I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys the process of flossing! It is a necessary evil.
When you think about flossing most of us tend to think about thin white string floss that gets in between the teeth and can cut up into your gumline.
Whilst string floss most certainly have a place, it is not suitable for all and there are some great solutions available today that make the process a little bit easier.
Interdental brushes are perhaps the all round ‘best’ in many dental professionals opinions. This is because of the various sized brushes that address different sized gaps in the mouth for different people. They can be reused too.
However, another alternative option is water flossers. In this review I am taking a look at the Waterpik Cordless Freedom Water Flosser (model number WF-03).
What is the Waterpik Cordless Freedom Water Flosser?
It is a handheld device that is made up primarily of a pump and a reservoir.
In the reservoir you place water and when powered on, the pump draws the water out and feeds it through a tube at the top of the flosser into the user’s mouth.
A powerful jet of water, it forces plaque and bacteria off and away from the teeth and gums.
The stream of water is often softer, less abrasive and a generally more enjoyable method of flossing for many.
Where’s the best place to buy it?
There isn’t a best place in particular, but we’ve listed the prices of the US retailers that are currently stocking it, and it’s always worth checking out eBay as well.
How to use the Waterpik Freedom Water Flosser
Assuming the batteries have been installed in the flosser.
Step 1: Fill
Open the reservoir door and fill the compartment with water until it is a little less than full.
Close the door and ensure a tight seal.
Step 2: Position
Lean over the sink.
Place the tip of the flosser into your mouth.
Close lips enough to prevent splashing, while still allowing water to flow from mouth into the sink.
Step 3: Clean
Slide power switch to low (l) or high (ll) position. Start with lowest setting and increase to your liking.
Aim water at the gumline at a 90 degree angle. Follow the gumline and pause briefly between teeth.
And now for a bit more detail….
The number of water flossers on the market are a lot smaller than the number of manual floss options, so when it comes to choosing a water flosser, you do not have as much choice as some may like.
A lack of choice can make things easier, but Waterpik, the brand on test here are without doubt one of the largest brands.
Please be aware the model being reviewed is the WF-03 which is a cordless option powered off of user replaceable AA batteries rather than WP-450 which has a built in rechargeable battery.
I will throughout make reference to Philip Sonicare’s equivalent, the Sonicare Airfloss as there are similarities worth talking about and comparing.
There are 2 different variants of the Cordless Freedom.
The difference between these 2 are the color and nothing else.
- White – WF-03CD010
- Black – WF-03CD012
It is the White variant that is shown in the hands on images.
What’s in the box
- Waterpik Cordless Freedom Water Flosser – White
- 3 x AA batteries
- 2 x Classic water flosser tips
- 1 x Orthodontic tip
- 1 x Travel pouch
- 1 x Travel plug
- An easy and more effective way to floss
- Healthier gums and righter teeth in just a minute a day
- Battery operated, portable design is perfect for travel or small bathrooms
- Waterproof, may be used in the shower
- 2 pressure modes
- 3 water flossing tips
- Additional specialist tips available
- Travel bag included
Pros & Cons
Here are a list of the pro’s and cons having used this for over 4 weeks.
- Effectiveness & appeal – Compared to traditional string floss it is more enjoyable to use and I feel like it is doing more without having to wrestle the floss into gaps and along the gum.
- Battery life – So far the batteries are lasting fairly well and it is versatile when not near a fixed power source.
- Water resistant – Can be used in the shower.
- Box contents – Nice number of inclusions.
- Size – This is big considering it is cordless and supposedly portable. Yes, the reservoir needs to be a fair size, but the whole unit feels bulky. It is not something you really want to pop in a bag if you are travelling for just 1 or 2 days, it takes up a fair amount of space.
- Messy – Whilst you can master a technique, the steps involved and the amount of water pushed into the mouth means this is not the most enjoyable or flattering experience, you need a sink and even then you can make a bit of a mess.
- Quality – The build quality is just OK and does not the impression that the best materials have been used. Even out of the box, the reservoir felt a little loose in its fixings.
