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DIY toothbrushing - without plastic.

DIY toothbrushing - without plastic.

I recently started making my own toothpaste. It's satisfying. And it fills me with the energy of The Toothbrushing Song we used to sing at primary school. 

There's nothing quite like using something you've made yourself, especially when it does the job well. And if it's better for the planet than how you did it before, that's even more gratifying.

I've also started using a compostable toothbrush. When my standard plastic number came to the end of its cycle I bought one of The Environmental Brush's bamboo numbers and I've been loving it. Throw-away and single-use plastic really bothers me. It's so shrink-wrapped around lifestyles in the developed world it can be hard to escape but taking a look at some of the basic every-day rituals in our lives can actually turn up some good opportunities for making a change.

Here's some of the things I love about making my own coconut-based toothpaste (and my new toothbrush):

  • I don't dump a plastic tube in a landfill every month. I just reuse the same glass jar to store my toothpaste.
  • I can compost my toothbrush when it's expired, rather than adding it to the ever-growing rubbish heap.
  • It saves money because I just need to go to my cupboard and get everyday ingredients, rather than trekking out to buy a specific item in the store every time.
  • Coconut oil is good for your health and mouth and apparently has whitening effects for the teeth. Peppermint oil, if you're using that for your flavouring, is also good.
  • Baking soda is a good cleaner too – and it's definitely a household ingredient.
  • My toothpaste smells good. It's all pepperminty and coconutty, and it doesn't have that kinda fake smell that toothpaste has. Sure, we're used to that smell because we all use it, but just think about it for a second. Is there anything in nature that actually smells like that? Not even mint smells like that.
  • It's fun to make. I love using coconut oil. It's crazy stuff that's solid at room temperature and melts when it gets warmer. I love watching it melt/
  • It's quick and easy to make. It just uses three ingredients and it's not complicated, especially when you've done it a few times.
  • I know exactly what I'm putting in my mouth – no unexpected chemicals.
  • And, if I pick the brands of my ingredients thoughtfully, I also know where it's come from and if the people involved in the process of creating that ingredient have been treated ok.

I maintain that if you make your own… well, your own whatever, really, you appreciate it more. You've got a better understanding of what actually goes in to making it, and you've also invested some of your own time into it. Investing time into your own life ain't a bad thing.

So why not try making your own?

Recipe for coconut toothpaste

There are lots of simple recipes all over the internet, but here's what I did:

  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 10 drops peppermint essence
  • a glass container to store your toothpaste in

  1. Get your 1:1 ratio of coconut oil and baking soda and melt it at a low heat in a pot. It won't need much – you just need to get the coconut liquid enough to mix in the soda.
  2. Add your drops of peppermint for that fresh feeling, and mix it all together. Remove it from the heat, let it cool a little, then tip it into your container.
  3. As it starts to cool more mix it occasionally to stop it separating too much (which is just when the heavier baking soda starts to sink).
  4. When you go to use it, you may need to use a spoon to get the mixture out and put it onto your toothbrush (or directly into your mouth – go wild, experiment with the best way for you!). Then brush your teeth.
  5. Spit.

A few tips

  • Finding peppermint essence or essential oil was difficult! Perhaps this is a just a UK thing – there are many ingredients that I'm used to being standard and easily finding in supermarkets that I just can't find here. In the end I found something at Holland and Barret.
  • Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, and at the moment in Glasgow it's pretty nippy. To get it out of the container I need to use a spoon and kind of scrape it out. I can't always put it direct on the toothbrush so sometimes I just pop it straight in my mouth and use the brush to move it about.
  • There isn't foam. It's no problem – the idea that cleaning means there has to be foam is largely made up – but it can take a little getting used to.
  • Check your ingredients are fair trade if you can, and try and buy products that don't come in plastic packaging. I failed on that count with my baking soda, but when I top up my baking soda I'll buy it in cardboard and I can decant it into the plastic container for reuse – thus avoiding that disposable, single-use plastic trap.

If you give this a shot – or if you're already versed in the ways of toothpaste-making – why not share with us? Post your photos or tips in the comment section, or drop us a line!

Jiesiang's first plastic diary
UN resolution on ocean plastic

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Wednesday, 17 August 2022