My Quest to Find the Most Sustainable Toothbrush + Giveaway

Boy, it has been ages since I last wrote about sustainable toothbrushes. My dear Instagram followers know that I went really far down the rabbit hole on my quest to find the most sustainable toothbrush ever since. I thought all I had to do was to read the product information and compare the different bamboo toothbrushes on the market, but oh, was I wrong…

The Truth about “100% compostable” or “100% plastic-free” Toothbrushes

Well, just like many people’s Facebook relationship status, it is complicated. There is no perfect toothbrush, but some choices are better than others. Do not get me wrong, most manufacturers I know of do strive to make their toothbrush as sustainable as possible. They are a passionate bunch, trying to make this world a better place. But it just isn’t an easy task they took on.

Most of these toothbrushes have a bamboo handle. This makes a lot of sense, because bamboo is antibacterial by nature and a ridiculously fast growing plant. Some, but very few, stick to local wood. Both are great options. However, this is the easy part.

Pig Hair

What’s tricky is the material of the bristles. There is always the traditional option of using pig hair. Yes, 100% natural and compostable, but not quite cruelty-free. What’s more, pig hair is hollow inside, making it the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. You can still find wooden toothbrushes with pig hair if you want to, especially in Germany and Austria, where the traditional craft of making brushes from natural materials is still very much alive. If you do want to go for this option, I would recommend you to sterilize your toothbrush with boiling water every couple of days.

Nylon-4

A while back, nylon-4 was all the rage. Nylon-4 is a petroleum (= fossil fuel) based plastic that is said to biodegrade within months. Long story short: Nylon-4 seems to be biodegradable (≠ compostable), as studies like this one suggest. Sadly, in reality, all is not gold that glitters. True nylon-4 is hard to come by due to a lack of manufacturers, and many suppliers sell fake nylon-4. So many sustainable toothbrush companies thought they were making truly 100% bidegradable toothbrushes, followed by a rude awakening.

100% Bamboo Viscose

Recently, I have seen several new toothbrushes popping up, claiming to have completely plastic-free bristles made from 100% bamboo viscose. These toothbrushes are said to be 100% biodegradable. This is weird, because as of now, there was no way to produce bristles out of bamboo viscose without adding plastic. The material would break while being formed into bristles. Bristles made from 100% bamboo viscose would be a huge break through—and yet there is no patent and no news surrounding this groundbreaking innovation.

Well, a simple way to check is by burning it. Synthetic materials like plastic will smell really bad, the smoke will be black and the material will melt as opposed to burning clean. (Detailed table here) So far I haven’t seen or heard of any of these bristles burn clean like 100% “natural” material would. I believe it is the same issue as with the nylon-4 suppliers, and it seems like many toothbrush brands were not aware of it when I told them about it.

You can read more about this issue here and here.

So what is the best choice?

In the end, it is always up to each and everyone of us to decide. Pig hair is definitely not something I would personally want to brush my teeth with. So for me, Brush with Bamboo is the best option, because they have managed to minimize the amount of plastic in the bristles to 38%. The other 62% are Castor Bean Oil. The plastic is regular plastic derived from petroleum.

This new bristle that we are now using is the best available option. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. (Brush with Bamboo)

The entire toothbrush is chemical-free and BPA-free.

Brush with bamboo is eager to try to find solutions to ultimately make the toothbrush completely plastic-free and compostable, while keeping it vegan. Right now, they are testing different bioplastics in their machines and are also searching for all-natural materials. Really, you just have to admire this kind of dedication!

The handle is organic and from wild grown bamboo. It is not a bamboo species that pandas eat. What I really admire is the fact that they have a full-time American-managed team on the ground in China ensuring worker safety, cleanliness, and good working conditions.

The packaging is fully compostable. The outer box is made from recycled paper–no glue or tape–and can be put into the paper recycling or be composted. The wrapper is derived from corn starch and compostable in commercial/city composters within 30 days. It would probably decompose in a backyard composter or a worm bin as well, but would take considerably longer because of the lack of heat (at least 130ºF/55ºC).

