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Natural Alternatives to Plastic Toothbrushes (Nylon Free Too!)

Finding a natural alternative to plastic toothbrushes should be an easy task these days. However, all is not what it seems to be. We are going to look at the sneaky tactics that bamboo fiber bristle and PLA (corn bio-plastic) toothbrushes don't want you to find out.

Natural Alternatives to Plastic Toothbrushes (Nylon Free Too!)

What's the problem with most toothbrushes?

The biggest problem with most toothbrushes are the materials used. Most use plastic for handles and nylon for bristles. Both of these nonrenewable materials last for centuries and pollute the environment with microplastics.

You may be thinking that bamboo toothbrushes are the savior to this plastic and nylon bristle mess. Well, yes and no. 

Are bamboo toothbrushes 100% biodegradable?

Yes, the handle of a bamboo toothbrush is 100% biodegradable. However, you'll have to pull out those nylon bristles and scour your city and state even to find a place that will be able to recycle those. 

Wait! What about those bamboo charcoal bristles and bamboo fiber bristles. Well, sorry to burst the eco bubble on this one.

Bamboo charcoal bristles and bamboo fiber toothbrushes just like so called 100% pure bamboo fiber floss are actually made with some nylon. 

I too wanted to believe that this was some miracle, but after asking numerous suppliers in China they all came back and said that those contain some amount of nylon. It could be up to 90% in some cases and just a pinch of bamboo charcoal powder is used.

Are castor bean oil bristles compostable?

Unfortunately, no castor bean oil bristles are still a type of polymer and is highly processed. It is so far from that castor bean that it is more like a plastic. 

It is quite a wonderous thing science has done and perhaps one day they will be able to work with other bio-based materials and blend something together that is vegan-friendly and compostable. This is how Arkema Advanced Bio-Circular Materials explains it in their marketing materials on nylon-11.

Arkema Advanced Bio-Circular Materials

As you can see this is incredible, but also so far removed from being a plant-based product. Currently, castor bean oil toothbrushes are generally made from nylon-11. This material doesn't biodegrade easily and isn't compostable. 

A study you can read here discuss this in some detail.

To summarize these findings, it seems that using polyamide 11 i.e. nylon-11 (PA 11) and poly(butylene succinate) (PBS) PBS in combination with PA 11 has the potential to enhance the properties of PA 11. It's important to note that PBS is both bio-based and biodegradable, unlike PA 11, which is not biodegradable.

What did people use for toothbrushes before plastic?

Before the invention of modern toothbrushes, people used to clean their teeth with natural materials such as twigs. Can you imagine using a twig as a toothbrush? Actually you still can. Miswak toothbrushes are made from Arak (Salvadora persica) or sometimes neem trees.

As detailed in this blog post and another on the history of the toothbrush people in ancient times, people also used bones, and animal hair to brush their teeth.

Is there a biodegradable toothbrush?

Yes, Gaia Guy has used a bamboo handle and boar hair bristles both of with are biodegradable and compostable.

A fun fact you may not know about toothbrushes is that they do use little staples usually to fasten the bristles to the handle. We opted for copper for its antimicrobial and antibacterial qualities and it will also biodegrade safely at these tiny quantiles. 

Actually, Copper (Cu) is an essential micronutrient of plants and animals, but excessive Cu can stunt plant and animal growth.

bamboo toothbrush with travel case

What's the most eco-friendly toothbrush?

It could be argued that growing your own Arak tree and using that miswak toothbrush could be the most eco-friendly toothbrush. However, these trees don't grow everywhere and you probably aren't going to have easy access to them. Also, these come packaged in plastic when you buy them so that isn't great.

Are miswak chew sticks as good as regular toothbrushes?

Yes, they are as effective as normal toothbrushes, however you have to use them correctly. Experimental and clinical trials revealed that miswak chew sticks are as effective as tooth brushing for plaque removal. Several clinical studies have shown that the efficacy of chewing sticks, if used appropriately, can be equal to toothbrushes in removing dental plaque. Source

What are the disadvantages of miswak toothbrushes?

Chewing sticks are a natural alternative to toothbrushes, but they do come with some disadvantages. Unlike toothbrushes, the bristles of a chewing stick are aligned along the length of the stick, which makes it difficult to clean the surfaces of your teeth facing the tongue. In other words, it's not easy to reach those sneaky spots at the back of your mouth with a chewing stick.

It is for all the reason above that Gaia Guy has gone with the natural bristle toothbrush that uses boar bristles and bamboo. It is as close as we could come to offering you all the most eco-friendly toothbrush and we hope you love them.


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