In our advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please comment with one of your own—we’re here to help.
Question: I’m looking for a good travel toothbrush.
Doesn’t have to be electric; I prefer manual for travel. Open to suggestions, though!
In the early morning hours of April 13, I flew to Mexico City for a bachelorette party. Traveling with me, packed away at the bottom of my toiletry bag, was a full-size toothbrush with its bristles wrapped beneath a few squares of toilet paper. Embarrassing to admit, I know.
The thing is that I’d actually bought a travel toothbrush the month before for a different trip, but it was one of those mini-toothbrushes encased in a plastic cover, and something about its cheap Duane Reade–ness and the way water just kind of sat around the bristles and soaked in that plastic trapper made me think it was growing mold and germs. I threw the whole thing out when I got home.
So, anyway, we land in Mexico City first thing in the morning, and one of the girls I ended up rooming with pulls out a travel toothbrush that makes me reconsider every bathroom hygiene product I’ve ever purchased. I nearly just went ahead and trashed my toilet-paper toothbrush. This thing was the platonic ideal of a travel toothbrush. So concise, so practical, so exactly what you’re looking for in an on-the-go mouth cleaner. Everyone on the trip who saw it ended up asking her about it. She told everyone that she learned of it from a friend who used to live in Berlin.
It’s called the Tour Travel Toothbrush, and it was designed by a company called Radius, which was founded in 1980 by two architects who set out to design a better toothbrush (their first design, the Original, is displayed at the Smithsonian Institute National Design Museum). The Tour, released in 2015, is the company’s most recent design, and it works like this: When opened, it’s exactly the size of your typical toothbrush, but the Tour’s handle is hollow. When you’re finished brushing, the hollow handle opens up, the top half of the toothbrush folds back, and voilà! The whole thing collapses on itself into a perfectly packaged and manageable little device. No separate covers. No soak-y germs. Radius calls it a jackknife design, and it’s exactly how a travel toothbrush should be packaged. How no one came up with the idea earlier will remain a wonder of modern science.
You’ll notice that the Tour’s bristles are atypical in that they’re not rectangular, but rather oval. That’s because the bristles here, and on all Radius brushes, are twice as soft as your average toothbrush. To accommodate for that, there are far more of them, ready to reach every nook and cranny of your mouth without irritating your gums, no matter how vigorously you brush.
A Few More Travel Toothbrushes We Like
Something minimalist and white, for the Muji lovers out there.
Here’s something different. It’s meant for infants, but that’s also why it’s really tiny and perfect for traveling with. You just stick the bristles on your finger and brush away.
We’ve written about this Philips Sonicare before. It comes with a case for travel.
And here’s the best electric toothbrush for traveling, according to Amazon reviewers.
The above is similar to this Dazzlepro, which looks a bit like a vape when the cover’s on.
If you’re a charcoal-toothbrush person, here’s one that comes with a bamboo travel case.
And because we have to, here’s your basic travel brushes, in a pack of four.