How are plastic toothbrushes made and what alternatives are there?

Find out with Sir Sidney McSprocket!

Sir Sidney McSprocket’s been in action capturing facts – all about manufacturing!

Today he’s finding out all about toothbrushes!

Although toothbrushes can be made of lots of different materials, the vast majority are made of plastic.

Tiny granules of plastic are loaded into a huge steel pan called a vat, to be melted to make a plastic dough.

The dough is then moulded by a machine into the shape of the handle, with holes at one end for the bristles. Sometimes different colours of plastic are used and rubber may be moulded onto the plastic to help you keep a grip!

The handles are then sorted so they’re all facing the same way, with their holes upwards ready for their bristles.

The bristles are made from long strands of nylon – which is another type of plastic that can be pulled into very thin fibres. A machine cuts the bristles to the right length and pats them down to ensure they’re all equal.

The bristles are folded in half and poked into each hole – it’s a process that’s done so quickly that many hundreds of holes are filled every minute. A tiny staple is pushed over the fold and into the base of the brush so that the bristles won’t come out in your mouth.

When they’re all in place, the bristles are trimmed into shape, and the toothbrushes are then ready to be placed in their packets.

Now, whilst people have cleaned their teeth for many MANY years, the toothbrush itself only came into being around 500 years ago.

It’s thought that the Chinese made the very first ones, using bone or bamboo for the handles and bristles from a boar’s back…

Sidney McSprocket is Fun Kids’ resident inventor!

When he’s not in Edinburgh, tinkering with wacky contraptions in his workshop, he’s finding out all about manufacturing!

In the latest series, Sidney is finding out about a whole load of everyday objects from tin cans and toothbrushes to plastic bottles and Pyrex…

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Sidney McSprocket’s How’s it Made, with support from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851.

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