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Refilling a Toothpaste Tube for Fun and Convenience

Yesterday morning, I refilled a toothpaste tube. I’m not proud, but I did it. (Well, okay, maybe I’m a little proud…)

This wasn’t really an issue of frugality (although those travel-sized toothpaste tubes are a ripoff). Rather, it was a an issue of convenience and efficiency… I was packing up to head out of town when I realized that my travel-sized toothpaste was nearly empty. Given that the TSA says you can’t carry more than 3 oz. of toothpaste on an airplane (the same goes for other gels/liquids), this just wouldn’t fly — literally.

The problem is, I was on a tight schedule, and I didn’t want to stop off at a drugstore on the way to the airport. I also didn’t want to count on the hotel on the other end providing me with toothpaste (many do, but not all of them). So as I looked down at the sink, an idea hit me…

Why not simply refill my travel toothpaste from the larger tube that we use every day? I removed the caps from both the travel-sized and regular tubes, pressed their “nozzles” tightly together and started gently squeezing the larger tube. Lo and behold, it worked great. The travel-sized tube started to fill up with virtually no leaking or mess.

I am now the proud owner of a Colgate mini-tube filled (mostly) with Crest. More importantly, I was able to do this in about 15 seconds as opposed to having to make a side trip to the drugstore.

Photo Credit: Janmi

Posted by on September 6, 2007.

Categories: Frugality, Travel

25 Responses

  1. Your personal finance wisdom knows no bounds. 😉

    by Anonymous on Sep 6, 2007 at 9:53 am

  2. you have to be kidding me… ahhahahahaha this is ridiculous

    by Anonymous on Sep 6, 2007 at 10:14 am

  3. I think you’re brilliant! Great tip!

    by Anonymous on Sep 6, 2007 at 10:24 am

  4. How sad is it that as I read this I keep thinking, “Wow, why didn’t I think of that?”

    I haven’t refilled a tube, before, but I have gotten every last tiny bit out of the tube including resorting to using a toothpick and cutting it open. Granted, it was a very expensive tube of toothpaste that my wife and I only use once a day, but still…

    by Anonymous on Sep 6, 2007 at 10:26 am

  5. Nice tip; I didn’t think refilling a tube could be so easy. Since I travel more than a few times a year, I’ll be doing this as well.

    by Anonymous on Sep 6, 2007 at 10:56 am

  6. That’s kind of nuts. What I do is stop using the regular sized tube when I’m down towards the end. I keep that one for travel and pull out a new tube. I realize on short notice, this stunt was your best bet, but you are darned lucky. I kind of picture a Buster Keaton/Charlie Chaplin routine with stuff dribbling out everywhere. Now that’s entertainment!

    by Anonymous on Sep 6, 2007 at 11:43 am

  7. Mapgirl, unfortunately, they don’t allow anything larger than a 3.2 oz container no matter how much it contains. As long as your almost empty container is less than 3.2 oz, then you are fine. If it is larger, you run the risk of being forced to toss it.

    Nickel, not a bad idea. 😉

    by Anonymous on Sep 6, 2007 at 8:43 pm

  8. I can’t believe there is someone else out there that does this and I can’t believe that someone hasn’t come up with a larger container that can be refilled from or an adapted that can be screwed to each tube to make it a little less messy. I’ve been refilling travel tubes for years.

    by Anonymous on Sep 7, 2007 at 6:52 am

  9. I should make fun of you, but I do this regularly with my hair gel. Somehow I get plenty of small toothpaste from my dentist visits.

    Be proud!

    by Anonymous on Sep 7, 2007 at 7:19 am

  10. How about not brushing you teeth on the plane and bring a full size toothpaste in your luggage? Eat gum for 10 hours won’t kill you 😉 and you will save a lot of time! 🙂

    by Anonymous on Sep 7, 2007 at 8:15 am

  11. Jonathan: I should make fun of you simply based on the fact that you use hair gel. 😉

    TFB: I don’t check luggage when I fly for business. It’s really not worth waiting around to check the bags in or to pick them up at baggage claim just so I can bring a full-size toothpaste.

    by Nickel on Sep 7, 2007 at 8:20 am

  12. I’ll have to remember that. It sounds awfully tricky, though.

    by Anonymous on Sep 7, 2007 at 1:21 pm

  13. Shhhh – don’t tell TSA

    by Anonymous on Sep 7, 2007 at 7:05 pm

  14. Done the same thing with everything. Especially with the rigid rules now.

    by Anonymous on Sep 12, 2007 at 9:28 am

  15. I hope to never be so frugal as to feel the necessity to do this, however, as a business traveler I have been in the same situation of need a 3oz or less container. I might end up trying it sometime if the situation presents itself. Most hotels will give up a free travel size of most personal hygiene products.

