diy project: rubber dipped toothbrushes


Along with plastic utensils, bottles, packaging and other seemingly “disposable” everyday items, toothbrushes are just one more non-biodegradable article that adds to our oversized environmental footprint. As soon as our frilly friends start to look a little sad, we chuck them into the waste bin without a second glance, sending them to an eternity of landfill limbo. Granted, a world without toothbrushes would indeed be an ugly one (for entirely different reasons), but there must be something better than the chunky plastic monstrosities that line drugstore shelves around the country.

Enter wooden toothbrushes. Carried wherever cute, eco-conscious housewares are sold, wooden toothbrushes from brands like Izola offer a wonderfully earth-friendly alternative to the standard drugstore kind. They’re just as effective but biodegradable and light-years more attractive.

Unfortunately, the very material that makes these guys such an eco-friendly catch might also be their downfall. Their absorbent, porous wood handles make these toothbrushes perfect targets for the water and grime that lurk deep within toothbrush holders and bathroom cups. As I reached for my handy wooden toothbrush a few days into its use, I realized that, to my horror, its bottom was entirely soaked with whatever toothpaste/spit/bacteria-laden concoction lay on the floor of its holder. And just like that, my love affair with the wooden toothbrush was killed.

That is, until I discovered Plasti-Dip! This miraculous craft material, featured a few months back on another D*S DIY, is great for covering tools with a sturdy coat of rubber, but it’s also perfect for adding a watertight, non-absorbent base to my wooden toothbrushes. Huzzah! Problem solved!

Creating your own rubber-tipped toothbrush is remarkably simple. Just follow the steps below and you, too, will be on your way to happier, healthier and more eco-friendly teeth! — Max

*UPDATE: The plastic coating on these brushes can easily be removed in one clean piece (just stick something sharp under an edge to get it started) when you’re ready to toss your toothbrush, allowing the toothbrush to still biodegrade naturally.


Materials

  • 1 can of Plasti-Dip “Create Your Own Color.” This kit comes with a can of Plasti-Dip and five pigments. These can be purchased online or at most home improvement stores.
  • 1 or more wooden toothbrushes. Most come in packages of 4. We used Izola’s Numerals Toothbrushes.
  • A thin paper cup for dipping.
  • A wooden skewer, toothpick, spoon or other implement to stir the pigments.
  • Another cup for holding the toothbrushes while they dry.

 

Instructions

1. Lay down some newspapers on a table in a well-ventilated area and set your supplies out. The task isn’t very messy, but better safe than sorry!

2. After choosing which colors you would like to mix, open your Plasti-Dip can and pour a small amount (up to the point you will be dipping your toothbrush) into your paper cup. Be sure to put the cap back on your Plasti-Dip can immediately to avoid excess thickening or drying.

3. Add your pigment (or pigments if you are mixing) to your paper cup. Only a few drops are necessary for a nice, rich color, but more or less can be added for different results. Mix thoroughly with your spoon, trying to avoid too many air bubbles.

4. Place your toothbrush (handle side down, of course) straight down into your mixture. Hold for about a second and lift slowly until it resurfaces. Allow any excess paint to drip off.

5. Holding your toothbrush near its head, bring it to a horizontal level and twist it around slowly, almost as if on a rotisserie. Continue this motion for about a minute, or until the rubber seems sufficiently solidified. This will help you avoid uneven distribution of the rubber and any unsightly “nipples” on the brush’s tip.

6. Place your toothbrush upside down in a short cup. Allow to dry for at least four hours before handling.

7. Throw away any excess Plasti-Dip. And presto! A functional — and beautiful — wooden toothbrush!

NOTE: While Plasti-Dip is safe to handle in its dried state, please use caution when handling it wet. Do not allow Plasti-Dip to contact any area of the toothbrush that will be used in the mouth, and refrain from chewing or ingesting the material once it is dried. For those leery of Plasti-Dip’s ventilation requirements, wooden toothbrushes can also be waterproofed with everyday materials like acrylic paint or nail polish.

Emily

Does this not then render the toothbrush also non-biodegradable? Can you suggest an eco-friendly alternative? I’d love to be able to use wooden toothbrushes, but it seems like this defeats the purpose.

paige @ LPD

While these are super cute and creative… I think it defeats the purpose of buying something more eco friendly to coat is plastic. :/

If you’re worried about water getting into the wood and breeding bacteria, maybe try some wax?

Emily

Hi Grace,
Yes, I did see that he mentioned acrylic paint or nail polish in case of concerns about ventilation, but I’m not sure those are biodegradable either. I’m curious about Paige’s suggestion of wax though, that might work… (although none of it will be as pretty as the plastic, I’m sure!)

Francesco

Two people have politely pointed this out already, but plasti-dip sounds like it’s TERRIBLE for the environment. If you want to make cute toothbrushes, fine, but don’t do it under the guise of being environmentally friendly!

Rebecca

I’m sorry but as a dental health professional I have to point this out. Your mouth is wet and full of bacteria that you are trying to get rid of when you brush. A wooden or in this case bamboo brush can absorb bacteria and moisture. They can swell and splinter, pushing shards of wood into your gum tissue causing a major infection and possibly mean periodontal surgery. How many of us inspect our toothbrush early in the morning? There are plenty of options out there to be green and brush well that are made of recycled plastic.

