Zero waste toothpaste is a super easy way to make your dental routine a bit more environmentally (and animal) friendly.
Toothpaste is a great area to start minimizing waste because on average, we probably run through an entire plastic tube of toothpaste in a month. Getting used to this swap can mean an lifetime of fewer plastic tubes. Hooray!
Why Switch to a Zero Waste Toothpaste?
Turning my attention to zero waste toothpaste is one of the first steps I took when I started living more consciously and paying attention and supporting brands that align with my beliefs.
When I say switch, I mean switch away from the large commercial brands like Colgate / Crest / Aquafresh / Aim / Sensodyne / Arm & Hammer, and basically any brand that couldn’t display an animal-friendly seal on their tube.
I initially started switching away from these brands when I became aware that they conduct animal testing for their products.
A Gradual Path to Progression
So you might not be ready to fully dive into the world of making your own toothpaste. I wasn’t when I first started, but don’t let that deter you from making small changes that are better for the world.
You might still have to deal with an empty plastic tube of toothpaste for as long as you’re buying and not making your own, but your switches can make a difference in terms of living a more natural & ethical lifestyle.
Baby Step #1:
As mentioned above, I started my switch by just choosing vegan toothpaste brands that are found on store shelves. If you go to a large brand convenience store, you’ll probably be able to find brands like Tom’s of Maine and Hello Oral.
Baby Step #2
If you’re willing to go beyond your local convenience store, your next step is to check out a natural food store or a food store with a section on natural products (including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s).
Here, you’ll discover a lot more options including brands like:
These brands will offer you a variety of additional features to think about too such as for those interested in avoiding SLS or fluoride.
A Quick Bit About SLS and Fluoride
A brief primer on these two items:
- SLS is an additive often added to toothpaste to get that nice foaming effect.
- However, scientific studies have confirmed there is no clinical benefit to the foaming action so I think it makes sense to skip it.
- SLS is believed to be a skin-irritant that can exacerbate allergies and cause canker sores in the mouth.
- Fluoride is less clear.
- Many dentists still argue for the benefits of fluoride in toothpaste because it slows down or can prevent tooth decay.
- Opponents of fluoride argue that some studies have shown fluoride contributing toxicity to the brain, kidneys, and gums.
- Best to not swallow it and, as a general guideline, use less toothpaste rather than more (a pea-sized amount should suffice).
- I can’t reconcile the two sides so I won’t make a recommendation. I will tell you though that while I don’t personally make it a point to avoid fluoride in toothpaste, most of the natural toothpaste I’ve purchased recently happen to not include fluoride, so in essence, the decision is made for me by my opting for natural toothpaste brands.
Baby Step #3
Take some time to get acclimated to using a more “natural” toothpaste.
Yes, it is different!
In the beginning, you might be a bit weirded out by the taste and consistency of these other brands.
A few days in, you might feel like the lack of foam makes it hard to spread the toothpaste around your mouth and wonder if it’s cleaning your mouth effectively – you’ll get used to it. It is.
A week in, you’ll love it and to have to go back to the “conventional” toothpaste will feel weird. Now, you’re ready to explore some “zero-waste” options.
Plastic-Free Toothpaste Options
Once you’re comfortable moving away from the “conventional” toothpaste brands, let’s explore some alternatives to move away from the toothpaste tube.
Very few recycling programs accept plastic toothpaste tubes so aluminum tubes are better. However, I’ve seen less aluminum tubes these days. Not sure why they’re turning away from this knowing that the plastic-free movement is only getting stronger.
For plastics recycling, I know in my single-stream recycling city, they only accept containers. Thus, I try to choose plastic containers over plastic toothpaste tubes.
Toothpaste in Aluminum Tubes
In my neighborhood stores, I don’t have any options for aluminum tubes anymore. David’s, is one place where you can purchase toothpaste in aluminum tubes, you’re interested.
Alternatively, Goodwell is an option to consider. Based out of the US, you can order online (they have a subscription plan), or you can use this store finder to see if a store near you stocks this toothpaste.
Toothpaste in a Glass Jar
A great alternative to a plastic tube of toothpaste is a glass jar. Glass is infinitely recyclable at the same quality, unlike plastic which degrades in quality with each subsequent cycle.
