Bamboo toothbrushes are widely available and seen as one of the best options for an eco-friendly toothbrush.
It is definitely better for the environment than a regular plastic toothbrush.
And whilst bamboo is an obvious choice, there are other green brushes available, such as those made from bio-based or recycled plastics.
Thinking about what recycling options you have available to you is a consideration when choosing which toothbrush is most environmentally friendly for your personal situation.
Bamboo toothbrushes are a great choice if you have the ability to compost the handle when you are finished with it.
In the sections below I recommend the best bamboo brushes based on my own testing and research.
I then explain more about bamboo as a material and what some of the alternatives are.
Our 3 top picks for the best bamboo toothbrush
This is a category where we can’t necessarily separate one product as the “best” in terms of performance.
In the section below we’ve chosen our favourite options for a bamboo toothbrush.
The choices are based not only on how well the product works, but also on how transparent the companies are about their product process and any other policies they have for benefiting the environment.
Later on in the article, we also include brief summaries for the other products we’ve tested, and what we liked or disliked about them.
Ultimately, if you are choosing a bamboo toothbrush and using it correctly, you are taking a strong step to look after your teeth and look after the planet.
Brush with bamboo
This bamboo toothbrush has very good eco-friendly credentials, including certified organic bamboo and certified bio-based bristles.
They are a relatively transparent company, with plenty of information on their website, including links to support environmental claims.
The toothbrush is safe to use, and the multi-level bristles give an effective clean. It is also one of the most affordable bamboo toothbrushes available.
There are lots of positive things to say about this brush.
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The Humble Co bamboo toothbrush
The Humble Co bamboo toothbrushes stand out for their wide availability.
They also have a reusable bamboo handle option, which is even more sustainable than traditional brushes.
It is an ethical company, working against the use of plastic and using recycled materials for packaging, whilst also being very transparent on their site where plastic is unavoidable.
Claims such as vegan and cruelty free are independently verified.
The brush is safe to use, with good cleaning from the multilevel bristles. The brushes are also relatively affordable.
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Etee bamboo toothbrush with replaceable head
Canadian brand Etee has made this environmentally friendly bamboo toothbrush.
What makes it stand out is the fact that the handle can be reused and replacement heads bought separately.
The handle is also FSC certified, whilst the bristles are bio-based.
The round handle is comfortable to grip, whilst the multilevel bristles provide a good clean.
Cost wise, the brush is middle of the range, with replacement heads coming in at $4USD per head.
There is clear information on the website about how to dispose of the toothbrushes, but no clear verifications to support claims made.
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Some of the key takeaways from our testing
As a team we have looked at many bamboo toothbrushes. It is a very full market, and it is difficult to be able to differentiate between brushes.
One of the deciding factors for me is about the bristles used, and how transparent the company is about this. See our page on toothbrush bristles and whether they can be recycled or composted (the short answer is no, unless using a specialist recycling system).
There is also some debate about whether or not bamboo is that good as a material for a toothbrush — see below for more information on that.
The products chosen as our best bamboo toothbrushes were based on what is available at the time of writing. The market is changing, with many products being added regularly. In addition to this, there are many unbranded brushes available from online retailers.
I have commented on the brushes we have tested which will hopefully clarify why they didn’t make it to the top list. You may disagree, or find this doesn’t apply to you and that’s okay.
In any case, choosing a bamboo toothbrush will almost always have less impact on the environment compared to buying a regular manual toothbrush.
When it comes to whether more expensive bamboo toothbrushes are better…I have found there are many cheap bamboo toothbrushes available online, but that the more expensive ones have better accountability for where the materials comes from, and also have ethical policies in line with their environmental beliefs.
Cheaper brushes are okay to use, but you can’t guarantee they have been made sustainability as the companies often don’t advertize their processes.
Other bamboo toothbrushes we have tested
Aside from the brushes recommended above, below are summaries of some of the other bamboo toothbrushes we have tested.
Not all of these brushes are available in all countries. We tested brushes from the USA, UK, Canada and Australia, and availability varies from one country to another.
A brush designed in the UK and made in China. A good value option and comes in multipacks.
The handle is non-certified “organic” bamboo with regular nylon-6 plastic bristles (there is also an option for charcoal bristles).
Individual brushes are plastic free but come in a “compostable” bio-based PLA wrapper inside a recycled card box, which is probably excessive.
Their website contains a reasonable amount of information, though with little external references or independent verification.
Bristles come in medium-firm, and I would agree they are a little harder than normal. They have a multilevel arrangement.
