8 Eco Friendly Electric Toothbrushes & Replaceable Heads (2023)
If you ask your dentist, they’ll probably suggest using an electric toothbrush because of how well they clean your teeth.
This is especially true if you struggle with dental care, arguably one of the most important aspects of your health due to the fragile nature of human teeth.
So, in this guide we’re going to be covering the best eco friendly electric toothbrush options out there in detail.
I’ve also included a bunch of information on the reality of electric toothbrush manufacturing to make it easy for you to understand how your choices impact our planet.
Let’s begin by checking out the brushes themselves.
Eco Friendly Electric Toothbrush & Head Options
Suri – Top Choice
While I like all of the electric toothbrushes I own, Suri’s is my favorite for a few particular reasons.
First off, it looks great. And yes, I know looks don’t mean much in terms of sustainability, but the handle is also made from brushed aluminum – not plastic.
You can choose between black, gray, and green; I went with the green as it’s my favorite color, but all of them look quite nice.
Aesthetics aside, the handle itself is relatively thin, making it easy to grip and brush with, another plus. And the brush heads are made from cornstarch bioplastic with castor bean oil bristles, which means they can be industrially composted!
Suri’s castor oil bristles are the perfect softness for me, somewhere between soft and medium – making them strong enough for my highly-sensitive teeth to feel completely clean without hurting them in any way.
The battery should last for over a month (at least), and I actually haven’t ever had it run out on me even after leaving it uncharged for weeks. Another major benefit, for me personally, is that it has just two different modes – and you only have to press the power button twice in order to switch it off.
It’s also designed to be easily repairable, and no – you don’t have to repair it yourself, as they’ll do it for free while the warranty lasts (100 days), or for a small fee after that.
As you can see above, it comes with a magnetic mirror mount, USB charger, and I also got the optional UV-C light self cleaning travel case, but the UV case is plastic and totally optional.
A note on compostability: you can either send back the heads using their pre-paid compostable mailer, or you can find a facility yourself which will require pulling apart the brush head into individual pieces beforehand, which they go over in detail on their website.
Extra Suri Info:
- Pending B Corp Certified
- Climate Neutral Certified
I also use Etee’s electric toothbrush quite often, but it does differ from Suri’s in a few ways. The first thing you’ll notice is the bamboo handle – but in reality it’s not actually bamboo, it’s a plastic handle with a bamboo pattern on the outside. And that’s fine, as it’s pretty hard to make a plastic free electric toothbrush.
However, they don’t really make it clear on their product page that it’s plastic, and if you bought it without knowing (I knew before I purchased it) – I can definitely see how it may be irritating.
Aside from that, the toothbrush itself works just as well as my old Sonicare workhorse, and the charge holds for around a month, similar to Suri’s battery life!
The brush heads are made from compostable bamboo and I especially love their castor oil bristles, which are particularly soft (comes with three); the only other thing it comes with is the plastic USB charging stand.
Another big difference is that Etee’s brush has four different modes, and can be further adjusted to a sensitive-tier of the same modes, so it’s not quite as simple as Suri’s.
This isn’t a bad thing – as adjustability is important when it comes to human teeth; the only downside is that you have to press the power button six times to cycle through all the modes and turn it off. Etee also makes a ton of other products I use daily, like their shampoo bars and shaving cream!
Note: As of my most recent update, it looks like Etee is restocking their electric toothbrush.
Booheads – Sonicare Compatible
Boohead’s make my preferred electric toothbrush head, not only because of their simple and effective design; but also because I have an old Sonicare that I still use sometimes.
Boohead’s bamboo heads fit perfectly onto my old trusty Sonicare and work just as well as traditional ones, so you could just swap out your brush heads instead of buying a new battery!
I’ll cover Sonicare and Oral-B toothbrushes further down, but if you’re looking for Sonicare-compatible heads, Booheads is the best option out there.
Their brush heads are made from bamboo with a small amount of plastic inside, and the bristles are made from a mix of cornstarch PLA bioplastic, castor bean oil, and nylon.
If you do compost the brush heads, similar to Etee’s you’ll need to pull the bristles out – as well as the small bit of plastic at the base added for structural support.
The bristles themselves are pretty soft, and they have a few different variations you can try out – including a mini version.
