Friday, 17 August 2012

How to look after your toothie pegs, save the planet and save money!

The few 'real' people that I have told about this blog are great at sharing their own frugal ideas for things I should write about.  The first toothie peg tip comes from my mum.  It's so simple and so obvious that I'm very embarrassed to admit I haven't been doing it!

When I stayed at my parent's house recently, I was ushered upstairs for a step-by-step demonstration of what Granny does when the toothpaste tube appears empty.

Notice the nifty hair slide fastening mechanism!

It is cut open at the bottom, which reveals lots of extra toothpaste, especially near the cap,  that would never be squeezed out, however hard you tried.

Needless-to-say this week I was most excited to find that one of our toothpaste tubes had reached the point at which I would normally throw it away!  Out came the scissors, and four days later I am still using that tube, and I estimate that there are a few more days left in it.

OK, so it's a small saving.  I haven't done the Maths but say that worked out at one toothpaste tube less to purchase per year; it's hardly going to mean that we can retire early. But it makes me think of that phrase: "How you do one thing is how you do everything". If you're taking that much care over the toothpaste, chances are that you are taking care of other things in your life, especially as brushing your teeth in a frugal fashion provides a daily reminder to do so. Cumulatively those little things might actually make a bigger difference. And that's just at a personal level.

If more people were managing on fewer toothpaste tubes per year, that's a lot less plastic tubes going into landfill.  (From what I can tell, toothpaste tube kerbside recycling is a grey area although Mrs Green suggests that you can recycle toothpaste tubes via the Philippine Community Fund.  Also read her blog post for information about eco-friendly tooth brushes.)  So that little bit of toothpaste saving is starting to look even more worthwhile.

If you want to bypass the whole toothpaste tube issue the second toothie peg tip is to make your own toothpaste.  We thought we should have a go at this.  Surprisingly Son was very keen: "Have you ever read the ingredients of toothpaste, Mum?" he said. "Some of those words are impossible to say!"

Looks like toothpaste but does it taste like toothpaste?

We combined the elements of a couple of toothpaste recipes (but left out the vodka which appears on the ingredients list of some) and this was the Everyday Life On A Shoestring trial version:

1 teaspoon) sea salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil (for its antibacterial properties and it gives the toothpaste a nice consistency)
3 drops essential oil of peppermint (optional - you could also use spearmint, cinnamon or cloves)

The results were as follows:

Daughter: "Eeeuuughhhhh! Disgusting! Please don't make me ever take this on a sleepover!"

Son: "Yuck!"  (But this was downgraded to "Acceptable" when we added more peppermint oil).

Husband: "I could get used to it" and "My teeth feel really clean!"

Me:  "It's very salty tasting but that's OK because it reminds me of swimming in the sea!"

We had all the ingredients in the cupboard.  Some recipes include a natural sweetener such as xylitol or stevia, which might make it taste better but seems to me to be defeating the point of toothpaste!  There is no fluoride in the recipe either; I don't want to go into the pros and cons of fluoride here, but it would seem that it is certainly not without its cons.

Cost-wise, again, I haven't worked it out but it surely must be a no-brainer, as salt and soda are dirt cheap.  Essential oils are not cheap, but one bottle lasts for a long time, would make a LOT of toothpaste, and there are plenty of other things you can do with peppermint oil.

It goes without saying that once you have started making your own toothpaste, mouthwash must follow. (We haven't tried it yet but when we do, we will use this recipe: 2 drops peppermint oil, 2 drops tea tree oil, half a teaspoon of sea salt and half a cup of warm filtered water.)  And don't forget to ditch the gum - parsley and mint leaves make good breath fresheners!

So thank you to Granny for prompting us to audit our dental hygiene practices!  We'll certainly be using up every last gram of toothpaste and some of us will convert to homemade toothpaste (although I won't force Daughter to take it on sleepovers!).  Next on the list is to check out some of Mrs Green's environmentally friendly tooth brush options and to give some attention to floss (what to do with those little plastic boxes?)

If you're already a toothpaste maker or eco-toothbrusher I'd love to read your top tips in the comments below!

Disclaimer: I am not a qualified dentist!  This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for getting professional medical or dental advice!

I welcome comments on my blog.  Just click on 'comments' in the grey box below to have your say!  I read and try and respond to each and every one!  Don't feel that you have to be a blogger to comment; feel free to use just your first name, or even comment anonymously!


  1. I tried brushing my teeth with homemade toothpaste for a while, but was worried about whether it was as effective as normal toothpaste, so gave it up. I have to admit I'm not keen on normal toothpaste either really due to the ingredients and plastic packaging, so might give the homemade toothpaste another go.

  2. I have never made my own toothpaste, but remember that my mother regularly rotated just plain baking soda into our brushing schedule. My teeth always felt super clean after the soda brushing, however I think soda on a daily basis might be too abrasive on the enamel.

  3. Yes I suspect the way forward may not be in an all or nothing approach, but a homemade toothpaste every other day approach. There are other eco alternatives (probably not cheap though) - 'Toms of Maine' springs to mind; the ingredients might be more wholesome, but there would still be the plastic tube to deal with.

  4. Great recipe! I love finding homemade alternatives to the chemical-laden stuff they sell at the store. I'll have to give this a try.

    1. I'll be interested to hear what you think if you get round to trying it out!

  5. I do baking soda mixed with hydrogen peroxide, in a dish, once a day as a teeth whitener. Also, for mouth rinse, about half a small spoonful of hydrogen peroxide with about 1/4 cup water. And for a sore throat, my daughter does cayenne pepper and water gargle. She swears that it knocks the sore throat right out.

    We all do the same with regards to splitting open the tubes. We can usually get close to a weeks worth of brushing for one person this way.

    Travel toothpaste tubes for air travel -- those little things are expensive. We squirt a bit of toothpaste into snack size baggies.

    1. Thanks for those tips Lili! I like the baggie idea...that way my daughter could take home-made toothpaste on a sleepover and no-one would ever know!!

  6. I'd just like to add a cautionary note for readers. Remember that hydrogen peroxide, even at the strength at which you can purchase it domestically, is acidic and highly corrosive to the skin and mucous membranes. It should not be ingested.