Zero Waste Toothbrush: 6 Brands For That Sustainable Smile
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Let’s talk teeth.
More specifically, let’s talk about how we all need to make some serious improvements to our dental routine. And no, we don’t just mean brushing twice a day and flossing every night (but do check out our recent zero waste floss article if you want to start!).
According to this eye-opening video on the Life of a Toothbrush, the average person uses 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime. That equates to billions toothbrushes finding their way to landfills every.single.year.
That’s why we’re taking a bite out of plastic dental care and diving into zero waste toothbrushes, or rather lower waste toothbrushes, as you’ll see shortly.
Remember, the zero waste lifestyle doesn’t always literally mean zero waste; it means doing the best we can to reduce our waste, and unfortunately, zero waste toothbrushes are one of those things where we simply have no choice but to accept that caveat of imperfection.
With that being said, we’re still excited to see the progress made by the most sustainable toothbrush brands just over the last few years.
While not fully compostable, Brush with Bamboo was one of the first (and still one of the only) plant-based toothbrushes. For an oral care routine that really makes you smile, we love that The Humble Co. who uses every purchase to give back. And if you’re brave enough for a mouth full of boar hair 2x a day check out the only fully compostable option from Life Without Plastic.
Head to the end of the article to see how we picked these brush-worthy brands.
ZERO WASTE TOOTHBRUSH BRANDS
1. BRUSH WITH BAMBOO
Brush with Bamboo’s Zero Waste Toothbrushes
Brush with Bamboo’s USA-made adult and kid toothbrushes come with bristles made of 100% castor bean oil—a percentage that has grown over the years as the brand has continued their attempts to become more sustainable.
While 100% biobased, the bristles should still be removed using pliers before composting the handle. Even though they are made of bio-based castor bean oil, the bristles aren’t certified compostable. While they will biodegrade (over a long period of time), it’s recommended that you don’t add them to your home compost.
Alternatively, you can recycle the bristles with Terracycle or some local recycling facilities.
The handles are organic wild-grown bamboo. Only Moso Bamboo is used for the handles and Brush with Bamboo is conscious about their impact—which is why they only harvest less than 1% of what’s growing in the sprawling Chinese bamboo mountain range.
For those of us worried about pandas, we can brush our teeth with a peace of mind because Moso isn’t one of the 42 bamboo species they like to eat.
About Brush with Bamboo
In 2015, it was Brush with Bamboo who helped paved the way for sustainable oral care with this video.
For years, they proudly held the title of “the world’s first and only plant-based toothbrush.” Fortunately, while they were one of the most sustainable toothbrush options for years, some other toothbrush brands have since joined the ranks.
Brush with Bamboo is a subset of Clean Planetware. They’ve become a household name in the world of sustainability and have been featured in several zero waste books as well as in magazines and publications like Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Consumer Reports.
Every claim BWB makes is backed by the necessary paperwork. The brushes are USDA certified bio-based, vegan, FDA registered, and Green American certified. For proof that they are indeed one of the best zero waste toothbrush brands, they actually provide evidence of each of these tests and certifications on their website.
Their packaging is an origami-folded cardboard box which eliminates the need for tape (and is printed with non-toxic ink). There is no inner wrapper, just a 100% paper box that is fully home compostable.
Available: Well Earth Goods | EarthHero
EcoRoots’s Zero Waste Toothbrushes
One billion plastic toothbrushes are disposed of every single year in the US and EcoRoots wants to reduce that number with their minimalist sustainable bamboo toothbrush.
Certified vegan and cruelty-free, these toothbrushes bear a 100% compostable bamboo handle. It’s also anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and antimicrobial (all the things we want from something that goes in our mouth!).
The bristles, similar to most sustainable toothbrush options out there, are still made with nylon. While these are BPA-free, infused with charcoal, and non-toxic, they are not biodegradable and must be removed from the toothbrush to be disposed of separately from the compostable handle.
Again, check with TerraCycle to recycle the bristles.
If EcoRoots sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve talked about them before when we scrubbed through some of our favorite zero waste cleaning brands and browsed around for the best ethical online shopping resources. From tooth to toilet, they’re committed to helping customers fill their homes with things that aren’t plastic.
The Colorado-based brand is certified cruelty free by Leaping Bunny and ships everything plastic-free in only recyclable/compostable materials.
3. THE HUMBLE CO.
The Humble Co.’s Zero Waste Toothbrushes
The Humble Co. has a range of eco friendly toothbrush options for kids and adults. And by options, we mean color options—you can choose from pink, yellow, blue, black, or white bristles.
Speaking of bristles, they also use nylon. “High-quality” DuPont nylon, they’re not very biodegradable and will need to be removed before composting.
