Squeezing toothpaste back into the tube is a frequently used expression to describe something which is, for all practical purposes, impossible. Or at least far more difficult than the end results are worth. Trying to shove a semi-solid paste through a small hole into a tube, which must be inflated by this action, is not a task that I can imagine most people would bother with when a new tube can be purchased for just a few dollars.
Of course, I'm not most people.
You see, I travel a lot, and when I travel I hate to check luggage, because my luggage has been lost two and a half times (the last time it was put on the wrong plane but did indeed show up at the right airport 2 hours after my plane arrived). So I like travel-sized toiletries that will fit into the pocket of carry-on luggage, and more importantly into the sealable plastic bags that Airport Security now expects us to bring all of our 3 ounces or less of liquids and gels in. The problem is, sometimes mini-shaving cream, mini-shampoo, and mini-toothpaste are hard to find. And when you do find them, they're ridiculously expensive for their size.
The best solution to this problem is to refill the mini-bottles from your supply of regular sized bottles. The shampoo and conditioner are easy, just refill the bottles by pouring them in. Nothing tricky about that whatsoever. The shaving cream was a bit harder, but I've toughened up my face and can now shave dry,† without shaving cream or even water, without trouble (thanks to 28 Days Later which impressed upon me that this may be a valuable skill to acquire). But what about the toothpaste? Getting toothpaste from a larger tube into smaller tube would be like... well, you get the idea.
† TheLady says that shaving oil is a good alternative to shaving cream and comes in small, easy to pack bottles. Baby oil is apparently another option as well.
- lighter or matches
- Drill or Dremel rotary tool with variable speed
- 1/8" drill bit (exact size not important, but 1/8" minimum)
- large tube of toothpaste (full)
- small tube of toothpaste (emtpy)
- two additional toothpaste caps (in addition to ones on the above tubes)
Where do you get two additional toothpaste caps? I got mine by buying two additional mini-tubes of toothpaste. I can't speak for other brands, but Crest tubes come with a foil seal under the caps so you can remove them without venting toothpaste to atmosphere. All brands and sizes of toothpaste appear to use the same standard thread on their caps, so you can mix and match without difficulty.
Caution: The following steps require the sort of manual dexterity that protective gloves make very difficult. You should be able to keep your fingers well clear of any dangerous moving parts or hot flame, but only if you pay sufficient attention to what you are doing. Read all directions before proceeding.
Take a look at the caps, and you'll see there is a tall ridge around the top of each cap, surrounding a caldera of sorts. You might find it easier to do this if you trim off the ridge at the top of the cap. It caused problems for me, but I was able to work through it, so this is optional.
Light the candle and set it on a flat work surface, preferably something that would not be damaged if a little melted plastic drips onto it. Do not hold a lighter in your hand in lieu of using a candle, or the melted plastic may drip onto your fingers. Grip the two caps face to face (threaded sides out) between your thumb and forefinger. Do not use the C-clamp for this, when the plastic starts to melt it will not be able to hold the caps as well as you will be able to. Use the candle flame to gently melt and fuse the caps together. Be careful, toothpaste caps are made of soft plastic with a low melting point, so don't overdo it.
Turn the caps around in your fingers to melt all the way around and fuse them together without gaps. Then set it down to cool for a while so the plastic hardens again.
Once the caps are good and solid, put it sidewise into the C-clamp, gently, you don't want to break it. It's not fragile but crank the C-clamp enough and I'm sure you'll crack the weld. Now use your drill or Dremel to drill a hole up through the middle for the toothpaste to flow from one cap to the other. Be careful here on several points:
- Use a very low speed setting. Drilling plastic at high speeds will melt the plastic and bind it up on the bit. I used my Dremel's lowest speed.
- Be careful not to damage the threading. The threads must be intact for this to work properly. You will be screwing the ends back onto toothpaste tubes.
- The exact size of your bit doesn't matter, but I recommend a minimum size of 1/8". Any smaller and the thick toothpaste will be very hard to squeeze through the tiny hole.
Now you have a butt-splice connector of sorts for your toothpaste tubes. Simply screw a full tube of toothpaste into one end and an empty tube into the other end, and squeeze the toothpaste through. I had to squeeze harder than I thought I would have to, but I only used a 1/8" bit. Larger holes would be easier. For best results, be sure to squeeze all the excess air out of the empty tube before starting.
Congratulations! The next time someone says something is as hard as squeezing toothpaste back into the tube, you can tell them how easy it is with a little ingenuity and the right tools for the job.
Of course, this isn't technically squeezing toothpaste back into the tube, it's squeezing it from one tube into another. In the unlikely event that you do need to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube, for example if a small child thought it would be fun to squeeze it all over the bathroom counter, you will need one more item. Take an empty full-size tube of toothpaste and cut off the end with a pair of scissors, then stuff the toothpaste into this open tube. Roll up the cut end to seal it, screw it into the splice connector as usual, and roll the end up the tube until you've gotten it back into the original tube.
shaogo says there are similar devices used in the restaurant industry for squeezing ketchup, another thick liquid, back into the bottle.
Ancientsnow says Okay, you know when you press on the toothpaste tube a little too hard, so twice as much toothpaste as you need comes out, and of course, you cannot let that go to waste? For those situations, this is what I do: I get the tube and squeeze gently so that all the air inside comes out, until I see some toothpaste just on the opening, creating a supertoothpastetubevaccuum of DOOM. Then, I put the tube's opening wherever the extra toothpaste is and I let go of my grip, pressing on the sides of the before-squeezed tube so that it sucks the toothpaste back inside thanks to the supertoothpastetubevaccuum of DOOM. And voilà. This takes a while, because the amount of toothpaste sucked back in is pretty small, but it works if you have the patience.