Clay takes even more time getting used to, but once you get used to the strange texture, you will notice a big difference in how clean your mouth feels for the entire day!
Alternatively, you can also try these cool toothpaste tablets. They are a bit more pricey, but they arrive at your door in a glass jar with metal lid, so plastic-free!
Toothpaste in a Plastic Jar
There aren’t that many options that I found for toothpaste in a glass jar, so I also started exploring tooth powder in recyclable plastic containers.
Right now, I’m using this Citrus Mint variety tooth powder and I really like the flavor! I’ve never been a die-hard mint toothpaste fan. When people talk about loving the minty-fresh feeling in their mouth, I always just respond that I can’t drink orange juice after using a mint toothpaste before breakfast.
Another alternative is Dirty Mouth toothpowder, which offers a variety of different flavors to try!
Initially, I was worried about the high price tag of these toothpowders, but I decided to try it at least once. And happy news! These tooth powders last so long because the amount you use each time is so small compared to the amount you get. For me, my tooth powder is actually working out to be more cost-effective than the usual toothpaste brands I usually bought at the drugstore.
Lush also has toothy tabs in creative flavors, but only available in plastic bottles.
How to DIY
Finally, once you familiarize yourself with toothpaste made from more natural, every day ingredients, you can try your hand at making them on your own.
The reason why I advocate buying to try first before you set out to try to make your own is
Weird as in, if you’ve grown up all your life using Crest toothpaste, switching to clay or baking soda will feel earthy… and gritty… and salty… and less of the minty-ness and foaminess you normally expect from something trying to clean your mouth.
Once you have adjusted to this new feeling of natural toothpaste, you now know what to expect. And (hopefully) gone will be that little voice in your head wondering if toothpaste without those crazy industrial chemicals in commercial brands can really prevent cavities.
I hope by this step, you’ll realize that yes, they can!
Coconut Oil Toothpaste Recipe
Trash is For Tossers: This toothpaste recipe is super easy and consists of just 3 ingredients: baking soda, coconut oil, and essential oil.
- Add coconut oil and baking soda in a 2:1 ratio (so coconut oil is double the amount of baking soda) and add drops of your choice of essential oils.
- Lauren’s recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and 15-20 drops of peppermint essential oils. Then, just mix it all together and voila, you have toothpaste!
- When I make it, I only add 3-5 drops of essential oils because I don’t need the smell or taste to be overpowering. Plus, essential oils are quite wasteful in terms of the amount of plant required to make a single drop of oil. So, where you’re able to, use less instead of more.
Clay Toothpaste Recipe
If you want a homemade toothpaste without coconut oil, you should try the recipe developed at Going Zero Waste that uses Xylitol (sugar-substitute), baking soda, and clay.
- Add all 3 ingredients in a 1:1:1 ratio (so the same amount for each ingredient).
- Apparently you shouldn’t make this toothpaste in or with metal tools because the clay will “deactivate”. I’m not sure what exactly is “deactivating”, but I think it just means the clay will be attracted and stick to the metal.
Next Steps for Your Zero Waste Oral Routine
Once you’ve found or made a zero-waste toothpaste that you love, here are some ideas for how to further reduce waste in your oral routine:
- Use a small cup to hold water when brushing your teeth so you don’t have the run the tap. You use SO MUCH LESS water this way!
- Swap for a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush (though note that the bristles are still generally plastic-based nylon). If you use a cup from #1, you also have a handy place to keep your toothbrush.
- This silk floss is also biodegradable. The cool thing too is that instead of packaging holding a case that holds the floss, the packaging is the case – how creative!
- If you have giant hands that don’t fit in your mouth to floss your back molars, you’ve probably tried floss picks before, but disposing of those plastic picks every time is incredibly wasteful – here’s a reusable one where you just slide in your own floss.
- I use and love these mouthwash tablets. They’re also available on Amazon here.
- If you practice meticulous oral hygiene but still have bad breath, especially in the mornings, perhaps you need to clean your tongue – here’s a tongue scraper for you to check out.
Switching up your toothpaste is a super simple to swap to consider when transitioning to a more zero waste lifestyle.
I hope you got some useful suggestions for zero waste toothpaste options. When you’ve found your perfect toothpaste, try out these other tips for a zero waste dental routine and let me know what you think!