The stand out thing is the affordability of this brush, as a multipack also comes with a sample of bamboo cotton buds and PLA dental floss.
Truthbrush & Bamboo Travel Case
A premium option for a bamboo toothbrush.
Overall, I think it is a good eco-friendly alternative to a traditional manual toothbrush because of the plastic free packaging and bio-based bristles.
However things like unnecessary packaging and use of paint to make it feel more luxurious are a bit of a negative point.
The company is reasonably open about their decisions behind the materials they choose, and explain them on their website.
And when I contacted them for more information they answered all my questions, and quickly too!
The Truthbrush looks nice, and it is a nice brush to use, but as a premium product it is more expensive than other options available and this is why I have not recommended it as one of our best picks.
Colgate bamboo toothbrush
Actual information about the sustainability of this brush is lacking, and I can’t help but think that Colgate is trying to jump onto the bamboo bandwagon.
As a company they do have sustainability policies, but there are so many ways in which they could do better.
The brush itself isn’t the most comfortable to use, but at least because it comes from such a well known brand you know it has been well tested and is safe to use.
One advantage of this brush is the low cost and wide availability.
The Sutcliffe Toothbrush Company
This is a basic bamboo toothbrush from a small UK based company, with little to set it apart from other bamboo toothbrushes.
The company has some ethical policies, such as donating money to charity, although they do not say which charity nor how much.
The brush is safe to use, and I like that the high quality bristles are arranged in a multilevel pattern. There is little to differentiate this brush from many other bamboo brushes available.
Overall, I think this is a more eco-friendly alternative to a traditional manual toothbrush.
The use of bamboo and certified bio-based plastic bristles are a good option.
But it seems that they have obviously missed huge potential by not offering replacement heads to the handle, given that the brush is already in two pieces.
The company is also sending mixed messages about this brush being plastic free when the bristles are still plastic.
They also give bad advice in saying for you to add them to a compost pile when there is no evidence to support this.
The company is open about their decisions behind the materials they choose.
However when I contacted them to get clarification on a couple of points, I received no reply. The product is safe to use, with no problems but also nothing to make it stand out.
It is at the more expensive end of the scale too.
The Dental Aesthetics toothbrush is made from bamboo, which is more eco-friendly than a traditional brush.
There is not much information available on the website to suggest that there are any policies which make this brush more environmentally friendly than any other bamboo options.
They come with medium or soft bristles, and are part of a wider bamboo dental range (as well as other non-bamboo products).
The toothbrush itself has a flat handle with colored nylon bristles, which does make it stand out a little. The brush is safe to use, although the flat handle could be difficult for some people to grip.
The biggest reason this company stands out is how affordable the brushes are, with a pack of 2 matching the cost of many traditional manual toothbrushes.
Tongues bamboo toothbrush & travel case
Tongue’s bamboo toothbrush is moderately environmentally friendly, swapping a plastic handle for a bamboo one, but there is a lack of information about where bamboo has come from.
It also has traditional nylon bristles, which could be replaced by bio-based bristles for less impact.
And whilst the brush comes in two parts, the company misses the potential of selling replacement heads.
The website is user friendly but lacks key information, referring to dentist founders but excluding their names, and also giving out some unhelpful information about recycling bristles.
The brush itself is safe and comfortable to use, as well as looking and feeling nice.
You do pay a premium for the appearance, as the brush is on the more expensive end of the scale.
This brush is from a UK-based company which is clearly trying with environmental efforts, as they have FSC certification, and support multiple conservation charities.
Their website is transparent with plenty of helpful information. The brush itself is attractive, with a range of colors available, and is safe to use, and even has independent approval from the Oral Health Foundation.
It also comes in helpful packaging which doubles up as a travel case. Price is the only thing that lets this tooth down as it works out expensive compared to other regular toothbrushes.
Hydrophil bamboo toothbrush
This brush is one of Hydrophil’s “range of water neutral, vegan & fair products”.
What stands out for me with this brush is the fact that the company has multiple environmentally friendly policies — including being certified carbon neutral.
On top of that, the brush itself has bio-based bristles. The company and website are very transparent, with clear information on their website.
Piksters bamboo toothbrush
The Piksters bamboo toothbrush stands out as a very affordable option and the brush itself is a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic toothbrushes.
It has the added bonus of bio-based bristles.
This well known brand is widely stocked in Australia, but is not so easily available here.
The brush is part of the Piksters eco range, but the website lacks information about wider sustainability policies.