The only thing I don’t like about Booheads is that they use bioplastic mailer envelopes to ship their products, and while it’s better than traditional plastic, they could just use a simple cardboard box.
Georganics is a dental-focused sustainable brand, and all of their oral care products are fantastic.
Their sonicare toothbrush is no exception, as they’ve managed to make a plastic-heavy product into an eco friendly one, at least as far as is possible right now.
The handle and heads are made out of plastic, and the bristles are nylon – so you may be wondering, how is this sustainable?
And the answer to that question is Georganic’s Zero To Landfill recycling scheme, which is basically a partnership they have with TerraCycle in which they collect and recycle used plastic toothbrush heads.
Brands who accept returns of their used products, and recycle them free of charge are basically unheard of (although Suri does this as well).
The lithium battery charge also lasts over a month long with average use, and it’s also abnormally quiet for an electric brush! And I should mention as well that the box their sonic brush is shipped in is cardboard, of course – the only plastic is the brush parts themselves.
Extra Georganics Info:
- Certified B Corp
Foreo’s electric toothbrush is pretty unique, as it’s made primarily from silicone instead of plastics, giving it a distinct look.
But is silicone better than plastic when it comes to dental care?
Like a lot of topics within sustainability, it kinda depends.
The main benefit of their silicone bristles is that they should, in theory, last much longer than nylon, which is good! Silicone is also considered more hygienic than nylon – which again extends the life of their brush heads beyond traditional ones.
Silicone is also softer than nylon, so if you have incredibly sensitive gums and teeth, this could be a nice option for you.
So, with Foreo’s silicone brush you’ll experience a soft and gentle brushing experience, and potentially even a pleasant gum massage. Although, sometimes the silicone bristles can break off while brushing – so be wary of that.
I wouldn’t really call Foreo a sustainable brand, as their products still come packaged heavily in plastic; which is unfortunate, because they do make some interesting silicone products.
Philips Sonicare & Braun Oral-B
Sonicare and Oral-B are not considered sustainable in any way, let me just be clear about that.
The reason I’ve included this section at all is because, right now, most of the best replaceable toothbrush heads are specifically made to fit onto these two brands.
So, if you already have a Sonicare or Oral-B brush, you can just keep using it by replacing your brush heads with a new and improved brand!
You may even have your dentist recommending one of these two brands, which can be pretty difficult advice to go against – as dental health is of vital importance to us all.
So, I’ll just include some links down below to the models I’ve had success with in the past, and that work with a few more replaceable brush head recommendations I’ll be going over next.
If you have an Oral-B brush or similar brand that uses a circular brushing mechanism, LiveCoco’s recyclable plastic brush heads are your best option, currently.
The brushes themselves are plastic, unfortunately; but the reason I’ve included them is due to their commitment to a closed-loop recycling system in which you can send back your used heads when they’ve run their course.
I’m not exactly sure why, but Sonicare brush alternatives are simply more common than Oral-B ones – probably due to how the brushes work (Sonicare vibrates, Oral-B spins), making bamboo Oral-B alternatives more difficult to create.
And while LiveCoco’s brush heads are plastic, the rest of their packaging is plastic-free and recyclable!
The Humble Co.
The Humble Co.’s bamboo brush heads are Sonicare compatible, and pretty comparable to Booheads.
The main difference is that their bristles are entirely nylon, whereas Boohead’s are made from a mixture of plant based bioplastics, and a small amount of nylon.
With that being said, The Humble Co.’s bristles are pretty soft, like most nylon – so they are a decent option for those with sensitive teeth!
And keep in mind, just like all of the bamboo heads in this guide there’s a small amount of plastic inside the brush heads you need to dispose of before composting, which is added for stability.
Yeah, I wish that wasn’t the case as well, but unfortunately electric toothbrushes just aren’t the most sustainable product yet.
The Humble Co. also makes pretty well-known toothpaste tablets, if you’re looking for some of those!
What are the main environmental issues with electric toothbrushes?
Most dentists recommend that you replace your toothbrush or brush head every 3 to 4 months, which is reasonable considering how filthy they can get.
But if everyone on the planet does that, it means tens of billions of toothbrush heads being replaced per year, and lots of batteries as well.
So right from the start a dilemma presents itself: brushing our teeth is essential for our health, but it also produces an excessive amount of waste.