While they’re not completely zero-waste, these toothbrushes are certified vegan and certified cruelty-free. The handle is also made from 100% biodegradable and sustainably-grown bamboo.
About The Humble Co.
The Humble Co. is a Swedish company that was founded in 2013 with the mission statement, “Because there is no Planet B.”
The brand was actually founded by a dentist – Noel Abdayem, so you can be sure their oral care products were designed with both mouth health and sustainability in mind.
Partnering with the non-profit Humble Smile Foundation, The Humble Co. has supported projects in vulnerable communities around the world (in 37 countries, to be exact). Each purchase allows you to “give smiles” to those in need of safe and healthy oral care products.
4. LIFE WITHOUT PLASTIC
Life Without Plastic’s Zero Waste Toothbrushes
With Life Without Plastic, you can buy toothbrushes and not have to think about them again for a long while. Why? Because they not only offer single and small sets, buy bulk buying options where you can get several adult or child toothbrushes, or a mix of both.
That means less shipping emissions and hassle. They also have a kit that includes other zero-waste oral care products like floss and toothpaste.
You may be surprised to discover what’s in these sustainable toothbrush heads… boar hair!
Don’t worry; it’s thoroughly disinfected and cleaned. Since there’s no plastic here, this toothbrush is 100% free of PVC, lead, phthalates, and BPAs. It also means that, in combination with the Miso bamboo handle, this is the only fully compostable toothbrush we’re aware of.
While these toothbrushes aren’t vegan, they are made with boar hair that is a byproduct of the Chinese meat industry, which does mean that “waste” is repurposed (although we could assume that the pigs aren’t raised in cruelty-free conditions).
While some extra care needs to be taken to keep the bristles clean (a rinse in very hot water every once in a while), the entire toothbrush can be composted making its end of life care far easier than others on this list.
About Life Without Plastic
As you could probably assume, Life Without Plastic’s vision is “A world without fossil-fuel derived plastic. Period.”
They’re on a quest to help more people rid their bodies of harmful human-made chemicals that disrupt our health and pollute our Earth. Hence why they feature as one of our best zero waste stores.
Founders Chantal and Jay started out with stainless steel and glass baby bottles but now they have a huge range of plastic-free home and personal care essentials for the whole family.
Available: Life Without Plastic
5. ME MOTHER EARTH
Me Mother Earth’s Zero Waste Toothbrushes
Every single toothbrush that’s ever been made, used, and accidentally dropped in the toilet is still in existence—unless it’s made with bamboo, that is. That’s the reasoning behind this next (mostly) plastic free toothbrush.
Me Mother Earth also uses one of our planet’s most awesome materials—bamboo. However, unlike these other brands, bamboo makes it into both the handles and the bristles in these child and adult-sized toothbrushes.
The bamboo charcoal fiber is what naturally turns these bristles black, and adds extra strain lifting and plaque fighting power to the brush.
Beneath that bamboo charcoal exterior, like most of these other brands, the medium-firm bristles here are made with a nylon base—meaning that they are still not compostable.
About Me Mother Earth
Las Vegas dwelling Husband and wife duo, Alberto and Amanda, are behind the Me Mother Earth brand. They started out with a collapsible straw kit but now have a range of individual products and eco friendly gift sets that have been consciously designed to simplify our lives and reduce plastic waste.
Sustainability is their main priority, which is why they sell everything packaged sans plastic, down to the compostable packing peanuts.
And while you’re brushing away coffee stains, they’re brushing away even MORE plastic waste by also donating to ocean conservation and similar environmental charities.
6. BATTLE GREEN
Battle Green’s Zero Waste Toothbrushes
Here’s another zero waste bamboo toothbrush for your battle against plaque and plastic! Like the rest, Battle Green chooses a bamboo handle, but unlike many options out there, the bristles are also 100% bio-based!
Containing no nylon, these bristles are made from castor oil, a renewable material that is processed in Germany. As with Brush with Bamboo, these are not home compostable (so still separate those bristles from the handle), but they are compostable in an industrial facility.
Pair this brush with their vegan and palm oil free powdered zero waste toothpaste, and you’ve got a full sustainable scrubbing set for those snargles.
About Battle Green
We first started swooning over Battle Green when we were looking for eco friendly gift sets.
Battle Green is a UK-based store that has spent the past several years sharing plastic-free alternatives with thousands of happy customers. Today, they have a wide selection of some of the most sustainable body care and household products we’ve stumbled across, from zero waste deodorant to zero waste shampoo.
Environmental sustainability and giving back are both important to Battle Green, which is why they use recyclable/compostable packaging materials, palm oil-free ingredients, and contribute to their local beach clean-up organization, Surfers Against Sewage.
