Each year, over one billion toothbrushes are thrown away in the US alone. That’s 50 million pounds of plastic waste created and enough toothbrushes to wrap around the world four times. But if you’re here, you probably already knew that, and you’re looking for a way to help.
You’re not alone–a ton of companies have caught on to our waste problem and are trying to create solutions, so you have a lot of eco-friendly toothbrush options. In this guide, we’ll cover the factors you should consider when choosing a more environmentally conscious toothbrush. At the end, we’ve also got a list of our 10 favorites to help you get started.
How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Toothbrush – Buying Guide
When choosing an eco-friendly toothbrush, much of the decision will likely come down to your priorities, so consider what would work best with your lifestyle when making your choice.
Handle Material Determines Eco-Friendliness and Durability
As the handle is the largest part of the toothbrush, what it’s made of is going to largely determine how eco-friendly your toothbrush is.
Bamboo and Wood are Sustainable and Biodegradable
It’s honestly hard to beat bamboo and wood when deciding on a toothbrush handle. Both materials are sustainable (though bamboo could be considered slightly more sustainable) and completely biodegradable.
The only real potential issue is that they can retain moisture, which could compromise the structural integrity of your toothbrush. But many wood and bamboo toothbrushes are heat treated to be more durable, and even if it isn’t, since you’re only using it for three to four months at a time, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Plant-Based Plastic Breaks Down Under the Right Conditions
Plant-based plastics are just as durable as normal plastic and feel really similar, too. Plus, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re not adding to plastics in the environment. However, even though they are advertised as biodegradable, you have to send them to an industrial composter in order for them to break down.
Recycled Plastic Keeps Plastic Out of Landfill and Can Be Recycled Again
If you’re more interested in supporting companies trying to keep plastic out of landfills, recycled plastic handles might be what you’re looking for. These handles are usually made from recycled #5 plastics and can be re-recyled once you’re done.
Just be sure the packaging notes that it’s BPA-free!
Pick a Bristle Material Based on Your Priorities
When it comes to toothbrush bristles, there aren’t too many options, so you might find yourself settling one way or the other.
Nylon Is Proven to Clean and Can Be Recycled; Just Look for Nylon 4 or BPA-Free
To be honest, it’s going to be hard to avoid nylon plastic bristles. As of right now, they’re the only type of toothbrush bristles approved by the American Dental Association to clean your teeth gently and effectively.
Some companies do have programs where you can send your bristles back to be recycled, but even if the brush you choose doesn’t, you should still strongly consider continuing to use nylon as it’s such a small proportion of your brush.
There is one type of nylon that’s considered biodegradable, and that’s Nylon 4. However, it’s only been shown to biodegrade under lab conditions, so it isn’t a fool-proof answer, but it’s certainly better than nylon that doesn’t break down at all. Otherwise, look for BPA-free nylon for the most healthful option.
Boar Hair is Biodegradable but Rough and Definitely Not Vegan
If you’re looking for a fully biodegradable brush, boar hair is basically your only natural option. However, while it does do a fairly good job cleaning, it can be very rough on your teeth and gums and is not suitable for those with sensitive mouths.
Additionally, most boar hair used in toothbrushes comes from pigs raised for food in China and India, so even if you’re not vegan, you may still want to consider the food safety and animal welfare regulations of these countries before making your decision.
If You Travel, Look for a Brush with an Included (Eco-Friendly) Case
If you find yourself traveling a lot or needing to take your toothbrush out of your own home, you’ll probably need a travel case for it. However, the vast majority of travel cases are made from plastic, which isn’t really something that you want to support.
Luckily, some eco-friendly toothbrushes come in sets with equally eco-friendly cases. So if you’ll be buying a case anyway, might as well try to find a toothbrush that already comes with one.
Multi-Packs Save on Packaging and Delivery Emissions
Toothbrushes are something that you know you’ll need several of each year–more if you’re buying for your family. So if you’re looking for an eco-friendly alternative, it just makes sense to try to find one that comes in a pack.
This not only saves on packaging, but it also means that you’re not contributing to extra carbon emissions for deliveries of a single toothbrush three to four times a year.
Top 10 Best Eco-Friendly Toothbrushes to Buy Online
Now that you know what to look for, here are our 10 favorite toothbrushes in case you need a jump start on your search.
10. Cebra Wooden Toothbrushes with Natural Hog Hair Bristles
All-Natural, Biodegradable Boar Hair Toothbrushes
This toothbrush is just about as all-natural as you can get. The handle is made from wood, the bristles are boar hair, and even the plastic it comes in is made from corn. It has a larger than average head, and the bristles are around medium hardness.
