Over the last few months I’ve been doing a bit of reading about reducing everyday plastics and a simple method seems to involve using a bamboo toothbrush and toothy tabs.
From my ‘research’ I found that bamboo toothbrushes aren’t readily available in supermarkets so I searched on the internet and found some at a reasonable price (£2.65 each). Because the postage and packaging was going to cost more than the cost of a single toothbrush, I bought one each for my Other Half and the kids.
Now my young consumers would usually select to clean those little milk teeth with plastic toothbrushes adorned with TV or film characters but they were pleased with the idea of us all having matching brushes and so my plastic-free toothbrushing experiment progressed to the next level.
On the first use my new toothbrush began shedding bristles. While I do work my toothbrushes hard, I don’t think I’ve experienced this before. I carried on using it for about 10 days but it lost further bristles and the bamboo began to split (see toothbrush on the left of the picture below).
On examining the children’s brushes, I discovered that my eldest had also lost bristles and some of the bamboo had been ‘grated’ off through use at the back (toothbrush on right). Not acceptable!!!
Immediately the matching bamboo toothbrushes were confiscated on safety grounds and the kids returned to their plastic favourites. I should say that my Other Half is still using his happily several weeks later so it’s not been a total failure. I will try another brand before July to find out if I was just unlucky with a faulty brush but I won’t be taking any risks on behalf of my children.
The rest of the family continued using our trusty Colgate toothpaste, packaged in plastic tubes, but I decided to give toothy tabs ago. I purchased them from Lush (currently retailing at £2 for a 12g pack in the UK) – you can find the details, including the ingredients here.
I was looking forward to trying them. I am crazy about mint to the point that I eat Trebor Extra Strong Mints two at a time and, as you can see, the toothy tab (pictured on top of the box) looks just like a strong mint so I broke open the packet at the earliest opportunity, popped one in my mouth and…spat it straight out again!!
I don’t wish to be unkind but I found it to be absolutely revolting! Not only was the taste far from what I’d hoped but it had the texture of a paracetamol as it dissolves in your mouth.
I reeled in the disappointment for a few days before giving them another try. I found that with a bit of mental preparation, I can cope with breaking them up with my front teeth as recommended then, just as the tab starts to crumble onto my tongue, I get my toothbrush involved and brush the whole lot into a lather. I don’t think I’m strong enough of spirit to use these regularly but I think I’ll manage to get through Plastic Free July with them. Perhaps another favour might help….
If you are interested in giving these a go then I must report that I gave one to my Other Half to try and watched sneakily from the corner of my eye as he used it. Without a single change in expression, he brushed his teeth, spat out the residue and said he thought it was fine. He then smoothly picked up the Colgate and went through the routine all over again, claiming that he didn’t feel his teeth were cleaned by the toothy tabs. I think we associate the minty flavour typical of many toothpastes with cleanliness. Perhaps we will manage to train ourselves out of this in July.
Another option is to make your own toothpaste. Recipes are available online and you can check some out by going to this page of the Plastic Free July website. I’ve yet to try them but am interested in feedback from those of you who have!
I do have one success to report. I have found a plastic toothbrush with detachable heads that I am very happy with. I bought these here from the Ethical Superstore, currently retailing at £3.15 for a toothbrush (including head) plus £4.50 for three disposable heads. While these won’t be suitable for July, they are helping me reduce my single-use plastics now.
If you have a good brand of plastic-free toothcare product, please do share it!