Anyone who has read my Zero Waste Wishlist will know that I have been wanting this particular swap for a while. Before jetting off to school again for the fall, I felt like it was the perfect time for me to buy a LastSwab so that I could avoid having to buy cotton swabs for my apartment.
The LastSwab itself is only around $15, but part of me put off buying it for so long simply because I still had access to cotton swabs my mom or I had bought. Another part of me just thought that $15 was an absurd price for a swab, but after looking at the impact of single-use cotton swabs, I felt like it was a good change to make. One thing that I will say that irked me a little bit about this product is the fact that it isn’t meant to last forever as the name would suggest. It won’t be the last swab you ever buy because it only lasts for around 1000 uses. I don’t swab my ears every day, only when I feel like my ears need to be cleaned. I did the math, and even if I used this swab once every other day, I would get to 1000 uses in a little over 5 years ($3 per year). That isn’t terrible, but part of me still wishes that number was higher.
Of course, I didn’t know about the 1000 uses until after I had gotten my package. The packaging itself boldly proclaims, “YOU JUST SAVED THE PLANET FROM AT LEAST 1000 COTTON SWABS.” The addition of “at least” on the packaging makes me hopeful that this swab is more durable than I think and that the marketing department just threw out 1000 as an impressive number they could still back up. But enough about that and onto the full review.
The LastSwab comes in a small cardboard box that is just big enough to fit around the product itself. When you open it there are some instructions on the inside of what to do and what not to do with your swab. I’ve seen a few companies, like OrganiCup, that are taking this approach with their packaging instead of just adding a little paper booklet, and I personally think it is a great way to cut down on waste.
As stated on the packaging, the LastSwab is not for use with acetone or nail polish removers, so keep that in mind if you are looking at buying it for that purpose.
I got my swab in their sea turtle green color, which I would compare to a very light pistachio color. The swab came inside its case, which just swivels open and shut for ease of access. I don’t know why this is, but I kind of thought that the swab would be bigger than it actually was. It just looked tiny in the case and felt small in my hand, but when I compared it to a regular cotton swab, they were basically the same size. The middle rod on the LastSwab was a bit thinner than the cotton swabs that my mom had, but it feels very sturdy and rigid.
Another part of the swab that was not like I thought it would be were the actual tips of the swab. I initially thought that they would feel like a soft silicone material that had a little bit of give to them, but they actually felt like they were made of the same material that the rod was. I was expecting the parts that actually go into your ear to be softer and pliable, but these were far from it.
I looked to the FAQs on the LastObject website and found this for the swabs materials:
“The swab ends are TPE, the rod is plastic, and the case is PLA which is made of corn and is biodegradable.”
TPE is a thermoplastic elastomer that is supposed to have the qualities of rubber but the recyclability of plastic. Personally, I don’t get any “rubber-like quality” from the ends of the swab. To me it just feels like hard plastic.
Using the LastSwab
Putting my opinions on materials aside, I decided that I needed to try out the swab before I make any real judgments. On the packaging, they state that you should not put the Last Swab too far into your ear, which is a steadfast rule with all cotton swabs. I basically have found that it is best to just put in the swab until I can no longer see the swab end. It is a lot shallower than what I would go with a normal cotton swab, but the harder and more rigid ends of this swan don’t really make me want to plunge this thing into my ear canal.
Since I have the basic version of the LastSwab, the ends of my swab have these little bumps all over to help with cleaning your ear, and boy do they feel weird at first. But around the third time using it and knowing what to expect, I really didn’t mind the feeling. I think the more you use something like this, you get better at knowing what to do and any techniques that could help you clean your ears better.
After using, LastObject suggests you clean your swab with warm soapy water. I saw some people’s reviews talking about how this is a hassle compared to what they are used to, but the whole point of having the LastSwab is to reuse it and not throw it away after using it. I personally don’t find this to be an annoying step in the process since I’m already so used to rinsing and washing other things in my routine after using them, like my menstrual cup and my guasha.
So if I’m being completely honest, as of right now, the LastSwab isn’t really what I was expecting it to be, so I’m definitely still processing a bit of let down with this product. I do think that it could be improved with some very minor details, like softer, more poliable swab ends (maybe made of silicone?) and an uptick in durability to be substantially more than 1000 uses.
I don’t hate the LastSwab, as it does what it was meant to do, but I don’t absolutely love it as much as I was going to. I have no idea of knowing if this is from my misconceptions about what the product would be like before buying it or if it is because I truly don’t fully like the product. I’m thinking that over time and after using the LastSwab for a longer period of time that my tune about it could definitely change. It solves a very apparent waste problem, albeit not for forever.
If you are someone who does seem to go through a ton of cotton swabs, then I do think that the LastSwab would be a beneficial buy for you. If you are more like my roommate, and don’t really use them all that often, if at all, then I don’t really think that the investment would be worth it for you. There are a ton of knockoffs of the LastSwab that are just drop shipped versions of the product and not high quality and not made ethically or sustainably, so I would definitely implore you to buy a reusable swab from LastObject, since they were the first ones to really come up with this idea, and should get a lot of credit for that.
I am going to continue using my LastSwab, and I might even do an update to see how the durability of the swab is with my continued use and if I end up changing my tune about my initial qualms with this product.