2019 Master List: Dental Floss

In my post, The Quick and Dirty Guide on how to Clean Yourself Up, we reviewed a lot of issues that you can encounter when trying to shop more ethically. Sadly, there’s so much crap out there, both online and in stores, to worry about. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and psych yourself out from doing the research, or finally commit to a product in order to phase out the stuff you’re already using.

In the interest of making your life easier, I’ve been coming up with lists of (gender-agnostic) self-care products, in addition to home cleaning products, that you can trust are safe bets for both your health and the planet. You can find all of the 2019 Master Lists here.

In this post, we’re going to be covering dental floss.


Unfortunately, this post requires a bit of a preamble, because not all the product selections here are cruelty-free in the harvesting process. Let me explain:

There are two types of dental floss that are currently readily available in the (US) market:

  1. plastic-fiber floss (usually some type of nylon, but other varieties include things like teflon and other known carcinogens)
  2. biodegradable floss

In regards to the former, I strongly discourage the use of plastic-based floss. Presently, there’s no reliably good way to recycle plastic dental floss (its size and shape is problematic for recycling machinery and it tends to muck them up), and so it unavoidably ends up in landfills. In other, worse cases, it gradually makes its way into bodies of water where it can cause immense damage to wildlife.

In regards to the latter, there are only two varieties of biodegradable dental flosses I’ve encountered: silk and plant-fiber flosses. Unfortunately, my experience has been such that plant-fiber flosses do not tend to perform very well, and so I can’t exactly come out singing their praises to you.

This brings me to silk floss, which, although very effective (once you get used to it), is especially unkind to silk worms, as they are usually cooked alive during the harvesting process.

Yes, you read that right, they’re usually cooked alive. There is a variety of silk on the market that’s called “peace,” or “ahimsa,” silk, which is positioned as kinder in the harvesting process than regular silk (mostly because it doesn’t involve killing them in an oven during the harvesting process).


The kindness factor, however, is debatable: if you read through this discussion of ahimsa silk, you’ll note that there’s definitely a lot left to be desired in the whole ordeal: namely, that this process effectively lets thousands of eggs either dry out and die, or the hatched caterpillars necessarily die of starvation because there’s not enough food to support the total population.

If you’re not keen on reading all about it, the takeaway is basically that it’s virtually impossible to care for all the resulting colonies birthed from silk worms. If one silk moth lays (conservatively) 100 eggs, and they’re allowed to mature into moths that can each lay 100 eggs, then within that next birth cycle there will be up to 10,000 silk worms in need of food.

Basically, if a silk producer goes the “peace” route, they end up allowing a bunch of creatures to hatch only to be killed off through starvation (or consumption, as some parts of the world consume silk worms as a snack) within a matter of days. This isn’t necessarily because they want to kill their silk moths, but simply because the exponential growth of silk moth colonies is too prohibitive of trying to keep them all alive.

Ultimately, whether you want want go with conventional silk floss or ahimsa silk floss (or plant-based floss) is up to you and your comfort level.


Product Picks

Given what we’ve just covered about biodegradable dental floss, the below products meet the following criteria:

  • cruelty-free: no animal testing has been done for the product to reach market and no animal-derived ingredients are included if the harvesting process can cause harm to the animal (e.g., lanolin harvesting).
  • environmentally responsible: the ingredients listed on the label are of nonexistent or relatively low risk to the environment. This means that the harvesting processes for the products’ materials are more environmentally sustainable, and the product is able to degrade without harm to the absorbing ecosystem.
  • non-hazardous: the phrase “non-toxic” isn’t a regulated phrase, so we’re sticking with “non-hazardous” to keep a safe distance from meaningless marketing terminology. In this case, you should take “non-hazardous” to mean that the product, when used as intended (don’t drink it or bathe in it if the label doesn’t tell you to do so), poses overall less risk of experiencing negative side effects associated with exposure to various chemical compounds.
  • consistent results: the product delivers comparable results to conventional products, and works the way you want it to work significantly more often than it does not.

Author’s Note

As usual, this list isn’t sponsored in any way. The products listed below are products that come from brands with which I have experience (direct or indirect, through friends and family) or into which I personally have done extensive research.

