pick and packaging with “naturally biodegrade within six months”, we’d much prefer to see a totally compostable solution.
Another okay but not ideal zero waste floss pick we found is by PearlBar. Their charcoal-infused bamboo floss picks are not only vegan and cruelty-free. The handle is made from Oxo-biodegradable plastic and the thread is a mixture of bamboo charcoal and polyester, so it also can’t be home composted.
While we didn’t find that one perfect zero waste floss pick, we’re hoping these sustainable floss companies continue to up their game as they did with zero waste floss itself over the last couple years.
In the meantime we’d recommend sticking to the truly zero waste floss brands listed above.
Perhaps one of the best alternatives to flossing is the Waterpik, which is pretty much just an electronic water flosser.
It provides a non-abrasive and totally chemical free way to get the grime from gums and other tough-to-reach toothy places. They’re especially great for those with dental hardware like braces and permanent retainers
Lots of zero wasters love the Waterpik but we’re a little torn simply due to the large and lasting footprint of electronic devices (and the batteries that power them).
However, if they last for a long time we can see how they may actually be better in the end, especially if you’re careful to get either a rechargeable model or rechargeable batteries for it.
And of course dispose of them correctly at their end of life.
ZERO WASTE MOUTHWASH TABS
Another on the list of sustainable options complementary to flossing is zero waste mouthwash.
Filling this unique niche in the marker, Georgranics offers zero waste mouthwash tablets, which come in 6 different flavors and are packaged in glass jars. They’re not only vegan and cruelty-free, but all natural and free from fluoride, Glycerine, and SLS.
Alternatively, for a zero waste liquid mouthwash, make your own using aloe vera and baking soda. Here’s a super simple recipe from Shia @ Wasteland Rebel.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ZERO WASTE FLOSS PRODUCTS
Dental hygiene, while easy to overlook, is intimately connected to our general health and immunity. That’s why it’s important to keep those teeth squeaky clean.
Where you’re opting for zero waste floss or another natural alternative to flossing, reducing your use of petroleum-based plastics and toxic chemicals is a terrific way to get a healthier smile (and in turn a healthier planet).
If you haven’t already, make sure you’re also switching to a bamboo toothbrush, one of our favorite stupidly easy zero waste swaps that can make a huge difference in your plastic waste.
Don’t forget to check out our article on zero waste toothpaste to top off your zero waste dental care kit.
In our eyes, nothing shines quite like a sustainable smile.
We hope this guide is helpful for you in keeping those pearly whites plastic free. If you have any zero waste flossing tips or natural alternatives to flossing that we missed, let us know!