Corn production is controversial, so I asked Ro from Brush with Bamboo if a paper sleeve would be an option. The German toothbrush hydrophil uses a pretty low tech paper sleeve. Unfortunately, in the US, the wrapper needs to be sealed, or they might get sued. However, they are very aware of the problems with corn production and do not support the practice. This is the reason why they are working on a new cellulose wrapper made from FSC certified wood cellulose. It is still in the testing phase, so fingers crossed!

I had had my eyes on their toothbrushes for a while now to be honest! But until recently I was living in Germany and so I stuck to my bamboo toothbrush with BPA-free nylon (= plastic) bristles that I could buy in the vegan health food store just a ten minute walk from my home. When my husband and I relocated to Vancouver, Canada two months ago, I knew this was the toothbrush we would have to get our hands on!

©Brush with Bamboo

However, if you are not set on having a toothbrush and open to exploring other options, you could consider miswak or neem chewing sticks as 100% natural options! I have tried miswak, but have yet to try neem sticks. Both miswak and neem are used very similarly. If you live in the US, lucky you! Brush with Bamboo sells neem sticks from a farm in Florida in a paper-only packaging! Unfortunately, they cannot ship neem sticks to Canada due to some stupid regulations for agricultural products. It is quite difficult to get both miswak or neem sticks without plastic packaging. Trust me, I have tried. If you do, however, these are the most natural and eco-friendly options! They do take some getting used to and of course practice. I myself have not mastered the technique yet, but even with my poor fine motor skills my teeth felt very clean afterwards.

Giveaway*

You can win one of six 4-pack of Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes. Winners can choose whether they would like a 4-pack of adult toothbrushes, kids’ toothbrushes, or two of each.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on either this blog article or on my Instagram post. What toothbrush do you currently use? Have you ever used a bamboo toothbrush? Are there stores that sell bamboo toothbrushes where you live or do you have to order them online?

The giveaway is open to blog readers and instagrammers from the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Please keep in mind that all orders are shipped from the Los Angeles office in Diamond Bar, California.

This giveaway ends on Sunday, May 7 at 11:59pm PST. The six winners will be chosen by random and announced on Monday, May 8. Please make sure you leave your email address when you comment on the blog post. Only I can see your email address, and I will only forward it to Brush with Bamboo if you win.

*This giveaway is sponsored by Brush with Bamboo, which means they pay me for running this giveaway. Brush with Bamboo also sent me some of their toothbrushes to use and to take pictures of, as well as their bamboo straws (which are very cool by the way) and a travel case. However, they did not tell me what to say or choose the topic of this article. I did send them the article before publishing it to receive their feedback and to make sure my facts were correct.

31 Comments

  1. I have been using Brush with Bamboo for about a year now and I have zero complaints. I ordered a pack on Amazon, but I have seen them in stores in the Chicagoland area. I do end up composting basically all of it!

  2. Katie B.

    I use Brush with Bamboo as well. I order them straight from the website because I live in a place where things like that just don’t exist. I also try to use them for as long as possible before I compost/recycle. I use the old ones to clean my grout and other hard to reach places in my house.

  3. Clare B

    I currently use a bamboo toothbrush and get on really well with them. I have no plans to switch back but have trouble convincing others to give them a try. I haven’t found anywhere local that sells them to have to order them online currently unfortunately.

  4. I’ve just become aware of alternative toothbrushes and the bamboo seems like the best option! It would be awesome if they could distribute them more widely so more people would have access to them! I’ll definitely share this!

    • Thank you for the feedback! And we do hope that wooden and Bamboo toothbrushes start catching on everywhere. 100 years ago wooden and Bamboo toothbrushes were common. There are other interesting options as well such as neem sticks and miswak sticks

  5. Thanks so much for this post – it’s a really great look at all the options, which I honestly didn’t know too much about.

  6. I have always wanted to try these bamboo brushes! I am happy to say I have started seeing them pop up at big grocery chains as well, happy to see sustainable products at these bigger companies !

  7. We use Bamboo toothbrushes that I get from Amazon but they started selling them locally at our Natural coop!! Next time we will get our bamboo toothbrushes locally

  8. Coccinelle

    I use pig hair toothbrush but I totally didn’t know that it was hollow and it could be bad on the bacteria front. I was already thinking of an alternative though because the price soared and it’s now too expensive for me.