Design, Usability, Clean & General Use
The first thing that I noted here was the physical size. It’s pretty large for something that it supposed to be cordless and handheld.
I understand the design needs to accommodate a reservoir for the water, the batteries and the pump, but this thing looks and feels really big. It is surprisingly light though and it does allow you to get many of the benefits of Waterpiks water flossing without being tied to a cable.
The nozzle on the top that feeds the water into the mouth almost looks lost against it.
A product designer or engineer I am not, but I am amazed this is not smaller.
Overall it is a fairly smart design.
The primary colors used on the plastic body are white and silver.
On the front of the flosser is a large silver panel insert which at the bottom has the logo in black colored text, with nothing else on the panel until you reach the top of the flosser where the silver panel surrounds a power switch with 3 positions.
The rounded rectangle shaped power slider has a raised bar across the middle which gives a grip/natural rest for the finger to interact with the switch. Defaulted in 0, for the off position, move to I for the first power setting and II for the most powerful water jet.
The sides of the flosser are a matt white with a smooth finish. The front silver panel had more of a glossy finish.
On the rear the upper third is finished with a series of raised dots. Of 2 different sizes these form a good grip to hold the flosser with.
Immediately below this is a translucent plastic water compartment/reservoir that runs down to the bottom of the flosser. It is a bulbous design making for a thick and protruding section on the back of the flosser.
This compartment has a small hinged door on it that allows you to fill the tank when opened. A black rubber seal helps avoid any leaks when closed.
Removable the compartment is, for cleaning and refilling purposes, a white tube does get inserted into the compartment from the water flosser when refitted. This is the tube that takes the water from the storage area into the pump.
On the top of the flosser, centrally located is a hole into which the provided flosser tips fit into. Simply clipping into place they can be removed and replaced by pressing down the kidney shaped button that sits directly behind.
The reservoir holds 5oz/150ml.That is about 30 seconds of flossing time.
The very base of the flosser is home to the battery compartment.
Clear icons show when the door is locked and sealed. Move the locking switch to the unlocked position and you gain access. Remove the unlocked cap, to insert or replace the batteries. Fit the removable cap by aligning the icons shown and flicking the switch to the locked position.
3 x AA batteries are required to power the flosser, Waterpik include their own branded ones at the time of purchase.
When you fill the tank, the idea is you fill it with water, this can be cold or lukewarm if you prefer. The advised is the warm water. You could add a dash of mouthwash too if you wanted an extra burst of freshness.
Once powered on the pump inside the flosser will draw the liquid from the tank up and out through the nozzle on the top. It does this in a constant stream until the power is turned off or the liquid runs out.
A full tank will last about 30 seconds. This does not seem very long but is just long enough to run the jet in between each tooth, passing along the gumline as you go; once you have your technique mastered.
You may feel like you need to refill and go again to finish the job, I would have liked 45 seconds of usage from the tank.
This is different to Sonicare’s Airfloss, which requires you to press down each time you require a shot of water. The shot is smaller in water capacity and faster.
Press and hold the trigger on the Airfloss and there is a more constant approach, but between each shot of water/air is a brief pause as the flosser essentially reloads.
The drawback here is that compared to the Waterpik, flossing can take longer and you get lots of short sharp bursts compared to the softer constant stream.
There is too no way to change the force of the burst on the standard Airfloss model (the Ultra does have this option), whereas on the Waterpik you have 2 power settings out of the box.
Despite the cable free design of the Waterpik you are essentially constrained to being over the sink as the flow of water is too fast and too much for you to retain in your mouth without letting a large proportion of it flow out during the flossing.
Do not be fooled into thinking flosser with Waterpik is glamorous, it is not. However, with a potential 93% reduction in gum bleeding (for those who suffer), if introduced into your routine, the water flosser does something very right!
The suggested technique is:
- Lean low over sink and place the tip in mouth.
- Aim the tip toward teeth, and turn the unit ON (l).
- For best results, start with the back teeth and work toward the front teeth. Glide tip along gumline and pause briefly between teeth. Continue until you have cleaned the inside and outside of both the upper and lower teeth.
