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Leave No Trace... toothpaste?

Just wondering what some of your ideas are..  we all know that LNT principles are important and we follow them.  Often, however, when I camp in a well-used campsite I find dried white toothpaste stains on nearby plant leaves or on the ground.  Someone was brushing and used the bushes as a sink.

I find that having an extra zip-lock bag allows me to brush and carry out my toothpaste waste.  It's kind of messy, and limits how much you can rinse, but works.  What are some of your solutions for this?

10 Replies

1/4 Cup of Baking Soda, is less abrasive than commercial toothpastes) that dislodges plaque on teeth, breaks down stain causing molecules, and neutralizes pH.

While Baking Soda can't protect your teeth from cavities as effectively as a fluoride toothpaste can, it's still considered a good cleaning agent for your teeth.

Baking Soda contains no harmful chemicals and poses no danger to children or pets unless it is ingested in large amounts.

Baking Soda is completely biodegradable and does not pollute ground water.

seems right. This from the Journal of the American Dental Association

although I'm not sure sure what you mean by 1/4 cup? ...A bit on a wet brush should do.

Generally,  I have just used toothpaste which I either spit it in the fire pit if there is one at the campsite or bury it if not.  Spitting it in a cat hole works...better if you do that first.

I'll consider baking soda going forward since it seems more effective than plain water and simplifies some things.  Baking soda also has other minor medicinal uses which toothpaste does not so carrying a small amount seems worthwhile.


1/4 Cup Container. 


Do we really need toothpaste when backpacking? I just use water these days

REI Member Since 1979

Over the top in my opinion worrying about toothpaste which is bio degradable, dental hygiene trumps alternative sources for cleaning teeth, again my opinion only. I do agree slobs will spit it all over ( poor upbringing I guess) I personally spit it into the fire or cat hole latrine, practicing LNT. 

@MichaelL - Great question, and a topic I find very important!

Personally, I always spit my toothpaste into my garbage bag I pack out (whether car camping or backpacking). Many standard toothpastes are not biodegradable, and even if they are, they still take time to degrade and are not ingredients you would typically find in that wilderness area. 

Spitting my excess toothpaste into my garbage bag is an easy solution for me to make sure I leave as little trace as possible. 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Since I only go for overnights or two nights at a time right now, I don’t bother with toothpaste. A little bit of baking soda is all I use

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Obviously, people here have really sharp eyes,  I must say that I don't think toothpaste residue is an overwhelming problem requiring much attention.  The scourge could easily be banished if only they would market camo toothpaste!  We can only hope.

I like to stay away from overused campgrounds anyway.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I personally spit into fire pits if there is one. When there isn't, I try to find a spot away from camp and get close to the ground to spit so it is condensed into one spot. Then after I pour water on it til it's diluated enough that I can't tell I ever spit there. Also a tip is to use minimal amounts of toothpaste, don't just glob it on like at home.