What are Bamboo Toothbrushes & Do They Work? | ethiSACK

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You & Your Child’s Oral Hygiene Matters: Bamboo toothbrushes & plastic-free toothpaste

Have a look in your bathroom, if you’re still using plastic toothbrushes and toothpaste with a plastic tube, get ready to say goodbye to them after you receive your biodegradable toothbrush and toothpaste set within your ethiSack.

Read on below and we’ll show you why it’s not only super environmentally friendly and equally as good, if not only better to replace your oral hygiene plastics to a kinder alternative, but also how you can dispose of all your current plastics with minimal waste within Australia.

What is bamboo toothbrush? Do they actually work?

The short answer is yes. If your brushing techniques are right, just as a plastic brush would.

The only difference between a bamboo toothbrush and its plastic cousin, is the material used for the handle. And sometimes the bristle as well.

Dentists recommend that we replace our brush at least every 2-3 months due to bacteria build-up. So even if your bristles look perfectly up-straight and healthy, you should still change it in due time.

Most plastic toothbrush handles are made from a plastic called polypropylene: a very tough plastic that can last a very long time, including the landfill. While it is possible to recycle it in some places within Australia (which you can read about here), most people throw them in the bin when it comes time for replacement.

In contrast, no only does bamboo have natural antibacterial properties, your bamboo brush handles have almost the same impact to the environment as a small tree branch found on your driveway. They are harvested from bamboo farms (mostly in China) that actually contribute to lowering carbon emission. Bamboos also grow extremely fast, at its peak growth rate, they can grow as much as 1 metre in a single day! So there’s definitely no worrying about the shortages of supply, or of any starving pandas. Plus they can be easily grown organically in very arid conditions without using any fertilizers or pesticides.

Can I compost my bamboo toothbrush in my garden?

Most bristles are made of a shiny and very tough nylon material, some such as nylon-6 can be recycled, many cannot. When they are attached to your bamboo toothbrush, you will need to detach them completely before you can compost of your bamboo toothbrush handle.

Strong nylon bristles can sometimes damage your teeth enamel coating, which helps protect your teeth from cavities. For the more sensitive gums of younger children and expectant mothers, it may also cause bleeding in your gum.

A softer and completely biodegradable alternative to nylon is boar hair. The bamboo toothbrushes found in your ethiSack and sold in our family oral care bundle and in some of your ethiSack subscription bags comes with soft and natural boar hair that also decomposes with your bamboo handle without needing the extra effort of disassembling all the parts (besides, who has time for that when you have a baby to attend to around the clock).

Depending on the soil and temperature conditions, it can take anywhere from 4 months to 5 years to complete the decomposition of the entire toothbrush (including the boar hairs). While we do encourage you to send them to commercial composts to speed up the process if there is one near you (you can check here), you can also simply bury them in your garden, or repurpose as something completely different.

Using old bamboo toothbrush as a plant marker

How to take care of my bamboo toothbrush?

While it won’t increase the life of your toothbrush (as a toothbrush) beyond the recommended 3 months, it would be a good habit to get into, for the normal maintenance for your toothbrush so that it would actually last up to those 2-3 months.

While bamboo does have natural antibacterial properties, it does not mean it wouldn’t mould. In fact is it just as likely to mould as any other plastic toothbrush, if you leave it constantly in moist and warm conditions.

The bamboo toothbrush set you would have received in your ethiSack would come with a bamboo travel case. We do not recommend leaving your toothbrush inside for extended period of time, unless both has been thoroughly dried. It would, however, be excellent when you need to carry it with you for travelling, or for a weekend camping trip with the family. Just make sure to let both the tube and the brush air dry once you get home.

Additionally, as the bristles are also made of a natural material, they are not as strong as the plastic option, so do take extra care not to put too much pressure when brushing your teeth with them. While it seems enticing to brush with a stronger force for a cleaner set of pearly whites, it is actually recommended by the Australian Dental Association to brush softly, and for at least 2 full minutes each time so it does not damage your teeth’s enamel coating while giving them a full round of clean.