- Direct the jet stream at a 90-degree angle to your gumline. Slightly close lips to avoid splashing but allow water to flow freely from mouth into the sink. Keep unit upright during use for best results.
Whilst you purse your lips around the nozzle and aim to retain as much of the liquid in your mouth as possible, the resulting flow does mean you will be forced to dribble the excess liquid out.
Children from the age of 6 are supposed to be able to use this, but their smaller mouths would struggle with the amount of liquid. The flow is quite quick and it is only a matter of seconds before your mouth is full as an adult.
The Airfloss on the other hand does leave an excess liquid in the mouth, but an amount that is more than manageable in the mouth so you need spit out only at the end of the flossing session rather than throughout.
This means the Airfloss is more portable and can be done standing up away from the sink.
I personally prefer the Airfloss approach, although the Waterpik is not as harsh on the gumline.
Psychological or not I am not sure, but the Waterpik feels like it is doing more, a more thorough flush of the mouth and gums.
Research by Waterpik has clinically proven to be more effective than traditional dental floss and up to 80% more effective than Sonicare’s Air Floss (Model HX8181) for improving gum health. Lots of studies have been conducted, you can check the out here.
It is proven in laboratory tests to remove up to 99.9% of plaque from treated areas with a 3-second application.
This is quite interesting given that there has been a lot of discussion of late as to whether flossing really does work or is necessary. The American Dental Association (ADA) recently removed it from their guidelines; although most dentists still believe it is worthwhile.
In fact, the ADA have awarded the Cordless Freedom their Seal of Acceptance.
To achieve such an accreditation, the product must demonstrate efficacy according to requirements developed by the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.
I do believe the reality is that some form of flossing or interdental cleaning is better than nothing.
Failing to clean properly between the teeth and gums can lead to a buildup of bacteria and plaque that in turn can result in gum disease.
The cordless flosser removes bacteria deep between teeth and below the gumline where brushing and traditional flossing can’t always reach. The flow of water does too massage and stimulate the gums to improve circulation and keep your gums strong and healthy.
I found that I preferred the more powerful setting of the two offered, but those with sensitive gums may find the lower power setting to be better. The power settings are rated at 45 and 75 PSI.
Despite my preference for the more powerful option, my mouth did feel clean after use, although I did also feel that I had washed away any good that the toothpaste I used in the brushing session prior had been washed away.
This type of flosser is also great for those with braces where normal flossing is almost impossible.
It also works extremely well for those with sore or inflamed gums as a result of the early stages of gum disease. In fact it works so well that Waterpik offer a 14 day money back guarantee.
If after 14 days of daily use you are not completely satisfied that this product has reduced the symptoms associated with gingivitis, you return this to the manufacturer for a full refund. Pretty good hey!
REMEMBER, do not switch this on until it is in your mouth, failure to do so will result in a stream of water being shot out across the area around you!
As I intimated earlier although cordless, the overall size and design of this makes the WF-03 quite cumbersome to use. You can use one hand, but some might find 2 easier for controlling the weight and positioning.
In fact really, if my bathroom could accommodate a cable optioned water flosser, I would be more inclined to go for that as I see limited benefits of the cordless. The Waterpik Aquarius might be one you want to check out.
3 nozzles are provided with this cordless option these are:
- 2 x JT-100E – Waterpik Classic Water Flosser Tips
- 1 x OD-100E – Waterpik Orthodontic Tips
There are 4 extra/optional nozzles.
- PS-100E – Waterpik Plaque Seeker Tips
- PP-100E – Waterpik Pik Pocket™ Tips
- TB-100E – Waterpik Water Flosser Toothbrush Tips
- TC-100E – Waterpik Water Flosser Tongue Cleaner
For the vast majority, the classit tips are fine. Any of the others can be used for those looking for alternative options or to address more specialised needs.
For example, the Pocket Tips are specifically designed for those with Periodontal Pockets and the Plaque Seeker for those with dental implants.
You can find more information on each of the different tips here.