It also advises to bury the whole toothbrush, but we would advise removing bristles first. The downside with this brush is that the cheap price does come at a cost in terms of how comfortable the brush is to use.
The thin flat handle is difficult to grip. And the bristles are arranged so that they are flat, which are safe but isn’t the most effective setup for cleaning effectiveness.
This brush is a good option as the company respects “sustainability includes people and our social impact” which means it’s about more than just the toothbrush.
It’s good that they have FSC certified bamboo, but I think improvements could be made on the bristles which are conventional nylon with charcoal (the charcoal does not improve stain removal – see my explanation here).
They have some information on the website, but don’t provide the evidence to support their claims (for example when discussing charcoal bristles removing staining).
The brush has a good multilevel bristle arrangement, which gives a good clean, but the handle is not the easiest to hold. It’s middle of the range price wise.
Buyers guide — why choose a bamboo toothbrush?
Bamboo is a more environmentally friendly material for a toothbrush handle, compared to traditional toothbrushes.
Manual toothbrushes are more eco-friendly than electric toothbrushes in terms of when you assess their impact from manufacturing to disposal. This study also assessed their impact on human health overall.
They found that bamboo manual toothbrushes have a lower impact than electric toothbrushes and plastic manual toothbrushes. Unless you are at high risk of dental diseases, a manual toothbrush is a more environmentally friendly option for a toothbrush than an electric brush.
Some of the benefits come from the fact that bamboo is a renewable resource. And bamboo in particular is fast growing, normally without any pesticides or fertilisers.
Overall bamboo has the lowest carbon emissions compared to other materials.
In fact, Project Drawdown lists bamboo production on degraded land as one of their recommendations for reducing worldwide carbon emissions. They believe bamboo is a cost effective solution to sequester carbon emissions. They recognize that these savings could be even greater where bamboo is substituted for other materials such as aluminium or plastic, such as the case for dental products.
Choosing a bamboo toothbrush reduces our use of plastics, particularly those made from oil or fossil fuels. Bamboo toothbrushes use 97% less plastic than an average plastic manual toothbrush. Some plastic is still used for the bristles.
Because bamboo is a lightweight material, it has lower emissions related to transport compared to heavier materials. This is one benefit of choosing bamboo over other materials.
However, do consider that I have yet to find a brush that doesn’t have to be shipped from China!
Some disadvantages of bamboo toothbrushes
Despite its popularity, bamboo may not be the perfect solution we are all looking for.
One company, Bogobrush, originally used bamboo as a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic. They now use bio-based plastic and recycled plastic to make their brushes. They say they moved from bamboo because:
- Production of bamboo can be inefficient and create product damage and waste.
- Communication with overseas bamboo suppliers can be a challenge for english speaking manufacturers.
- Shipping bamboo from China to local warehouses releases greenhouse gases from transport.
- It is difficult to have transparency into the harvest and production of the bamboo used.
The way bamboo is grown has a big impact on how eco friendly it is, and this information is not always available. Not all bamboo is sustainably sourced. Increasing popularity could cause bamboo to be planted as a mono crop, leading to a negative impact on the local environment.
And because it comes from China, long distance shipping is required either for the material or for the final brush.
Because of this, even though bamboo has a low carbon footprint the study by Duane et al found that bamboo handle toothbrushes can have a worse overall impact on human health compared to traditional plastic toothbrushes.
The way bamboo is disposed of is important. Bamboo brushes are not always recyclable. Schemes such as TerraCycle do not all accept the brushes. And if you do not have an option for recycling organic/garden waste at home, this brush will still end up at a landfill site.
It is also worth noting that for some people, the slightly rougher surface of bamboo can cause some initial irritation where it rubs on the lips.
The bamboo also needs time to dry out after use as in theory it is at a higher risk of gathering mould.
Problems with manufacturers
These brushes are clearly cheap to manufacture, and so many companies are doing so.
Using bamboo as the handle material leads to them also labelling their products as eco-friendly.
The market is awash with ‘bamboo’/’eco’ manual brushes with limited differences between them all. There is further confusion with ranges of bristle hardness and color schemes available.
I have found it hard to be able to confirm sources of materials, information about factories, transportation, and other factors which really determine the environmental impact of the toothbrush.
The term eco is a little over applied and few are doing anything to really educate customers.
There are some ‘better’ products and companies, but none that really stand out as being amazing on all counts. Those which provide more information or education can be very expensive for a basic toothbrush.
