Electric toothbrushes in the test: How sustainable are the Öko-Test winners?

Electric toothbrushes Öko-Test
Photos: ECO-TEST

Brushing your teeth is part of the daily routine. Electric toothbrushes are said to contribute particularly well to dental hygiene. But are they also sustainable? Öko-Test took a closer look at 15 electric toothbrushes and came to a mixed result.

The consumer magazine Öko-Test tested 15 electric toothbrushes between 9.99 euros and 199.95 euros. The Happy Brush, which is marketed as sustainable, is also among the three rated “very good”. So can you have both? A more thorough tooth cleaning than with a manual toothbrush AND a climate-friendly product?

Electric toothbrushes: the test winners

The test results of the 7 rotary toothbrushes and 8 sonic toothbrushes were mixed. Ökotest awarded, among other things, 3x “very good”, 3x “good”, but also 2x “sufficient” and 1x “unsatisfactory”.

Happybrush electric toothbrush
The housing of the Happybrush toothbrush consists of 100 percent recycled material (Photo: ÖKO-TEST)

the best rotary toothbrush in the test is the Happy Brush R2. In the practical test for cleaning performance, it received the top mark of 1.0. At 39.95 euros, it is also relatively inexpensive. The testers rated the quality of the bristles particularly positively. Over 70 percent of the bristles are well rounded. This was not the case for all models in the test. If the bristles have too many corners and edges, this can irritate the gums.

Good to know: The housing of the Happy Brush consists of 100 percent recycled material and the brush head made from (almost) 100 percent renewable raw materials. In addition, the company is climate-neutral through projects.

Buy**: at Happybrush

Also with them sonic toothbrushes Ökotest rated two products as “very good”, but they are not advertised as particularly sustainable:

the Philips Sonicare 4300 Protective Clean convinced with one “very good”. At 59.95 euros, it is significantly cheaper than the “good” rated Philips Sonicare 9000 Diamond Care for 189 euros.
Buy**: at Amazon or Saturn

the Vitis Sonic S10 was also with “very good” rated and costs only 36.90 euros. The quality of a toothbrush obviously depends not only on the price.
Buy**: at Amazon, DocMorris or store pharmacy

The health benefits of the test winners

Studies indicate that electric toothbrushes clean more thoroughly than manual toothbrushes. However, the personal feeling that teeth cleaning is easier with an electric toothbrush plays an important role. The reasons include the smaller brush head and the built-in timer, which helps to actually brush for at least 2 minutes. However, with the right technique and time, it is also possible to use a manual toothbrush to remove plaque, plaque and bacteria.

According to the Techniker Krankenkasse, it is scientifically proven that toothbrushes lose their cleaning effect by 30 percent after three months of use at the latest. As soon as the bristles tilt outwards, you should therefore change the brush head.

How sustainable are electric toothbrushes compared to manual toothbrushes?

A British study (published in the British Dental Journal in 2020) evaluated the eco-balance of electric toothbrushes, bamboo toothbrushes, plastic brushes and plastic toothbrushes with replaceable brush heads.

The result: The electric toothbrush performed worst in comparison to the 3 manual toothbrushes. In 15 out of 16 environmental criteria, the electric toothbrush came last. An electric toothbrush, for example, produces in its life cycle 11 times as much CO2 as a bamboo toothbrush.

Manual toothbrushes or electric toothbrushes for proper tooth brushing?
Manual toothbrushes produce 11 times less CO2 during their life cycle than electric toothbrushes. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Monfocus)

Compared to other electrical devices, the power consumption of an electric toothbrush is low (according to the Stiftung Warentest, it is a few euros calculated over the whole year), but of course manual toothbrushes do not use any electricity at all. The most environmentally harmful are the production and possibly improper disposal of the battery of electronic toothbrushes.

According to the study, Bamboo toothbrushes and plastic toothbrushes with replaceable brush heads are the most environmentally friendly.

If you don’t want to do without your electric toothbrush, there are still ways to use it more sustainably. Instead of plastic interchangeable heads, manufacturers of sustainable cosmetics now offer some models Interchangeable heads made of bamboo on, for example true morning**.

Service life and battery performance of electric toothbrushes

With Ökotest, the continuous operation of the toothbrushes is simulated over 3 years. The electric models all hold up well for that long. According to the British comparative study, however, this useful life is not long enough to make it climate-neutral.

Electric toothbrushes make your teeth feel clean.  Timer functions in the brushes help to keep cleaning time.
Electric toothbrushes make your teeth feel clean. Timer functions in the brushes help to keep cleaning time. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / slavoljubovski)

In terms of performance, the Ökotest test showed that lithium-ion batteries (Li-Ion) are superior to nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-Mh) batteries. Lithium-ion batteries “are more robust in comparison and have higher chemical stability and therefore a longer service life.” The weakest batteries became weak after 100 minutes, good batteries only have to be charged after more than 300 minutes.

Buy Öko-Test electric toothbrushes as an e-paper

Electric toothbrushes in the test: conclusion

An electric toothbrush is less sustainable compared to a manual toothbrush or a miswak, especially the bamboo and removable brush head models. However, electric toothbrushes can promote your dental health. Especially if you have the feeling that you brush more disciplined and thoroughly with an electric toothbrush.

You can find more information about the test results in Edition 12/2021 as well as on oekotest.de.

Read more on Techzle.com:

  • Zero-waste bathroom: 17 practical tips for less plastic in the bathroom
  • Cleaning the electric toothbrush: This is how you get rid of residues
  • Green electricity: 4 providers without nuclear power, with whom you can’t go wrong


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