Miss Heliotrope

I agree with the it ain’t so environmental comments – and hardly think nail polish will make things better. My bamboo toothbrush can be composted in its entirety, why would I want to change that – it is also a lot cheaper to buy than conventional ones. Air your toothbrush – who wants pools of nasty water in their bathroom anyway?
& to the comment above, my bamboo toothbrush doesn’t swell with moisture when I keep it dry, and doesnt tend to splinter, either – and I do look at my toothbrush, to make sure it is mine (they all look the same, so we write our names on them) & if wooden/bamboo chopping boards are more hygenic than plastic ones why are wooden/bamboo toothbrushes worse?

The Gnome

I think that the issue is with dragging bamboo or wood tooth brushes against your soft gum tissues… cutting boards don’t get dragged across soft mucossal tissues. I think people used to worry about the cutting boards harbouring germs more than the plastic ones and that has been ruled out…

With the tooth brushes the worry is with tiny splinters and though some might be diligently checking in the wee hours, others might be having problems deciding which end of the brush to put the hair cream on. (Personally, I’m a dental hygienist’s nightmare.)

With regard to the dip… I don’t know the product, but I know a product that would do the same job in the same way… it is a rubber moulding material that is 100% natural latex in an ammonia solution to keep it liquid. It is intended to be brushed onto a master/sculpture in thin coats to be let dry between coats, then afterwards you pull out the master leaving an empty rubber mould that you can vulcanize in boiling water if you wish.

However it is just natural, biodegradable latex rubber… just the stuff that comes out of trees. Well sometimes it has dyes added, but you can get white. Anyhow I am sure you can dye it with drops of food colouring. Dip one brush in white, add yellow dip a second brush, add blue, dip a third brush… add red and dip a fourth ending up with a White, a Yellow, a Green, and I believe a Brown. Then if you wish in another white, red, yellow for Red and Orange. Then white blue, red for Blue and Purple. That gives White, Yellow, Green, Brown, Red Orange, Blue Purple and only using three cups/vials of latex. The fumes are only ammonia fumes… the same as from a cat litter box. Latex rubber bleeds from a number of plants. However your source for the latex dip might be more or less green and how white determines your colours… also I have never tried to dye the latex before applying it. Though of course I figure you can always use latex paint…

connie

Very cute, but plasti-dip is terrible for the environment and for you- it’s packed with noxious and volatile chemicals. The kind of solvents used to keep that plastic coating liquidy until air contact are just horrendous.

Grace Bonney

connie

yes, the smell of the coating is not pleasant when you are doing the project. but if you follow the directions on the can about ventilation it’s no more dangerous than any other craft project involving solvents or glues. the smell doesn’t persist when the plastic dries.

grace

marjan

Two great ideas: the wooden brushes are awesome, and fit so much better in my renovated bathroom. And the plasti-dip is new for me: I will look it up in my DIY store…

Lisa

“Along with plastic utensils, bottles, packaging and other seemingly “disposable” everyday items, toothbrushes are just one more non-biodegradable article that adds to our oversized environmental footprint.”

“7. Throw away any excess Plasti-Dip. ”

Oh, the irony.

Susan

Well, it seems like all my thoughts were posted. Poorly thought out concept here – dipping a eco-friendly product in enviromentally toxic goo. DS usually hits the mark, but this time, not so much.

Rebecca

I love that you can’t get anything past the readers! It would be great to see D*S go the extra mile to make DIY projects as green as possible. I hope someone figures out how to improve on this project with a different type of dip. Wax sounds interesting…

LAURA

What about using wax as a coating? So much cheaper, actually biodegradable if you use beeswax. AND that would give it a lovely fragrance! I agree, I find great irony in purchasing wooden biodegradable toothbrushes and then putting plastic on them.

Grace Bonney

susan

i don’t think it’s a poorly thought out concept at all. the original inspiration for the project was to find a way to prevent wooden toothbrushes from absorbing water at the tip and molding or rotting. this colorful plastic dip does just that. so for me, it was a clever (and cute) solution to the problem at hand.

grace

Stephanie

I love the concept, and the toothbrush looks very cute, but the post is a little deceiving. The post implies finding a functional bio-degradable toothbrush, but the solution ignores the bio-degradability of the final product. While it is more functional, it no longer enviro-conscious, which I find somewhat amusing. :)

Grace Bonney

UPDATE:

Hi guys- When we did this project we discovered (by accident) that the plastic peels right off (with a little tugging) when you’re done with it. It stays in place just fine during normal use, but if you take the corner of a screwdriver (a flat head) and peel a little corner up, you can easily remove the entire plastic coating in one clean move. Then you can continue to recycle and know your toothbrush will still biodegrade just fine. ;)

For anyone interested, I just grabbed one of our test toothbrushes and peeled off the coating with not much effort (2-3 on a scale of 10) and it’s clean as a whistle. You could definitely still recycle the toothbrush or let it biodegrade.

Grace

Eirien

The rubber you’re promoting is not good for the environment in fume or solid form. Don’t forget – eventually you will have to throw out the covers. What then?

It would be better if the toothbrushes were stored in a water-shedding container and/or if one used a food-safe wood wax/butter like with wooden cooking or eating utensils (eg, chopsticks). It would absorb right into the wood, helping to repel water and bacteria.

A warm 1/2 cup of food-grade oil (eg, almond) mixed with a tablespoon of melted beeswax, mixed and cooled, (store air-tight, cool/dark) will be more than enough wood wax for a year’s worth of toothbrushes. And, it’ll smell nice while you brush.

Cheers^^

x80lori

It’s so beautiful! I’m allergic to rubber, or at least, it makes cool slipper soles for dipping socks in. Paint is good here instead.

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