How to extend beyond the life of my toothbrush?

It may be the end of the life as your toothbrush after the said 3 months, their lives can easily be extended beyond. Some ways you can repurpose your fully biodegradable toothbrush:

  • Use them as plant markers! Simply write the name of the plant on the handle of your toothbrush, stick them bristle down into the soil, and voila! You’ve got yourself some pretty neat plant markers for your backyard garden.
  • Use it for spot cleaning of tricky corners, basins, floorings, even your shoes, keyboard and cheese graters! Make sure to keep them stored in a high place, away from those quick little hands of the crawling babies and young toddlers!
  • If you have older kids, they can use these brushes to paint, or if you detach the bristles (bury the bristles in your backyard, or use them as a part of your artwork), they can paint on the handles, or create sculptures and some pretty awesome artworks. Only imagination is your limit here.

For hygiene purposes, we do recommend that you first boil your brush for at least 2 minutes before you use them for a different purpose.

All about your toothpaste

Most people may not realise it because there’s so much focus on the brushes about how often we should replace them, the techniques we need to use to keep our teeth clean, that we sometime tend to forget a little about the pastes.

In Australia, there are fluoride added in our everyday drinking water (tap water), so it may not be necessary to need additional fluoride to keep our teeth white and strong. For younger children who may not have learnt how to spit, may also benefit from using toothpaste that are fluoride-free as swallowing fluoride toothpaste may actually cause a discolouration of the teeth and damage the enamel than protecting it.

Toothpaste was actually invented to replace the powders that has been used since much earlier days, originally sold in glass jars. However as we are becoming more aware of the environmental aspect of things, the powders are having a comeback as they also reduce water wastage that is involved in the production of the paste kind. Some have even gone a step further by compressing these powders into a more versatile tablet form.

Most powder and tablet toothpaste nowadays also come in a metal or glass jar that can be refilled or repurposed as something else.

Wait, so how do you use powder toothpaste? And tablet toothpaste?

Toothpaste powders can get messy pretty quickly, especially if yours is of an active charcoal kind, or if there’s a very curious toddler (or two).

 The way to use them is pretty straight forward, simply sprinkle some onto your wet toothbrush, and brush as you would with paste. Or as we like to do, simply dab a damp brush, bristle-side down into powder lightly. If you’re going to do it our way though, make sure the brush is only lightly dampened, because if you drop any excess water into the rest of the jar, it may actually reduce the shelf-life of your whole jar!

 As for the tablet toothpaste, they are so versatile that it’s perfect for brushing on the go! Simple pop the same number of brushings you’ll need for your trip, into a smaller jar, a small pouch, or your fully biodegradable and reusable food-grade ziplock bag. To use, it’s as easy as bite the tablet into pieces and brush with a wet brush! Or if you’ve forgotten your brush, you can just chew and rinse for a quick refresher too.

Where can I recycle my plastic toothbrush and toothpaste tubes?

Terracycle and Colgate run a pretty awesome recycling program for your old plastic toothbrushes, including electric ones.

The program is not only free (postage paid and all), but they also donate a fixed dollar amount for all the waste collected through you to be donated to a chosen school or not for profit. Now that’s a win-win we love too!

They do require that you sign up with a free account (you can choose to sign-up as an individual, even though they ask for a “Community Collection Hub Name” on their sign-up form), and a minimum weight (usually by the kilos) if you wish to post it all back to them. Otherwise there may already be a collection hub near you. Use the map here to find out if there’s one close by.

To learn more and sign-up to these programs to bid your goodbye, head over to the websites below (make sure you sort them correctly!).

Plastic toothbrush (including the detachable plastic heads of an electric toothbrush) & plastic toothpaste tubes can be recycled through the toothbrush stream.

Electric toothbrush & its base (excluding the detachable plastic heads of an electric toothbrush) can be recycled through here.

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