Photo of old toothbrushes on a beach by F Delventhal

The Problem with Disposable, Plastic Toothbrushes

Posted by Simon Cooper on

Let’s talk about disposable, drug store toothbrushes. They're cheap, colourful and they clean your teeth. But they’re really badly designed.

Here’s why.

First off, they're covered in grooves and ridges, which, I can only assume are for grip. If you rely on those grooves to prevent your toothbrush from flying out of your hand and sailing across the bathroom, then I have some news for you: you’re brushing way too hard.

What those grooves actually do is fill up with old toothpaste, saliva and germs. Take a look at your toothbrush after you've brushed for a few weeks and you'll see what I mean. 

Also, why are they so curvy and 'ergonomic' looking? Again I assume this is for grip. Then why aren't golf club or tennis racket handles shaped like that? You would think they’re a perfect example of something that needs a grippy handle.

Have you ever put your toothbrush down only to watch it roll over? You stare in horror as the bristles fall onto the counter or sink, which, let's face it, is in a bathroom. Near a toilet. *Shudder*

I don't care if you're a super germaphobe who cleans your sink or counter every day, it would make a lot more sense for your toothbrush to stay upright if you put it down. I don’t think I'm asking a lot here.

So why are cheap toothbrushes designed that way? Because (and this is only my opinion) they're designed to look expensive.  

They're made by massive brands who are themselves designed to please shareholders. And they make them by the millions. At that scale, the cost for each is probably pennies. So how do you get people to pay $5 for something that cost you pennies to make? You make it appear to be worth $5. That why they're curvy, colourful plastic with rubber inserts and grooves everywhere. Instead of a simple, clean design, they over-design them so that you’re under the illusion that you’re getting value.

Well, you’re not.

Here's what really drives me nuts: these brands do everything they can to make a buck. And I get it, that's business. But they don't look past the bottom line when making decisions about the design, the materials and the packaging of these toothbrushes. I believe that needs to change. I believe that as humans, we can’t afford to act that way much longer.

Look at companies these days like Tesla. They’ve succeeded because they understand that you can make products that are better for the environment AND beautifully designed. Their new Solar Roof Panels are another example.

More often than ever before, consumers are starting to care about the environment. Brands that are legitimately cool are embracing green practices. Which is awesome. For too long the hippie fringe has been making items that only appeal to the hippie fringe. And that’s not knocking them because they led the way. But I think that products like Grin can look great, work well and also take a stand.

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