Peace “Ahimsa” Silk-Based Dental Floss

Georganics Silk Dental Floss

Starter pack: $7.00 ($6.10 with S&S)
Refills: varies, see cons comments and product listing for details

Pros

  • Ahimsa is PETA-certified as cruelty-free
  • Silk-based floss is fairly durable and provides a suitable alternative to plastic flosses
  • Biodegradable
  • No plastic packaging: floss spools are stored in glass bottles, and come in recyclable paper boxes
  • Minimal post-consumer waste, as glass is reusable and can be repurposed
  • Ideal solution if you’re trying to live a zero- or low-waste lifestyle

Cons

  • Despite cruelty-free credentials, there are still cruelty components of silk floss (as discussed above)
  • Silk floss is not vegan
  • Their biodegradable floss is offered only in cardamom flavor
  • Refills aren’t readily offered outside of the UK/EU, so it’s more cost-effective to use the Subscribe & Save option available through Package Free Shop (which includes the glass container, resulting in slightly more waste)

Georganics Ahimsa Peace Silk Dental Floss Starter Pack

Georganics Ahimsa Peace Silk Dental Floss and Container
$7.00 for container and single spool
$6.10 if purchased using the Subscribe & Save option

Georganics Ahimsa Peace Silk Dental Floss Refill Pack

Georganics Ahimsa Peace Silk Dental Floss 2 Spool Refill Pack
$9.06 for 2 30m spools ($4.53/spool)
+ shipping fees (~$11 to the United States)

Conventional Silk-Based Dental Floss


TreeBird Eco Floss

Starter pack: $9.99
Refills: $6.49/spool

Pros

  • Silk-based floss is fairly durable and provides a suitable alternative to plastic flosses
  • Biodegradable
  • No plastic packaging: floss spools are stored in glass bottles, and come in recyclable paper boxes
  • Minimal post-consumer waste, as glass is reusable and can be repurposed
  • Also comes in a bamboo toothbrush bundle, which is an amazing swap for regular plastic toothbrushes that go into landfills when discarded and don’t biodegrade
  • Ideal solution if you’re trying to live a zero- or low-waste lifestyle

Cons

  • Silk floss is not vegan or completely-cruelty-free
  • Initial price for one floss spool and the container is costly


Wowe Biodegradable Silk Floss

Starter pack: $14.95
Refills: $2.99/spool

Pros

  • Silk-based floss is fairly durable and provides a suitable alternative to plastic flosses
  • Biodegradable
  • No plastic packaging: floss spools are offered in metal container, and come in recyclable paper boxes
  • Minimal post-consumer waste, as container is reusable and can be repurposed
  • Ideal solution if you’re trying to live a zero- or low-waste lifestyle
  • Cheapest offering of conventional silk flosses

Cons

  • Silk floss is not vegan or completely-cruelty-free
  • Metal jar doesn’t allow you to see how much product you have left (although some may like this)

Plant-Based Dental Floss


Goodwell Co. Dental Floss

$6.00 for 40 biodegradable flosser/picks

Pros

  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free
  • Made from biodegradable materials
  • Packaged in biodegradable paper sleeves and paper box

Cons

  • Plant fibers may not be organic
  • Your mileage may vary in regards to efficacy: plant fiber dental floss is often more prone to breakage
  • Because it’s more delicate than silk-based dental flosses, these are likely not suitable for those with especially tightly-spaced teeth

Goodwell Co. Goodfloss Plant-Based Dental Floss

$6 for 40 flossers ($0.15/floss)

A few quick notes:

  • there are some other eco-friendly dental floss options out there that I considered including in this post, but since they didn’t have reliably good reviews and I haven’t personally used them, I figured there’s no good reason for me to recommend them.
  • some of these brands offer alternative dental floss options (Georganics, for example, has a “bamboo charcoal” floss that you can find in their online store). If these brands offer options that aren’t included on this list, it’s because they contain some form of plastic or non-biodegradable fiber that makes it not eco-friendly.

Have you used eco-friendly dental floss in the past? Have any experience that you’d like to share or questions you want to ask me? Let me know in the comments section!

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