Designing a Non-Toxic Flosser: Say Goodbye to PFAS and PTFE

When we began developing the Slate Electric Flosser in 2019, we had every intention of using tape floss in our floss heads. Tape floss, also known by a word that rhymes with “slide,” is the ultra-thin, relatively wide floss that has no surface texture and looks like shrunken-down Teflon tape (the stuff on the blue plastic roll that you use to make plumbing fixtures watertight). The reason that we wanted to use it in our flosser is because people LOVE tape floss. It’s thin, it slips right through the tightest contacts, and it rarely rips or shreds. In the end, however, we decided against using it for three main reasons, one of which was an absolute deal breaker. 

#1 It’s very difficult to manufacture a product around tape floss

I already mentioned that tape floss looks like a miniature version of Teflon. Well, not so surprisingly, the chemical makeup of tape floss is very similar to Teflon, meaning that nothing wants to stick to it. (Sounds problematic for floss right?) When manufacturing a floss head, you place a small strand of floss into the center of the mold. You then inject melted plastic into the mold and it wraps around the floss. The hope is that the floss will then be held in place when the plastic cools, but since tape floss has no texture or fibrous strands, the floss strand is not held tight. For the Slate Flosser specifically, our floss heads then go into a second mold where rubber is wrapped around the plastic. Without the floss being held tight from the first step, the floss fiber was often left out of position, which then wreaked havoc on the next step. So, while we probably could have figured it out eventually, tape floss created manufacturing headaches that were quickly resolved when we chose to use a different type of floss.

#2 Tape floss is less effective than woven floss

As I said above, due to its perfectly smooth surface, nothing likes to stick to tape floss. That includes food, plaque, and bacteria. Textured, woven floss is simply more effective at grabbing and removing the cavity-causing, sticky things that like to set up shop between your teeth. If the floss isn’t doing its job, then why would we put it in our product? The Slate Electric Flosser is designed to be the most effective flossing tool on the market and tape floss was just not going to get us there. 

#3 Tape floss contains a high percentage of PFAS 

While the above two reasons were certainly true, they weren’t total deal breakers. A study came out of Harvard while we were developing our flosser that stated tape floss and a number of other flosses had as much as 25% PFAS in their chemical makeup! PFAS and PTFE are examples of what are often referred to as forever chemicals; chemicals that take thousands of years to break down. Once they are in your system, they stay there for a long time. These two chemicals are also well-known carcinogens, and while we should do everything we can to not introduce cancer-causing substances to our bodies, it’s especially important to avoid PFAS in your floss.

Have you ever seen a movie or TV show where a drug addict rubs cocaine into their gums? The reason they do that is because one of the quickest ways to get something into your bloodstream is through the tiny blood vessels in your gums. Since the Harvard study found that people who use tape floss have higher concentrations of PFAS in their blood, we figured that it was especially unwise to put tape floss into a product where the floss is being sonically vibrated at the gumline. An electric flosser company that does use tape floss in their product says the following on their website, “There isn’t a sustainable, high-performing, PFAS-free floss out there that we’re currently comfortable using.” Call us crazy, but after learning about how toxic PFAS are, there isn’t a PFAS-containing floss that we would ever feel comfortable using.

In the end, the floss strand that we chose to use checks all of the boxes. It’s a woven strand with 450 individual little fibers. (This helps with manufacturing because the injected plastic grabs tightly to the mini rope.) The textured floss strand grabs and removes much more plaque and food from between your teeth than tape floss, and lastly, you can be comfortable knowing that the floss vibrating at your gumline is non-toxic. Flossing is meant to improve your health, not hinder it. We designed the Slate Electric Flosser with you and that goal in mind.