ZERO WASTE TOOTHBRUSH ACCESSORIES
ZERO WASTE FLOSS
Regular flossing is just as important as brushing—and unfortunately, it’s also just as plasticky. Most dental floss is made of plastic, which means that most dental floss is also toxic.
Plastic dental floss is commonly coated in PFCs (perfluorinated polymers). These may help the floss glide in between your teeth, but it also has a huge downside.
PFCs have been linked with immune system damage, thyroid disease, ADHD, and more.
So, in addition to preventing a plastic string from ending up in landfills and oceans, choosing a zero waste floss will also likely be better for your health.
Zero waste floss is commonly made with things like silk (non-vegan), biodegradable bamboo fiber, or biodegradable nylon and commonly uses beeswax or candelilla wax to allow that floss to effectively slide between teeth.
If you’re interested, get into all of the crevices with our full zero waste floss article, or check out these two eco-friendly floss options:
- Etee Gently Minted Waxed Silk: Made from peace silk, it’s not vegan but it is one of the most ethically-sourced animal products out there. The wax is also slightly minty flavored and coated in candelilla wax instead of beeswax, making it a more animal-friendly product. Plus it comes in a glass container.
- EcoRoots Lucky Teeth Floss: This vegan floss is made from sustainably-sourced bamboo fiber and is coated with activated charcoal. Not only does it come in a refillable glass container, but the floss itself is backyard compostable in about 60-90 days. Instead of toxic chemicals, you’ll find organic tea tree oil and organic peppermint oil in this floss.
ZERO WASTE TOOTHPASTE
Every single year, more than one billion plastic toothpaste tubes end up in landfills around the world.
Fortunately, between making a DIY toothpaste mix and buying from a sustainable brand, we’re getting much closer to taking a bite out of plastic tube waste. From glass jars to chewable toothpaste tabs, we can get pearly whites without a side of pollution.
If you want to make your mouth (and planet) cleaner, we’d recommend heading here to read up on zero waste toothpaste. If you’re short on time, here are a few of our fave options:
Etee Minty Vanilla Chewpaste:
You can chew your way to a cleaner smile with these Chewpaste tabs. They come in a subtle minty vanilla flavor and are made with all-natural non-toxic ingredients like Canadian glacial clay, baking soda, a natural polishing agent, and a plant-based magnesium stearate and sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (which doesn’t have sulfates found in the usual SLS).
The toothpaste tabs are cruelty-free, vegan, and fluoride-free (although they have a fluoride option coming). They do contain palm oil though (certified by the RSPO).
The plastic-free toothpaste tabs are held in a glass jar with a steel lid. Refills are available in a compostable pouch.
Well Earth Goods Unpaste Tooth Tabs:
These Unpaste tooth tabs come in both fluoride and no fluoride versions. Unpaste tablets are also free of preservatives, gluten, dyes, synthetic fragrances, silicones, SLS, and paraffin.
You’ll experience a fresh minty taste with zero plastic! These tablets come in a compostable bag that’s been made with non-GMO corn starch (no microplastics here!).
ZERO WASTE TOOTHBRUSH HOLDER
Once you start ridding your bathroom of plastic, you won’t want to stop.
The best way to store a bamboo toothbrush is upright and away from other toothbrushes (eww, germs!). What better way to do so than with a bamboo toothbrush holder?!
Brush with Bamboo has a counter-top holder that’s made with a combination of stainless steel and bamboo (and is made without any toxins, plastic, or animal products).
ZERO WASTE TOOTHBRUSH CASE
How many of us have spent hours packing for a trip, only to find that we’ve forgotten our toothbrush? These one-time emergency toothbrushes can really add up, which is why it’s a good idea to have a toothbrush case for traveling.
Here are a few that we’d be happy to chuck in our sustainable suitcases:
- Brush with Bamboo: The Goods Travel Case is made with 100% organic bamboo and completely vegan and plastic-free. They’re lightweight, but can still withstand any bumps and knocks that may happen as you race to the boarding gate.
- The Humble Co: The Bamboo Toothbrush Travel Case is made out of 100% biodegradable and sustainably-grown bamboo, you can keep your toothbrush in a vegan and BPA-free carrier. Once you’re done using it altogether, it can break down in your compost in just six months.
Oh and just remember the most sustainable toothbrush holder and travel case is the one you already own.
ECO FRIENDLY ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH
Are electric toothbrushes sustainable? We’ve been asking this question a lot recently.
Unfortunately, we’re still a long way off. When it comes to an electric toothbrush there are many different parts, all of which come with environmental concerns.