    by Anonymous on Sep 14, 2007 at 9:14 am

  16. Hi,
    I found a great way to do it clean. Go to the hardware store and ask for a “sample” piece about 1 inch of 1/2inch inside diameter clear vinyl tubing. You can use it as a transfer tube. Check out and comment on my video;

    by Anonymous on Nov 28, 2007 at 12:30 am

  17. Honestly, my way is cleaner. Nothing escaped, and I wasn’t left with a little piece of vinyl tubing with toothpaste inside of it.

    by Nickel on Nov 28, 2007 at 7:08 am

  18. I was unpacking, refreshing and putting my suitcase out of my sight for a week when it hit me– My little thing of toothpaste was damn near empty. This would sure be a hassle come Monday when I leave again for basically a couple weeks. Then I thought about how cool would it be to have a small toothpaste tube that was refillable. Brain is instantly full of freezer bag zips and other hard to explain contraptions.

    Surely I wasnt the first to think of this???

    I googled it kind of hoping nothing would come up, although I figured it would. Sure enough there was what looked to be a ton of links on the subject.

    After about a whole 2 seconds of research I find this site, run and try it. Works like a charm 1.8oz of toothpaste once again!! I do, however recommend blowing the empty tube up first.

    Maybe I am not as smart as I think I am, but I think its pretty cool and in a small significant way it will improve my life.

    Thanks Nickel!

    by Anonymous on Feb 8, 2008 at 5:55 pm

  19. I think its a great idea, long ago I bought small travel size bottles for my shampoo, conditioner and body wash, why not refill the travel toothpaste tube too?

    I usually have plenty from my dentist and I am also dubious about if I would be able to make a non-messy transfer from one tube to another, but it is worth a shot!

    by Anonymous on Sep 8, 2008 at 9:50 am

  20. Not only did you take the time to practice thrifty living, you took the time to write an article about this.
    But, I am not mad at you.
    This economy has me looking at the following:
    1. home made shampoo
    2. lots of thrift stores
    3. how to melt shaved soap, and make my own liquid hand soap.
    4. how to make my own detergent with borax and something else – – – I forgot what
    5. how to make my own lip balm (google search)
    2 tsp. Petroleum Jelly
    1/8 tsp. Honey
    10 mini Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips (any brand will do though)
    1/8 tsp. Shortening (Crisco)

    and drum roll please . . . . .
    Bath Powder Recipe 4:

    1/2 cup cornstarch
    >2 tbsp arrowroot powder
    2 tbsp baking soda
    A few drops of essential oils of your preference

    by Anonymous on Oct 20, 2008 at 2:38 pm

  21. For medical reasons I cannot use mint-flavored toothpastes, but I have never seen travel sizes of cinnamon-flavored toothpastes. You solved a big problem for me. Thanks for this tip!

    by Anonymous on May 29, 2009 at 11:31 am

  22. Well, all these people can be skeptical and withering all they want – they came to this site and read the article so no matter their attitude they have the same issue we all do! My issue was not only the cost – in my grocery store the .85 oz travel size cost 50% MORE than the 6 oz. full size – but the size. I was once lucky enough to find toothpaste with “free travel size tube” of 2 oz. which was perfect. I’m on my last tube of that. .75 oz. is good for maybe a week? I need more! I’m definitely going to try to refill my 2 oz. tube with this method!

    by Anonymous on May 28, 2011 at 8:04 pm

  23. Okay – reporting back. I tried it and it worked! I found you have to really hold the tubes together really tightly and also, after a while it did begin to ooze out the seam between the tubes even though I was holding them tightly together and even though there appeared to be still room left in my 2 ounce tube.

    by Anonymous on May 30, 2011 at 10:12 pm

  24. Of course the tubes must be flexible plastic ones, not the older tough metal.

    by Anonymous on Jun 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm

  25. The toothpaste I prefer to use doesn’t come in travel-sized tubes, so this hint came in real handy for me.

    by Anonymous on Jul 10, 2011 at 8:02 am

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Hello and welcome. I’m “nickel”, and I’m the guy who runs this place. I’m a thirty-something family man with a loving wife and four wonderful kids. I’ve been sharing my thoughts on various topics related to money and finance here on FiveCentNickel since May 1, 2005. While my wife and I have always been pretty […]more →