  9. I just recently started on my zero ways journey so I’m still using a plastic toothbrush. I have never used a bamboo toothbrush although I will once the current one is no longer functional. I live in a very small town in the south and sustainability does not seem to be on anyone’s mind. I’ve never seen a bamboo toothbrush where I live although they may exist in the nearest city. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  10. Re miswak- reach out to local middle Eastern stores or organizations for direction on where to get Unpackaged miswak.

  11. Judith CP

    I use a brush with bamboo bought on well.ca

    Thanks for the giveaway 🙂

  12. Kristen Andrews

    Thank you for this post! I’m still using plastic and just looking into bamboo options. There is a health food store in my city that sells them so I’ll be switching asap!

  13. Michelle

    Hi,

    I recently learned about you and your work! Thank you so much for all of this information.

    I have bought bamboo toothbrushes through Amazon–I’m on my fourth one right now (they only seem to last less than a month…) and have been looking for a better source! I’ll be trying out this toothbrush. I live in a hip, eco-friendly town in New York, but even my local co op doesn’t offer bamboo toothbrushes! I think the new hype that they sell is the recycled plastic yogurt container toothbrushes. I wonder how you feel about these since these are basically disposed immediately after use.

    Thanks and keep up the wonderful work that you do! I seek to follow in your footsteps. 🙂

  14. ET Pruitt

    I haven’t tried a bamboo toothbrush yet, I currently use a plastic toothbrush

  15. Sam Clarke

    I can’t find bamboo toothbrushes anywhere and I’m from Ontario. My fiancé and I make our own toothpaste, but still have to use the plastic ones 🙁

  16. Marie Miclat

    I’ve never tried a bamboo toothbrush before but I’m trying!! I’m still a student who is still leeching off of my parents so it’s a bit hard when they buy plastic toothbrushes in bulk
    🙁 I’ve tried looking online because I’m not familiar with any stores near me that sell bamboo toothbrushes.

  17. I have never used one, They Are expensive at the health store, I would love to try them

  18. Shannon

    I still use a plastic toothbrush. There’s one store where I am that says online they have brush with bamboo, but I can’t reach them by bus and I have no car. Since my toothbrush is nearing the end of its life I’ve been looking at options online, but I’m worried about buying a big pack and not liking them, but also don’t want to pay for shipping for just one toothbrush.

  19. Desiree

    I visited the Package Free Shop today in bK and they had plenty of Brush with Bamboo brushes to shop from. I want to finish up the use I have with my current toothbrush and then make the switch

  20. I currently have been trying out different forms of recyclable toothbrushes and bamboo brushes. I’ve been looking for my affordable and cruelty free bamboo brushes. I’m excited to try these out.

  21. Marley

    I’m currently trying my first “brush with bamboo” toothbrush! I love how a simple change can bring so much happiness! I’m hoping we can convince dentists to start giving them out instead of the plastic toothbrushes!

  22. Strawlary

    Hallo Shia! 🙂
    Ich hab ehrlich gesagt noch gar keine Bambus Zahnbürste ausprobiert, weil ich immer noch recht viele plastik zahnputz Köpfe übrig habe und die aufbrauchen will. Aber die Bambus Zahnbürste wäre perfekt zum reisen 🙂
    Liebe Grüße,
    Strawlary

  23. Emilie-Johanne Sølbæk

    I currently use a toothbrush from Hydro Phil, but I do need a New one within the next month. I try to be fully Zero Waste, but oh my It’s a Challenge.
    – Do You have any ideas What kind of toothpaste to use?

    Btw, It’s an amazing giveaway

  24. Richard

    I use the environmental toothbrush (the one with the panda one the box) and love it. I live in Vancouver also and usually get mine for the soap dispensary, but I didn’t really think too much about the bristles. This toothbrush has nylon bristles but I’m glad that you have explained the differences in the post!

  25. I’ve just begun to transition into circular living and am still using a plastic oral-b toothbrush. I’m looking forward to trying a bamboo toothbrush, and maybe even the neem sticks! I just learned about them through clicking the links. Someone posted a really interesting research article about their effectiveness compared to the manual brush. Definitely seems like the most sustainable option! The research is linked below! 🙂

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4114011/

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