Dont’ Forget to Brush Between Wheels: Upcycling Old Toothbrushes

Have you been tossing your old toothbrushes into the bin without a thought? Well, it’s high time you thunk again.

Bicycling Article on

by Tamia Nelson | August 16, 2011

I don’t like to throw things out if I can find a use for them. Take old toothbrushes, for example. While most folks might think that old toothbrushes are the very definition of something that’s really, truly useless, I’d beg to differ. I find plenty of uses for mine. And since I replace my toothbrush with a new one every few months, I always have an ample supply of old brushes on hand. They see most use when I clean my bike. There’s just nothing like a toothbrush for getting grunge out of tight places. After all, that’s what they’re made for, isn’t it? Then, once a brush is good and grimy, I can throw it away without a qualm, knowing that it’s done yeoman service in its second career.

Handy Toothbrush - (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop -

I also keep one in the side pocket of my handlebar bag, where it’s ready to deal with problems ranging from bear crap fouling my tire tread—yes, bear crap; not every bear does what he does in the woods!—to a rear mech (i.e., derailleur) rendered wholly catatonic by a freezing salt-and-snow slushie. (A small spray can of WD-40 is my toothbrush’s invaluable ally when tackling jobs like that.)

So… The next time you swap out your toothbrush, don’t bin the has-been. Save it for a rainy day. After all, you can never tell what the bears will get up to on the shoulder of the road, can you?

Read more: Keep a Clean Machine

Upcycling Old Toothbrushes - (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop -

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This entry was posted in Bike Maintenance & Repair, Bike Touring, Bikes & Cycling on by .


For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.