7 Creative Ways to Reuse Old Toothbrushes

7 Creative Ways to Reuse Old Toothbrushes
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This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on September 26, 2022.

Hey friend! I hope you had an absolutely lovely weekend. I got to spend Friday evening with friends having a game night and laughing until we cried, Saturday was a total introvert day, and Sunday I visited the Tacoma Brunch Market to support some local vendors and drag queens. It was just about the most perfect weekend a girl could ask for.

But the thing I didn’t do this weekend that I had originally planned to do is deep clean my apartment. 

And one of my favorite zero waste tools for deep cleaning? An old bamboo toothbrush

I mean, we gotta brush our teeth anyway, right? Why not keep using that brush once it’s retired from cleaning our teeth??

So today I wanna share some of my favorite ways to reuse bamboo toothbrushes around the house.

But first, in case you haven’t made the switch to a bamboo toothbrush yet…

Why use a bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic?

Think about this… Plastic is a material that is designed to last quite literally forever. And yet, we use the stuff to make products that are intended to be thrown away - toothbrushes included. 

Every single plastic toothbrush you’ve ever used is still in existence somewhere today. And will be for…well…ever.

The first plastic toothbrush was made in the 1930s. And we already know how plastic production skyrocketed after World War II and the plastics manufacturers convinced us we all needed to buy plastic and buy disposable.

Today, one billion toothbrushes are thrown away each year. Most of them are plastic. 

But do they have to be?

Switching to a bamboo toothbrush is one of the easiest zero waste swaps we can make to cut our plastic use. The function is the same, the design is the same, but the material is sustainable, plastic-free, and totally biodegradable.

A Drop in the Ocean Zero Waste Blog 7 Ways to Reuse Old Toothbrushes

What’s so great about our bamboo toothbrushes?

Over the past few years as the zero waste movement has gained traction, more and more bamboo toothbrushes are coming onto the scene. But they’re not all created equal.

Unless you’re comfy with horse hair or boar’s hair bristles, up until a couple of years ago, there did not exist a 100% plastic-free toothbrush - including the bamboo ones. The bristles were always made with at least some percentage of nylon, aka plastic.

But a couple of years ago, our bamboo toothbrush vendor, Brush With Bamboo, finally cracked the code to a 100% plastic-free and vegan toothbrush. Now, the bristles are made completely from castor bean oil, so they’re completely bio-based, from handle to bristle.

✨ This is still not the case for most other bamboo toothbrushes. ✨

But what exactly does “bio-based” mean?

Because the bristles on these toothbrushes are made with castor bean oil, they will eventually fully biodegrade and return to the soil. However, they do not meet the certification requirements to be labeled "biodegradable," since they take longer than one year to fully biodegrade. This also means they do not meet the certifications of "compostable."

So how do you properly dispose of bamboo toothbrushes?

The toothbrush handle can be composted, easy peasy. Whether you have home composting or industrial [municipal] composting, just pull the bristles out and toss the handle in the compost bin. 

Unfortunately, although the bristles are totally plastic-free, since they are not certified as compostable due to the amount of time it takes for them to break down in soil. 

So, if you have home composting and are comfy with it, you can still add the bristles to your home compost. Just know they’ll take a while to fully biodegrade. 

If home composting is not accessible for you, the bristles can easily be removed from the handle with some pliers, and the bristles can be either thrown away or buried somewhere so they can naturally return to the soil over a longer period of time.

A Drop in the Ocean Zero Waste Blog 7 Ways to Reuse Old Toothbrushes

But now we can see why we’d rather get as much use from our toothbrushes as possible before disposing of them! So let’s dive into my favorite ways to reuse bamboo toothbrushes, shall we?

7 Creative Ways to Reuse Bamboo Toothbrushes

1. Clean small bottles and jars.

Got a bottle or jar that’s just small enough you can’t get a dish brush or a loofah in there to scrub it out? Keep an old toothbrush next to your sink so you’ll always have a small, scrubby brush to reach in those small bottle openings or bottoms of narrow jars.

2. Deep clean your sink and shower drains.

I don’t know about you, but drains always seem to be the most difficult thing to clean in my bathroom. Something about the small crevices and the weird angles are enough to make me avoid cleaning the bathroom for way longer than I should.

But keeping an old bamboo toothbrush under my bathroom sink means I can easily scrub the drains without the frustration.

3. Scrub tile grout.

Bathroom tiles need a little extra love? Go check out our post on sustainable spring cleaning for my all-time favorite bathtub and shower cleaner, and then grab an old toothbrush and get cleaning. I’m telling you - it’s the easiest thing in the world. I’ll never use anything else to clean my shower tiles.

A Drop in the Ocean Zero Waste Blog 7 Ways to Reuse Old Toothbrushes

4. Give your hairbrush a good scrub.

Every time we brush our hair, the hairbrush traps more than just strands of hair. Products, oils, dust, lint, dead skin, and more are slowly collecting between the brush pins and being added back into our hair when we use it the next time. So give your brush a good scrub every couple of weeks!

Dip your hairbrush in a bowl of warm water with shampoo and give it a good shake to loosen up whatever’s been building up. Then, dip the toothbrush into the water, too, and use it to scrub between the pins until the pad is totally clean. Give it a rinse, let the brush air dry and viola! Good as new.

5. Clean under your fingernails.

Hard day’s work got your nails in need of some extra scrubbing? There’s zero need to go out and buy a new nail brush. Just keep an old toothbrush by your sink or in your shower and it’ll do the trick!

6. Label your plants.

Whether you want the world to know your houseplants’ names or you need to keep your herb garden organized, old bamboo toothbrushes work wonders as adorable wooden plant labels.

I recommend removing the bristles first for this one, but then just flip the handle over, write your plant’s name on it, and stick it in the soil. Easy peasy, totally cute, zero waste, and no new things purchased.

A Drop in the Ocean Zero Waste Blog 7 Ways to Reuse Old Toothbrushes

7. Have a bonfire!

As the fall weather begins to settle in, it’s the perfect time for a backyard bonfire! And since our toothbrush handles are 100% natural bamboo, they make the perfect fire kindling. Just be sure to remove the bristles before tossing in the fire!


So, friend, what are your thoughts? There’s so much more life left in our toothbrushes once they’re not so great for our teeth anymore. Have you tried any of these ways to reuse your toothbrushes before? Do you have any to add? Comment below and let me know!

Now I’m off to go [finally] do some deep cleaning around here. I hope you have an awesome week and I’ll see you again next week!

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