Designing the Best Manual Toothbrush
This blog post is about how we designed the best manual toothbrush on the market. It took us a few attempts and several years, but we finally did it with Nada—a beautiful metal handle and premium brush heads that make a sustainable toothbrush.
Here is the story of how it came about:
One night years ago I was brushing my teeth and a thought occurred to me. Why do we throw away our toothbrush handles?
As I brushed, I wondered what toothbrushes of the future would look like. Would we will still be using crappy, disposable toothbrushes?
I mean, buying a new toothbrush, using it for three months and throwing it away simply doesn't make sense. I understand the business model; making a toothbrush from plastic is dirt cheap. Just design it to look high-value (“Wow, look at that super-grippy, moulded plastic handle and 14 types of bristles!”) and charge way more than it’s worth.
But why replace your toothbrush every three months?
The reasons are hygiene and good oral health. Once a toothbrush has been used a few hundred times (on average twice a day for 3 months, or 90 days), it gets pretty nasty. Bits of food get stuck in the bristles and I’ll bet there is a serious germ party going on as well.
Plus, the bristles get bent and degrade, which can actually do damage to your teeth and gums. So getting a clean, new toothbrush makes sense. In fact, recent studies are starting to show that it might be wise to replace our toothbrushes more often.
So why throw out the entire toothbrush?
We need to replace the brush every few months—fine. But the whole thing? Surely the handle part doesn’t need to be tossed too? That seems like a lot of plastic waste…
As a design geek (and a bit of a hippie), the waste we produce drives me nuts. It makes zero sense to put all that time into R&D, design, production, packaging and marketing only for the toothbrush to be used for a few months.
Think of this way—plastic toothbrushes should be designed for their time in landfill. Why? Let's say we use them for 3 months before throwing them away. The next 500+ years they spend on earth is in landfill.
So why not design a toothbrush that is beautiful, functional and made to last? The brush head should be replaced every few months, but a beautiful, well designed handle might be worth keeping.
After making this realization, I wrote down three reasons to create a better toothbrush:
- I would like a beautiful and sustainable toothbrush and I think other people might too
- We dispose of over 3 BILLION toothbrushes every year (enough the circle the earth more than 12 times)
- I often forget to buy a new brush, so having a new one arrive in the mail would be one less thing to remember
A toothbrush worth owning
I love well-designed things, i.e. things that look great and work well. Design is actually a tool to solve problems, so if something looks good but doesn't work well, then it's badly designed.
So why isn’t there a better toothbrush design? Because we’ve been trained to believe that toothbrushes are disposable. Think about it: if you had always used a permanent toothbrush handle and replaceable brushes, you would probably laugh at the thought of throwing an entire plastic toothbrush away 4 – 6 times a year.
Own less stuff
I believe there is a massive change coming in how we think about and consume stuff. There is a growing movement of people who are choosing to own fewer, but higher quality things. They’re sick of the crap being sold to us in stores and are choosing to simplify their lives and save money doing it.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m as guilty as anyone. My wife and I recently did a purge of our small house and it felt awesome. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but getting rid of clutter felt freeing. Like any family with two kids, we need stuff, but the amount we’d collected was a real eye opener.
Designed to last
My day job is as a graphic designer, and, like most designers (graphic, industrial, shoe designers, architects, whatever…), I appreciate well-designed things. So in 2016 I started working on a toothbrush design that would be better for us, simplify our lives and be better for the environment.
The result is Nada—a sustainable toothbrush that we believe is the best manual toothbrush on the market today.
This is what makes Nada so good:
- Nada's aluminum handle is infinitely recyclable and lightweight, so shipping emissions are low
- Unlike disposable toothbrushes, our handle isn't covered in unnecessary grooves and ridges for 'grip', so it doesn't collect old toothpaste and bacteria
- Nada lays flat when you put it down and our brush head is elevated, so your bristles won't come in to contact with dirty bathroom surfaces
- Our brush heads have the pleasant mouthfeel of plastic, but are returned by our customers and sent to be 100% recycled at TerraCycle—a commercial recycler
- We send you brush heads in the mail—no more staring at 50 different disposable toothbrushes that all look the same and are overpriced
- Subscribe and get brush heads delivered every year—no more using a worn out, dirty toothbrush
- You can register for free brush head replacement reminders to keep you using a fresh brush head that's in good condition
- Nada is beautiful—while this isn't a 'must have', we believe beautiful things make our lives better
Thanks for reading about how we designed the best manual toothbrush!
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