However, you do need to take care of it in a particular way in order for it to work for as long as you need it to. For example, you should leave it resting lying down rather than standing in a cup or stand. It’s also quite expensive at $14 per brush.
|Bristle Material||Boar hair|
9. SimpliGood Plant-Based Plastic Toothbrushes
Cost-Effective, Plant-Based Plastic Toothbrushes
These simple toothbrushes are made from BPA-free, plant-based plastics that are biodegradable under the right conditions. They have super soft, super fine bristles that are gentle on your gums and reach even the smallest nooks and crannies.
It comes in all-paper packaging, and each purchase goes towards providing dental products to children in need. However, you should check with your local recycler to see if they accept bioplastics before you purchase.
|Handle Material||Plant-based plastic|
8. Ecoture Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrushes
Bamboo Fiber and Nylon Composite Bristles
These toothbrushes have a pleasant, sturdy feel in your hand and are made from sustainable bamboo. The bristles are made from a bamboo fiber and nylon composite and are soft without being too soft.
However, some reviewers note that the handle can feel unfinished and rough and may require some sanding in order to be fully comfortable. If that’s not a risk you’re willing to take, it might make sense to look elsewhere.
|Bristle Material||Bamboo and BPA-free nylon|
7. Himalayan Blue Bamboo Natural Toothbrushes
Medium Firm Bristles that Don’t Fall Out
These bamboo toothbrushes are on the firmer side compared to other eco-friendly toothbrush options. They also feature a design that helps to prevent the bristles from falling out during use.
Each brush has a different image on it so that everyone in your family can use one without getting mixed up. The handle is sanded smooth, though after a few uses, you may start to feel some texture in the grip.
|Bristle Material||BPA-free nylon|
6. Preserve Recycled Toothbrushes, Soft
Recycled Plastic that Can Be Re-Recylced
These toothbrushes are made from recycled #5 plastic. They’re durable, shaped to fit your mouth, and don’t take any getting used to. They come in three different levels of bristle firmness and are made in the USA.
Though they aren’t biodegradable, the company will recycle them once you’re done–just drop them off at a “Gimme 5” bin at your local Whole Foods or mail them in.
|Handle Material||Recycled BPA-free plastic|
|Bristle Material||BPA-free nylon|
5. Leafico Bamboo Toothbrushes with Travel Case
Super Soft Bristles for Sensitive Gums
These ergonomically shaped toothbrushes have super soft bristles that are great for even the most sensitive gums. Each toothbrush is numbered so that multiple people can use them at once without getting mixed up.
This pack comes with one bamboo case that is naturally bacteria-resistant so that you can travel with some peace of mind. They also come in compostable, waste-free packaging.
|Bristle Material||BPA-free nylon|
4. Bootrybe Eco-Friendly Bamboo Toothbrush Set
All in One Eco-Friendly Dental Care Kit
These toothbrushes each come with beautiful laser-engraved designs that’ll make you eager to brush your teeth every day. They feature contoured, medium soft bristles that might appeal to those who find other bamboo brush bristles too soft.
On top of that, these toothbrushes come with a travel case and also a spool of eco-friendly bamboo fiber floss that comes in a reusable, refillable container.
|Bristle Material||BPA-free nylon|
3. Bamboo Earth Biodegradable Toothbrushes
Completely Compostable Brushes
These toothbrushes feature medium soft bristles made from nylon 4 and are thus completely biodegradable–you can even toss them into your home compost pile.
The handles are numbered for easy identification, and if you’re unhappy with your brushes, the company offers a 100% money back guarantee.
|Bristle Material||BPA-free nylon 4|
2. ZeroBrush Bamboo Toothbrushes
Hefty Brush with a Robust Recycling Program
These brushes are great for those who like a little more heft in their hand–in fact, they can even stand on their own. They’re also designed to shed water more quickly as they’re drying in order to improve durability and longevity.
While the bristles are made from un-compostable nylon, the company encourages you to mail back the nylon portion (as well as any other plastic dental device you might have) for recycling.
|Bristle Material||BPA-free nylon|
1. Doc Omega Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrushes
Color Coded Biodegradable Brushes
These bamboo toothbrushes feature medium firm biodegradable nylon 4 bristles. They come as a set with four different naturally dyed heads so that each member of your family can easily tell theirs apart.
The handle is well sanded, so you never have to worry about rogue splinters, although it’s still important to let the brush air dry fully between uses to maximize its lifespan.
|Bristle Material||BPA-free nylon 4|
Even though toothbrushes may seem really small, if you consider how many we go through in our lifetimes, it’s easier to see the impact that a seemingly tiny change can make.
By Jacqueline Oshiro
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