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.”
Of course, that has nothing to do with them being poked by a sharp metal stick!
While no one likes being guilted by their dentist for not flossing, it is a super important part of dental hygiene. But how does that fit in with a zero waste lifestyle?
Many believe the only eco friendly floss is simply, no floss! It’s also surprising to know that some dentists even recommend it.
But for those of us on the traditional pro-flossing side who are also trying to live a life of less waste should absolutely aim to use a zero waste floss alternative.
So with that in mind, you can either DIY dental floss or, if you don’t have the time, opt for a sustainable floss alternative on this list.
Special mentions go to Lucky Teeth Floss for their vegan and zero waste floss made of sustainable bamboo fibre. Etee’s plastic free floss with optional compostable refill baggies. And Flosspot’s innovative corn-fiber and candelilla wax coated alternative.
If you want to know how we created this list jump to the end of the article. We talk about the ethical and environmental issues with floss (and there are many) and how we can avoid being part of the problem.
1. LUCKY TEETH FLOSS
About Lucky Teeth Floss
Lucky Teeth are one of our favorites. They offer a vegan zero waste dental floss.
The floss is made out of bamboo fibre and contains activated charcoal and organic tea tree oil which acts as an antibacterial agent.
It’s also flavored with organic peppermint oil for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Otherwise, there are no sweeteners or artificial flavoring.
Once you’re done with the product, throw it in your compost and it will biodegrade in 60-90 days.
2. ETEE PLASTIC FREE FLOSS
About Etee Plastic Free Floss
It comes in a glass container with a stainless steel lid. When you order refills they’ll come in compostable cornstarch baggies. The boxes are printed with soy-based inks and shipped in cardboard boxes with cellulose packing tape.
The floss itself has a natural peppermint flavoring. It’s made out of candelilla wax and peace silk.
While this option is not vegan, it is the most ethically sourced silk on the market (see the end of our article for a deep dive on peace silk).
Plastic free dental floss is not the only product Etee stocks. They sell a bunch of zero waste home and personal care essentials.
What we really love about them is that they make almost every product they sell. Because of this, they have a lot of control over their supply chain. Etee guarantees that any product delivered to your door will be 100% plastic-free.
3. KMH TOUCHES FLOSS POT GOLD
About KMH Touches Floss Pot Gold
This is another rare brand that offers some of the best eco friendly floss around.
KMH’s vegan and zero waste dental floss is made out of corn-fiber and is coated in candelilla wax. The product contains a slightly ginger-mint flavoring. At 164 yards in an order, it’s better value than most other options and reduces shipping emissions.
It comes packaged in a stainless steel jar, which is more durable than glass, (and great for traveling). Refills are packaged 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 who have 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 still “believe[s] this floss is superior to any petroleum-based floss overall”.
4. BRING YOUR OWN JAR
About Bring Your Own Jar Sustainable Floss
California sure knows how to have a zero waste party, so let’s be sure to BYOJ!
In all seriousness, we love the name of this California company and the look of their sustainable floss.
It’s not just eco friendly dental floss, but totally vegan as well.
This minty floss is made from 100% plant-based maize straw PLA. To properly biodegrade, this needs to be placed in a commercial composting facility. Not the most convenient option but nonetheless it’s still compostable.
It comes in a glass jar with a stainless steel thread cutting lid. You can then order refills in a cardboard box, with no colored ink or gloss finish.
5. GEORGANICS ZERO WASTE DENTAL FLOSS
About Georganics Floss
Georganics is one of the best zero waste dental brands on the market.
However, their floss is either vegan (and not totally zero waste) or zero waste (and not 100% vegan friendly).
Their vegan charcoal dental floss, for instance, contains 20% polyester yarn so it’s not totally compostable. However, to get their totally compostable floss, you have to sacrifice the vegan element.
Their standard zero waste silk floss is, as mentioned, not vegan friendly but it is considered cruelty-free because it’s harvested from vacated cocoons rather than from those still occupied by silk worms.
Still, it’s a bit of a toss up between twhat ethical choice is most important to you.
All their flosses come in glass jars with refill options sans the packaging.
6. 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.
7. 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.
They offer a mint flavored non-vegan zero waste silk floss that’s totally compostable and a vegan bamboo-charcoal floss (that’s mixed with a bit of polyester so it not zero waste).
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.
After so many years in the biz, you can tell they have it threaded perfectly 🙂
8. EARTH’S TRIBE AUSTRALIA FLOSS
About Earth’s Tribe Australia Zero Waste Floss
Earth’s Tribe make two 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.
9. 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 others on this list, it’s available to our Australian readers out there.
The Eco Floss makes their mark with 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.
Eco Brush’s founder, Nat Sharp’s vision for the company is to be able to create good quality jobs for women that have been rescued from the sex trade – they are working actively toward that goal and in the meantime, donate 10% of profist to the Loyal Workshops Social Support Fund
10. 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.
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 good for on the go use.
DIY 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 as DIY floss. Regular cotton thread isn’t ideal because it can break easily and can get stuck.
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 clothing / fabric being used as hemp floss in the same way!
Could hemp thread floss be worth a try??
REUSABLE DENTAL FLOSS HOLDER
Obviously the most sustainable dental 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 reusable 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 reusable 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).
REUSABLE 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 eco friendly 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 will “naturally biodegrade within six months”, we’d much prefer to see a totally compostable solution.
Another okay but not ideal reusable 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 floss over the last couple years.
In the meantime we’d recommend sticking to the truly zero waste floss brands listed above.
ZERO WASTE MOUTHWASH TABS
Another sustainable dental care option is zero waste mouthwash.
Filling this unique niche in the market, is Georgranics offering 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 one of our favorite fellow zero waste bloggers, Shia @ Wasteland Rebel.
THE PROBLEM WITH TRADITIONAL FLOSS
Ok, let’s examine the issues with plastic and unsustainable 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.
ECO FRIENDLY FLOSS
Eco friendly 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 is no guarantee.
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 eco friendly dental floss options.
FINDING ZERO WASTE DENTAL FLOSS
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 (ideally compostable) 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.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SUSTAINABLE FLOSS
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, an easy zero waste swap that can make a huge difference in your plastic waste.
And 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!