Replace the classic and tongue tip every 6 months and all others every 3 months.
Sadly the nozzle does not rotate like it does on some other models and would make this more desirable.
It is worth noting that the flosser is water resistant and Waterpik advise that you can use it in the shower, should you chose to.
The flosser comes with a smart drawstring travel pouch and also a plastic travel plug to stop leaks when on the go.
The cordless and lightweight design does make this portable, but I do question whether you would want to take this away with you if you are taking only a small amount of luggage. Whilst not huge, it is bulky enough that you will find yourself questioning, can I do without this for 3 days on my long weekend break.
The build quality of this flosser is questionable too.
For the price I did not expect some metal constructed work of art, but the design feels a little cheap and flimsy. Perhaps I am being a bit fussy and forgetting the health benefits!
Many others have complained about this with reports of flossers failing sooner than one would expect. It does come with a 1 year guarantee though, so should the worst happen you are protected for 12 months at least.
Summary of Design, Usability, Clean & General Use
- A lot larger than expected
- Powered by 3 x AA batteries
- Holds 5oz/150ml in the reservoir
- Provides up to 30 seconds of constant water flow, will not be enough for some
- Not the most glamorous tool to use
- Impressive clinical results
- Water resistant – can be used in the shower
- Different nozzle options – 6 choices in total (4 sold separately)
- 2 pressure settings rated at 45 and 75 PSI
- Comes with a travel pouch
- 1 year warranty
Supplied with 3 x AA batteries in the box, this is added bonus as most products don’t come supplied with such.
They are fairly easily inserted into the base of the flosser via a locked and watertight compartment.
There are clear icons on which way to align the batteries.
Over the month I spent testing this flosser the batteries lasted.
I am therefore unable to conclusively say at this time how long they will last though as to date they are still powering the flosser. Waterpik suggest a couple of months.
If you own this model, perhaps you can feedback on how long a life you get from the batteries?
You can purchase and use your own rechargeable AA batteries in the flosser, which over time will be cheaper and greener.
There is no way to tell how much power remains in them, but you will find the pressure drops off or the unit stops completely. It will then be time to change.
I would suggest keeping a set on standby as it were, just in case.
You may find as a course of habit you replace every 6 weeks for example.
This is the drawback of the cordless option, you can’t be assured of constant power like you can with the larger Waterpik models that run off the mains power.
Waterpik do offer a cordless option with built in battery. Sadly you do not get and battery feedback from this model either, although you can leave sat on the charger to keep it topped up.
Sonicare’s Airfloss does give battery feedback and has its own rechargeable battery built in.
Summary of Battery Life
- Takes 3 x AA batteries
- Unclear as to how long the batteries last
- Cheaper and greener long term to use rechargeable AA batteries
- No battery status icon
- Pressure/power will decrease as batteries deplete
- Secure watertight compartment for the batteries, complete with locking mechanism
$45 is the recommended retail price for this product.
Most of the time it is sold at this price too.
Primarily available from Waterpik themselves and Amazon the price appears to be relatively well controlled and the likelihood of significant discount is low.
Shop around and you may well save $5-10, but no massive discount.
The cheapest it could be bought for at the time of writing was $36.
Given what it is supposed to offer and the suggested health benefits, the price is on the face of it justifiable.
However, having used it I have tinges of sadness that the build quality does not feel a bit more premium.
I wish not to talk down the benefits of the product, but I think you can actually get better value and performance from the countertop Waterpik Aquarius or possibly the Cordless Advanced WP-560 which retail at roughly $60 and $70 respectively.
You do need to factor in the price of replacement nozzles too. A pack of 2 costs about $10 and last about 6 months, so at $5 each they are fairly good value. It does add to the lifetime cost, but you have this with other water flossers too.
Whilst the unit comes with a 1 year warranty, I will use the same calculation that I would with an electric toothbrush and assume the usable life is 3 years.
Retailing for an average price of $45 online and factoring in 2 packs of replacement heads at $10 each, the cost over 3 years works out at $65 or 6 cents per day.
