We’ve had a bit of an experiment here, going on in our house, in making our own dental floss. The problem is this…dental floss is, generally speaking, nylon or teflon and paraffin wax–basically, sea turtle strangling petroleum products. And those sea turtle strangling petroleum products are, generally speaking, boxed in albatross choking petroleum products. There are, of course, some exceptions, all of which have their trade-offs:
- Eco-dent: Comes in a recyclable cardboard container, floss made of nylon, vegetable based waxes, plastic wrapping of floss inside container
- Radius: Fair trade silk floss or nylon (for the vegan option), veggie waxes, plastic box
- Woobamboo: Silk and beeswax…cardboard and plant based plastic packaging that becomes its own dispenser
- Vömel: Silk and beeswax, glass container, may be shipped wrapped in plastic…expensive, and limited distribution–though this blogger says they may ship internationally if you ask nicely
- A list with a few more options from Beth Terry
- Stim-u-dent sticks and what to do with old dental floss containers (sewing kit, first aid on the go, undercover condom holder!)
- Other options include miswak sticks, water flossers (expensive, but a one time plastic-laden purchase), and for those of you with your very own pony…horsehair (it used to be a thing, back in the day)
Right now, we are trying ahimsa silk (meaning that the silkworm was allowed to hatch before the cocoon was processed) with candelilla wax (yeah, that came in a plastic bag) and peppermint oil. Our next trial run will be with organic, natural cotton thread that I’ve found on wooden spools (though I’ll have to see how much plastic comes with the packaging).
What we’ve found so far is that the most effective method we’ve tried is also the most labor intensive–actually dipping individual sections of the thread into the wax and then pulling them out (we’re using bamboo chopsticks for this) and sort of “smoothing off” the wax using our fingertips. Good hygiene, of course, is a given…not sure you’d want to make this for anyone outside your family! Because the thread tends to break easily (we tried unwaxed first, but as someone with “tight teeth” that didn’t work so well), the wax really needs to permeate through the thread to give it effective slide and strength. We tried turning the candelilla into a bar and running the string through it a few times, which would have been less labor intensive, but also didn’t work nearly as well. To see if maybe the problem was our choice of wax, we also tried that method with silk and beeswax as a comparison, since candelilla is much harder and more brittle than beeswax, but there wasn’t an appreciable difference. I think that the candelilla is a good option, peppermint is pretty tasty, though we might try cinnamon next, and we’ll see how the undyed organic cotton compares to the silk.
Our other “next step” is trying trying to do more than 18 inches at a time… I’m going to use my sewing machine to put some of the ahimsa silk onto a bobbin, and then see if we can toss the entire bobbin in the wax, and pull it while rewinding it (admittedly by hand). I really want some of those glass dental floss containers like the German company makes, but I guess this is also good reuse for old dental floss containers! I’ll be honest, the biggest reason I’m doing this is because I can’t understand why there isn’t a compostable, vegetable-wax based, no plastic container, dental floss out there…that my vegan co-worker (she’s okay with the ahimsa silk, though some vegans aren’t, hence the reason we are going to try the organic cotton next) can’t buy on the market. Granted, my kitchen doesn’t have the whole supply chain thing worked out (the process is not plastic free due to shipping of materials used), but it does demonstrate that such a thing does work as a method of flossing!