A final concern is that many brushes are advertised as plastic free, completely ignoring plastic in the bristles. A few have bio-based bristles, but ultimately a proportion is still plastic. This is greenwashing and can mislead customers into thinking that the brush is better than it is.
Is a bamboo toothbrush biodegradable?
Bamboo is a grass which breaks down naturally in soil.
Yes, bamboo will biodegrade — but this only applies to the handle.
It is important that bristles are removed as they are unlikely to be biodegradable (read more about bristles here).
When it comes to compostable vs biodegradable, I explain it in more detail in my article about the most eco-friendly toothbrush. Bamboo is a biodegradable material that is also compostable.
That said, paints and oils used on the varnish may affect the breakdown of bamboo.
It is also recommended that you somehow shred or break up the handle to improve compositing. This is more important in a home composting situation, where temperatures are lower and therefore breakdown is slower.
Bamboo breaks down more slowly than other plants because of a substance called lignin, and this should be considered when composting it too.
The Carry on Compositing website recommends: Fresh bamboo leaves and stalks are a “Green” (meaning they are nitrogen rich) but if dry they become a “Brown” (meaning they are a source of carbon). Older tough stems should be split or shredded.
This is not necessary if using a garden waste collection or industrial composting system, which has higher temperatures and so can break materials down more quickly.
Are bamboo toothbrushes the best option for the environment?
Bamboo toothbrush are not necessarily the best option for the environment.
When looking for a more eco-friendly option for your dental products, bamboo can seem like an obvious choice.
It is available as an option for interdental brushes and flosspicks (as well as bamboo toothbrushes, of course).
It is popular because it is made of a “natural” material – bamboo. Bamboo is a fast growing grass, often it is also grown without chemicals.
We are weary of promoting any one product as the single most eco-friendly option
We are not sustainability nor plastics experts. Studies in this field are limited, and the situation is constantly evolving.
Sustainability is a topic that we are dedicated to understanding and promoting.
We will continue to monitor the situation and report technological advancements within dentistry as accurately as possible, consulting experts wherever possible.
But I would argue that the most sustainable toothbrush would be one with a reusable handle made from recycled plastic, with replaceable heads made up of recycled plastic (number 5, which is also recyclable) with bio-based plastic bristles. This is based on the Duane et al study, as well as further research.
And whilst a manual toothbrush, bamboo or otherwise, does have less impact on the environment, and electric toothbrushes have a greater impact on the environment, an electric brush is still recommended for high risk patients because of their clinical needs.
But there is not much evidence available overall. For more information about how I came to this decision, and about the alternatives available, go to our page about the most eco-friendly toothbrush.
Bamboo electric toothbrushes & heads
Something that seems to be an emerging trend is electric toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads made of bamboo.
At the moment there is no evidence to suggest these have a lesser environmental impact than plastic electric toothbrushes and toothbrush heads.
We go into more detail about this in our article on bamboo electric toothbrushes.
Recycling a bamboo toothbrush
Even when choosing the most environmentally friendly dental products, there will come a stage when you are finished with it, and then you are left wondering what to do with the waste.
You need to recycle the toothbrush correctly to ensure minimal impact on the environment.
With a bamboo toothbrush you have two parts to consider: the bamboo handle and the plastic bristles. No matter what a company tells you, the bristles are plastic (unless they are animal hair).
The whole toothbrush can be recycled via schemes such as Terracycle, as explained in our article about how to recycle a manual toothbrush. Be aware not all Terracycle schemes accept bamboo and you should confirm this first.
The bristles are not recycled by local facilities and need to be sent to specialist recovery programmes — as explained in our article all about recycling toothbrush bristles.
Take the bristles off the brush, and you are just left with the handle to recycle. You can remove the bristles individually, or snap off the head part of the toothbrush.
Electric Teeth Co-Founder Jon Love tried this at home and found it simple enough to do with pliers. He found a 10.8g brush had only 0.4g of plastic bristles!
Bamboo handles can go in with garden waste, on a home composting pile, or with industrial composting.
Take home messages
Bamboo toothbrushes are a good alternative to regular plastic toothbrushes when it comes to the environment. But better options may be available.
See our post on the most eco-friendly toothbrush for more discussion of this.
No toothbrush is 100% environmentally friendly at present, and specialist recycling is needed for bristles. The use of plastic bristles is important for hygiene reasons as well as ensuring the teeth and gums aren’t damaged.
You will want to consider the ethical policies of the company producing the toothbrush when choosing which one is right for you. The best companies are those that are more transparent with their environmental impact.