It's really easy to know how to care for a plastic toothbrush: in a word, you don't have to. You throw away the packaging, use the toothbrush for a few months, and throw away the toothbrush. Making the switch to a compostable bamboo toothbrush is actually almost as simple: you compost the packaging, use the toothbrush for a few months, and compost the toothbrush. Same number of actions, radically different end game. But, there are a few little nuances that can make your switch to a bamboo toothbrush go a little more smoothly. Below, in partnership with Brush with Bamboo, I'm sharing what I've learned about making my toothbrush last longer, upcycling it, and composting it when it's worn out:
Deal with the packaging. One of the reasons I like the toothbrushes from Brush with Bamboo is that their packaging is entirely compostable. Whole Foods stores in Chicago now sell bamboo toothbrushes... that come packaged in plastic. It's hard to see the point of a compostable toothbrush when the packaging still goes to the landfill. Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes come packaged in a cardboard outer layer and a compostable inner liner. The cardboard outer layer is both compostable and recyclable, so you can take your pick of actions there. Note that the inner liner does need to be commercially composted: if you compost at home, you could save the inner liners to give to a friend who uses a commercial compost pick-up program, or ask a local business that composts commercially if they'd mind taking yours every few months when you come in to make a purchase.
Keep it dry. Not being made out of impenetrable plastic, bamboo toothbrushes require just a tiny bit more care than a regular toothbrush. All this means is that I dry mine quickly on a towel after each use, and that I store it upright in a clean glass container. This ensures the bamboo stays dry throughout the day, keeping the toothbrush in better condition longer. You may notice that the wood changes color slightly over time as you use it. In the picture above, the newest toothbrush is shown at left, while the other two have had their handles darken a bit over time with use. Totally normal, and just the sign of a well-loved toothbrush.
Upcycle it. If you can reuse your worn-out toothbrush before you compost it, so much the better. I've cleaned an old one (by boiling it for 3 - 5 minutes) and used it to clean grout in my shower, to gently scrub a stain out of clothing, to smooth melted beeswax over fabric to make homemade beeswax food wraps. In these cases, I like to write "CLEANING" on the handle of mine so that there are no disastrous mix-ups. You could also write "Basil" (etc.) on it and stick it in your garden or a pot as a natural plant marker.
Remove the bristles. Before the toothbrush heads to its ultimate resting place (the compost), make sure to remove the bristles. Before I removed them for the first time, I thought it would be a bit tricky, but it's not. Simply grab a pair of pliers and start pulling at the bristles. I find a quick diagonal motion works best to remove them. Provided your pliers are nice and grippy, the bristles should slide out fairly easily. Continue until no more bristles remain.
Compost it. Once you've removed the bristles, you'll have a nice little pile of plastic bristles and tiny metal staples, like the one pictured above. Though the plastic bristles may technically be able to recycled, the reality is they're likely too small to make it through your city's recycling system. So, to avoid gunking up the recycling works, I set mine aside to throw away. The bamboo handle, though, can of course be composted. If you have a backyard compost set-up and are worried it won't break down fully, I'd recommend (very carefully) taking a hammer to it or otherwise breaking it up a bit before depositing it. However, if you use a commercial composter, you can leave it intact: breaking it down will be no problem for them!
How else have you upcycled your toothbrush? Or any bamboo toothbrush issues I can help troubleshoot?
This post was sponsored by Brush with Bamboo; all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Litterless.