When reviewed the Airfloss worked out at about $0.06 per day.
Compare this to traditional string floss that works out at about 2-3 cents per day and it’s about 2-3 times more expensive.
It is without doubt a luxury and by no means essential, but the time saved, the simplicity and potential health benefits for many make this a worthwhile investment.
Please note that all costs quoted are approximates and prices will vary based on location, supplier, time of purchase. These figures should not be relied on as hard fact but as a guide, based on real information at the time of writing.
Summary of Price
- Recommended retail price of $45
- Replacement nozzles retail for $10 for a pack of 2
- Daily cost around $0.06 over 3 years
- Expensive, but worth it possibly for the benefits brought
Reliability & Long Term Use
Having been testing this for a month, I have not had anything go wrong as yet.
However, I have mentioned my concerns over the quality of the product. It does not feel as premium and as well built as it should.
I am sorry to say that this is one of the few products that I would have to question the long term reliability of.
Now, with it not going wrong in my time with it, it is a little unfair to suggest this, but my confidence is not bolstered by other reports I have read where others have suffered with reliability issues that crop up a few months after use.
The nature of a physical product is at times they will go wrong, we hope they won’t but nobody can give these guarantees.
A 1 year guarantee is provided and they make it clear they are available to help, you just need to call them.
Not that I have been in a position to test, but being an American firm I would suspect their customer service to be very good.
You get all the fantastic health benefits of Waterpik in a cordless portable unit. You are not tied to the wall and restricted by a hose.
The variable pressure settings are great as is the inclusion of the alternative nozzles and batteries (how rare to actually be supplied).
One of the biggest appeals of being cordless and portable is the thought that this might be travel friendly. Whilst it comes with a travel plug and case and does not rely on mains power the bulky nature is disappointing. However it’s a battle you must contend with to have 30 seconds of run time from the tank.
Perhaps if I had not used the Sonicare Airfloss prior to the cordless flosser from Waterpik, my feelings may well be a little more positive.
The way in which you use the two are very different. Clinical studies may suggest the Waterpik is better, but convenience and approach is what normally wins consumers over.
One of the primary reasons people opt for water flossers is because it is an easier, more convenient and comfortable alternative to regular flossing. Waterpik’s constant flow approach is easier, just messy.
As cordless options go this is good. But if you want cordless and travel friendly (small) then Sonicare is the best option, just be aware of the health sacrifices as a result of convenience.
Electric Teeth Rating
- Height (without nozzle) – 23.2cm
- Height (with nozzle) – 29.6cm
- Width – 6cm
- Thickness – 9cm
- Weight (without nozzle) – 342g
- Weight (with nozzle) – 345g
- Weight (with nozzle & water) – 506g
All are approximates
Frequently Asked Question & Answers
- How long does the battery last?
- Unable to confirm accurately. After 4 weeks the AA batteries were still working. Expect 1-2 months.
- Does it come with a charger?
- No, it is powered by AA batteries and does not require a mains charger.
- How often do the nozzles need replacing?
- Nozzles should be replaced every 6 months if using the classic or tongue cleaner. All others should be replaced every 3 months.
- Can I use mouthwash in the Waterpik?
- You could, but it would be expensive and wasteful. Best adding a dash into the water used in the reservoir for a burst of freshness.
- How much water or mouthwash does it hold?
- Approx 5oz/150ml which will last for 30 seconds.
- Can I use the Waterpik in the shower?
- Yes, it is water resistant.
- Does it come with a travel case?
- Yes a microfibre drawstring pouch is included to put the flosser in when travelling.
- My gums bleed when I use cordless flosser. Is that normal?
- Bleeding gums may be a sign of infection and a little bleeding can be normal when starting a new oral care routine, as you may be cleaning in areas not previously reached. However, if bleeding is excessive or does not stop within a few days of regular use, consult a dental professional.
Do you own or have you used the Waterpik WF-03 Cordless Water Flosser?
Are there certain features that you really like or dislike?
Let us know what you think about it, and let others who may well be considering purchasing one know your opinions before they do.