First and foremost, you’ve got the battery. If the electric toothbrush requires replaceable batteries, you’ll likely end up with either waste (from regular alkaline batteries) or a battery that is difficult to recycle (in the case of lithium batteries).
If you’ve got a plug-in electric toothbrush, you’ll be powering via your home’s power supply (which likely comes from a mix of coal, natural gas, petroleum, nuclear energy, and some renewable energy).
Then we get to the materials. With all of the different pieces and parts in an electric toothbrush, bamboo simply isn’t a feasible alternative to metal and plastic. We’d love to see something made out of recycled materials in the future.
As for now, our best suggestion for an eco friendly electric toothbrush (if you absolutely must have one) is the Sonic Toothbrush from Georganics.
They’re the best pick because they have a Zero To Landfill (Z.T.L) recycling scheme where you can send back the handle, Nylon-6 bristles, and lithium battery to be recycled properly. Also, the toothbrush comes packaged in a compostable and recyclable cardboard box.
While they don’t come with an option for recycling, Philips Sonicare and Oral-B electric toothbrushes come with a two-year warranty—making them the closest we could get to a name brand sustainable electric toothbrush. (Hint, hint, if you’re using an electric toothbrush, make sure you use the same one for as long as possible!)
HOW WE FOUND THESE ECO FRIENDLY TOOTHBRUSHES
In matters of the mouth, materials matter (now there’s a mouthful).
At this point, the most popular and most sustainable alternative to the plastic toothbrush handle is bamboo. Bamboo has a lot of properties that make it good for mouths (anti-fungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial) and it’s 100% compostable—even for backyard composting.
Then we get to the bamboo itself—it’s one of the fastest-growing least water-consumptive plants and once it’s harvested for toothbrushes, it can continue growing because harvesting doesn’t kill the core plant.
Bamboo may be the best sustainable toothbrush for now, but it’s likely that we’ll continue to see this industry evolve over time with other materials stepping in to supplement or replace bamboo handles. Some of these new materials may include recycled plastics, new bioplastics, and even recycled aluminum (which, in combination with replaceable heads, could last indefinitely).
It’s an exciting area in sustainability, so sit down, buckle up, and brush twice daily while our toothbrush handles continue to evolve!
Bearing the Burden of Finding Zero Waste Toothbrush Bristles
Now we get to the real complication in the world of sustainable oral care: bristles.
It’s not too difficult to have a biodegradable toothbrush as far as the handle is concerned, but bristles often get in the way of a toothbrush being fully compostable. Also, let us remember that nearly all materials (even if they’re made of plastic) will technically biodegrade after some time, but oftentimes it takes hundreds of years.
Compostable materials are biodegradable, biodegradable materials aren’t necessarily compostable. Pretty simple concept, right? Well, not for some brands who seem to confuse the two…
Nobody has time for that; just like nobody has time for all of the greenwashing happens when a brand falls a bristle short.
Take for example the fact that My Plastic Free Life did some extra brushing (in a circular motion, of course) to discover even supposedly “biodegradable” nylon bristles were in fact not biodegradable (here’s looking at you, Nylon-6).
So then, what’s the best way to brush? Well, we really only have a few “zero waste” options.
- Boar bristle toothbrushes: These bristles are the only truly compostable option we currently have available to us. We’ve included one here if you’re curious, but for some of us, brushing our teeth with pig hair sounds like the worst way to get a fresh and minty mouth.
- Castor bean oil: This is a relatively new alternative to nylon bristles. While castor bean (AKA Ricinus communis) is indeed a flowering plant, the bristles made out of it aren’t exactly as wholesome as they might sound. Nylon-11 is what you get when you subject castor bean oil to a complex (and chemically intensive) process. Also, the biodegradability of Nylon 11 is still up in the air.
- Miswak sticks: This traditional oral care tool was popular in Pakistan, India, and parts of Asia and Africa. It’s been making a comeback in recent years, and many studies show that it’s as effective (or perhaps superior) to other types of toothbrushes. If you end up trying miswak, we’d recommend these organic ones from Etsy—just be sure to let us know how it goes!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SUSTAINABLE TOOTHBRUSHES
Feeling like you have a potty mouth after reading this? You’re not the only one! Toothbrushes, like most consumable these days, are notoriously damaging to the health of our planet.
But there is a shimmer to be found in our smiles; improvements are being made and we’re getting closer to having a fully compostable toothbrush (that’s also vegan, anyway). Until then, we’d recommend having your pliers at the ready to remove those burdensome bristles for proper recycling.
So, how are you avoiding both plaque and plastic?
Let us know if you have any environmentally friendly toothbrush recommendations or if you’ve tried a toothbrush alternative like a miswak stick. Toothy tips are welcome in the comments below!