Thursday, January 27, 2011

Second Life for an Indispensable Tool

Dentists recommend replacing toothbrushes at least every three months, sooner if the bristles begin showing signs of wear. (Those with braces likely see fraying and fractured bristles much sooner.) The bristles, once worn, lose their effectiveness – new toothbrushes apparently remove plaque up to 30% better. Worse, tatty toothbrushes are likely to cause damage to delicate gum tissues. Dentists also caution early toothbrush replacement after experiencing viral illnesses such as cold or flu. The warm, wet environment in most bathrooms make them excellent breeding grounds for germs, bacteria, and fungi, and particularly on an instrument which rarely, if ever, gets its own cleaning. 

I don't argue the points made – good health is beyond price. What bothers me is throwing away all that plastic, especially while the brushes "must still be good for something" – my thrift-mantra. So, rather than toss viable brushes, each gets second-life (once thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.) Slightly frayed toothbrushes are softer than most utility brushes and, because of their small size, are perfect for scrubbing household crevices without scratching surfaces. Their varying sizes, shapes, and bristle densities, make each toothbrush suitable for particular tasks.

Here's a Baker's dozen of toothbrush re-uses hubby and I have discovered:
  1. Household crevice-cleaning (medium- to hard-bristled, regular or denture-head, one per relevant cleaner to prevent unsafe chemical mixing.)
  2. Small appliance care and cleaning (sewing machine, mixer, food processor)
  3. Silver- and flatware cleaning (soft-bristled)
  4. Jewellery cleaning (soft-bristled)
  5. Personal care (small, children's toothbrushes work well as eyebrow & eyelash brushes, though regular sanitation is crucial.)
  6. Finger- or toe-nail care
  7. Hair-dye brush applicator
  8. Pet care: cleaning and combing sensitive areas such as face & ears
  9. Shoe care: polish or sealant applicator
  10. Shop implement (automotive, carpentry and metal-work)
  11. Gun (breach) cleaning – hubby says the shape of certain denture brushes make them ideal
  12. Fossil-hunting & rock-hounding: cleaning tool
  13. Cleaning fishing lures & tackle
Ideally, toothbrushes would be made of recyclable plastics so they needn't end up in the landfill. Sadly – at least where I live – that's not yet the case. Until that day comes, our toothbrushes only end up in the landfill when thoroughly depleted. In fact, a few still survive twenty-five years of second-life, doing gentle service and being frequently cleaned.

What are your favourite re-uses of this indispensable tool? Please leave a comment sharing your own handy hint(s)!