In terms of the materials required to produce an electric toothbrush, they’re definitely less environmentally friendly than manual ones; but if you think about the resources required for potential dental procedures, it may be worth it.
If you find it difficult to maintain a regular brushing schedule with a manual brush, you’ve probably already invested in an electric one to spare yourself some pain and money wasted.
Because of all the moving parts inside of electric toothbrushes, they tend to have pretty complicated recycling guidelines, which makes it difficult for the average person to recycle them properly.
Sustainable options (at least the ones I’ve recommended) are still made from some plastic, but the packaging is way easier to recycle.
Not only that, but some brands even make partially compostable heads, which means even less waste overall.
A breakdown of electric toothbrush materials
Anyways, if you look into the manufacturing process of electric toothbrushes, you’ll quickly realize that almost every component is non-renewable, and a lot of stuff goes into making and using one:
- Battery components like lithium and cobalt
- Nylon for brush bristles
- Other types of plastic for the handle and packaging
- Energy used for charging them
Gathering materials like lithium and other metals used for batteries absolutely obliterates ecosystems – huge tracts of land are mined around the world and these mining sites will only increase in number as renewables expand.
You may be throwing away less plastic per brush head compared to manual toothbrushes, but electric toothbrushes use more resources over their entire product life cycle.
Let’s investigate batteries and electric toothbrush plastics a bit further.
The battery inside your electric toothbrush may last years if you take care of it, but you’re still throwing away the replaceable heads, and eventually the toothbrush and battery itself when it no longer holds a charge.
So batteries are a pretty big issue, although realistically toothbrushes aren’t the main priority when it comes to reducing battery waste. But, it’s still relevant.
These batteries can be made out of a variety of things like zinc, manganese, lithium, and cobalt, all of which are extracted from the planet.
Some electric toothbrushes use standard AA batteries, while others use rechargeable ones, but even these can be simple AA’s.
Either way, the components inside are mainly produced from mining or other extraction methods like brine pools. And recovering materials like lithium from brine pools leads to massive amounts of waste, uses a ton of water, and also requires heavy industrial chemical use.
Groundwater and land is polluted, animals and plants are poisoned, and massive amounts of water, fossil fuels, and energy are consumed during the extraction process as well as the refinement and actual manufacturing of the batteries.
And batteries that no longer hold a charge are also considered hazardous waste, making their disposal a more complicated issue.
Nylon and other plastics
Toothbrush bristles are usually made from nylon, which is a form of plastic that comes in different grades and levels of softness, and is perfect for things like bristles that need to be flexible.
The important thing to be aware of is that nylon production emits nitrous oxide (N2O), an elusive gas that’s around 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) in terms of its greenhouse effect.
The fossil fuel industry is, of course, widely blamed for a large portion of climate change (rightfully so).
In response to criticism about oil usage and its applications for things like making nylon, petroleum companies have begun increasing plastic production, instead of decreasing it.
Alongside pumping out plastics, fossil fuel companies are also ramping up production of other petrochemicals found in skincare products. To avoid being exposed to these kinds of ingredients, make sure to read up on plastic free skincare brands, many of which also make a lot of dental products.
Oil refineries are commonly located near low-income communities around the world, which means the people struggling the most in society are also being exposed to petrochemical pollution more often.
The pollution of the air, water, and soil around these communities is one of the worst realities of poverty, and it’s not really a topic most people are aware of.
What should you do with old electric toothbrush heads and batteries?
Eventually, your toothbrush heads will get pretty funky and you’re going to want to toss them in the trash, compost, or recycle them. Since recycling them isn’t really realistic, you can use them for a few other tasks before disposing of them.
Personally I think they’re most useful for scrubbing and cleaning hard to reach places like tiling in kitchens or bathrooms.
I’ve also gotten some use out of them by cleaning electronics or tools with them once sterilized (like computers keyboards or power tools).
If you’re wanting to get rid of an old electric toothbrush battery, before you try to recycle it – look to see if someone in your community needs a secondhand one. Dental care is really expensive, especially in places like the US, and many people can’t afford one at all.
Eco friendly electric toothbrushes aren’t a major focus of most dental care companies, but it’s an important topic to be aware of because of how many people use them nowadays.
The good news is, we do see brands making sustainable strides towards better options – using innovative materials and battery technologies to rise above the competition.