I squeezed the plastic tube tightly between my fingers. I had seen this coming. My toothpaste was gone. As I tossed the empty container into the trashcan, I made a momentous decision: I wasn’t going to buy another tube. After years of paying $3 for a couple ounces of paste made from ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce then filling the local landfill with the empty tubes, it was time for a change.
I spent some time online looking at different recipes for homemade toothpaste (something that my father fondly remembers) and decided that most of them looked revolting (baking soda, salt, and hydrogen peroxide). What I wanted was something that didn’t taste like straight baking soda, but had the cleaning power of the paste that I bought at the grocery store.
Eventually, I did come across a recipe that looked like it might meet my requirements and I began what would turn out to be several weeks of intense experimentation which concluded with a highly refined (and inexpensive) product well suited to my needs.
The formula I had selected called for equal parts baking soda and coconut oil (which, for anyone interested, does not even vaguely taste like coconut). My first attempt with this recipe was distinctly unsuccessful. The baking soda was present in too large a quantity for sensitive teeth or a discerning pallet. While this did suppress any chance of my accidentally swallowing my concoction, it also left me with sense that my teeth and gums would never be quite the same again.
I determined that my best bet was to reduce the intensity of the paste by increasing the amount of coconut oil. This natural disinfectant is available in most grocery stores for a few cents an ounce (more if you prefer to use the organic variety). The oil is sold in a solid form, though it melts at a fairly low temperature (around 76 degrees Fahrenheit) and a few seconds in the microwave is sufficient to render it soft enough to successfully blend with the baking soda. I finally settled upon a gentler formula that involved mixing 3 tbsp. of coconut oil with 1 tbsp. of baking soda. It didn’t foam in my mouth like the paste I was used to, but it did the job.
The next issue to be addressed was that of “scrubbing power.” While my original formula did clean my teeth reasonably well, it lacked the abrasive quality of the gritty blue stuff found in the tubes: a feature which helps to eliminate plaque and tartar buildup. In my father’s day, this issue was addressed with the addition of a small quantity of salt. Not wanting to further foul the flavor of my concoction, I chose instead to add ¼ tsp. of ground cloves. Not only did this supply the abrasive quality I was looking for, but it also helped to mute the flavor of the baking soda. So far, I was finding success.
I then proceeded to work on adjusting the flavor further with some peppermint oil. This comes in three varieties: essential oil (used primarily for massage and not recommended for internal use), candy flavoring (often containing additional preservative ingredients, but still suitable for toothpaste manufacture), and food grade (my personal favorite). After several attempts, I settled upon the addition of ¼ tsp. – just enough to mask the baking soda flavor. In combination with the cloves, it actually provides a rather pleasing taste.
The result was a successful formula for homemade toothpaste that met all of my requirements: it was effective, inexpensive, and palatable. Perfect proof that with a little time and ingenuity, you can do just about anything!
If you’d like to try making your own toothpaste, try the formula below:
1 tbsp. baking soda
3 tbsp. coconut oil
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. peppermint oil
Don’t be afraid to experiment… and when you do, share your results with the rest of us. Adventures are at their best when shared with friends!