To stand up or not

Posted 4/26/23

When putting the toothpaste on my toothbrush yesterday, I flipped open the cap of the container, which normally stands upside down on the back of the sink.  The toothpaste came out so easily …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

To stand up or not


When putting the toothpaste on my toothbrush yesterday, I flipped open the cap of the container, which normally stands upside down on the back of the sink.  The toothpaste came out so easily that it made me wonder why anyone would use the alternative of a tube of toothpaste, something not designed to easily dispense the gel. With a regular tube of toothpaste, I squeeze and manipulate the paste out the end towards the toothbrush, leaving a deflated piece of tube in the middle.  (I am not very conscientious about working it up from the bottom.) This works fine for the first several times, but it soon becomes a challenge to squish it all out. It is hilarious to see that when it is almost empty, I continue to eke out toothpaste drop by drop for the next week or so, eventually brushing my teeth with a miniscule dap of gel.

Needless to say, my preference is for the freestanding containers with the dispenser on the bottom.  Gravity easily propels the toothpaste down and out without any strenuous squeezing or mess. Why would anyone prefer a tube of toothpaste?  However, I have difficulty finding the kind I like when shopping, with 95% of the toothpaste sold in tubes, sitting comfortably sideways on the shelves, enticing shoppers with all kinds of promises and additional attributes…whitener, protection for bleeding gums, tooth strengthening, anti-plaque, minty, deep clean, intensive repair, silly strawberry anti-cavity, watermelon vegan, arctic fresh, tartar protection, repair and protect, sensitivity, charcoal, anti-gingivitis, tea tree oil, intense stain, charcoal tooth powder, and with vitamins A,C and E.

Initially, toothpaste was sold in jars containing tooth powders for teeth cleansing. The first toothpaste tubes appeared in the 1880s and were made entirely of metal. The inventor, Sheffield, got the idea for the tube from his son who had traveled to Paris and saw artists using oil paint from metal tubes. Metal tubes stayed stay coiled up from the bottom and were less likely to draw air back inside because the paste stays put at the top opening. However, there was also a distinct functional disadvantage of the metal tubes, which were likely to tear or get a hole in them when rolled up. The toothpaste could come out of the perforations, getting messy. The paste could also become dry and cakey from the air getting into the tube.

In the 1940s, the War Production Board restricted consumer use of many types of metal, including tin, lead, and aluminum, creating a potential crisis in the toothpaste tube industry. Manufacturers began creating toothpaste tubes from aluminum and plastic while most of the tin and lead supply went for military usage and eventually all-plastic toothpaste tubes were introduced in the 1990s, rapidly replacing the plastic-aluminum combination.

My preference, as noted above, is for the stand-up containers of toothpaste which were developed by the German firm Henkel. This stand-up tube solved the perennial problem of getting to the last bit of toothpaste. Unlike traditional toothpaste tubes, they do not require outside packaging, saving that space in landfills. They are smaller, compact and save space, sitting easily on our relatively small bathroom counter. They are also easy to reclose. I remember many a time when one of us lost the top of a conventional toothpaste tube, which left it spewing errant toothpaste on the counter, hardening and unusable. I also remember getting frustrated trying to squeeze out every last drop, something that is easily accomplished using the stand-up container.  The recommended solution for this is to use a key thingy on the end of the tube, but this only caused me more frustration.

Apparently, not many people agree with my preference for the stand-up tube. They are not very popular, sales have not been spectacular, and not many brands sport stand up tubes anymore. I stand by my commitment, however, even though it costs about 20% more. It is a price I am willing to pay for the convenience.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here