There are some industries where innovation is stagnant. Things are as they always have been, and that’s ok. Things like toilet paper, shampoo, and coffee mugs all serve their purpose, and change is not necessary.
Well in the late 80s change came to one such staple and seemed to disappear from time without a memory. I am talking about toothpaste, and more importantly, the toothpaste pump.
When I was a kid I thought tubes were a thing of the past, but I was wrong. Even the New York Times was publishing articles discussing the coming toothpaste pump battle. So whatever happened to the toothpaste pump?
Toothpaste pumps are still available if you look hard enough. Pump toothpaste are generally more expensive than tube toothpaste, as well the size and material lead to more (and unnecessary) trash.
What Is A Toothpaste Pump?
The toothpaste pump is a cylindrical device used to hold and dispense toothpaste. It stands upright and had a button on the top to activate the device. When the button is pressed the cover slides away from the opening and a small amount of toothpaste is automatically pushed out of the container.
It sounds great right. Press button, get toothpaste. What could be simpler? I remember seeing the commercials on tv outlining the convenience and even “fun” of the new innovation, and they worked. I was excited to brush my teeth!
Why Choose A Toothpaste Pump Over A Tube?
The toothpaste pump has some advantages over a traditional tube.
- It is self-opening, closing and dispensing
- Easier to use for some
- Standardizes the size of the toothpaste used
- Stands upright and takes up less counter space
- Squeezes all the toothpaste out till the end (hopefully)
- Perhaps more sanitary because the hole is at the top, away from the dirty counter
For kids, a pump seems like the perfect choice. It is easier for them to use, and because the amount of toothpaste released is automated, it can ensure excess toothpaste is no being wasted. I’ve seen plenty of toothpaste just end up in the sink when my kids are using the tube.
Why Did The Toothpaste Pump Fail?
The toothpaste pump failed mainly because of its higher cost. The toothpaste tube was much cheaper and consumers were not willing to shell out the extra money for the convenience.
The pump was also plagued with some technical issues. Because it was mechanical, it was prone to failure. I do remember having at least one pump fail on me when I was a kid. There is no failsafe. once your pump stops working, your toothpaste is probably gone.
The pump also worked bottom to top, meaning the more you use it the more top-heavy it got. This left the device more prone to falling over if knocked.
Unfortunately for the pump, the tube was evolving too. You see, tubes used to be made of metal. They were more difficult to work with than today’s softer, flexible plastic tubes that allow you to get every drop of paste out,
The pump toothpaste became a staple in my home as it did in many others I’m sure. Then it kinda just disappeared. I don’t remember ever questioning my mother on why. Likely I was older by then and the hype was gone and I just didn’t care. Toothpaste in a tube served its purpose.
And really, that is probably the main reason for the disappearance of the pump. It was solving a problem that did not exist. And charging up to 20% more to do so.