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Tech Diary — August 10, 2023

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Tech Diary — August 10, 2023

There are repairable smartphones, but not repairable toothbrushes

The battery in my electric toothbrush is so weak that I have to charge it after each brushing session. That wouldn’t be a problem if I had an inductive charging thing by the sink and always parked my toothbrush on it. But not all sinks I frequent have a power outlet, and this toothbrush—a rather cheap one—only came with a charger thingy with a USB port. USB is not available on any sink that I know of. So after cleaning I would have to remember to take them to the nearest USB port and I never think about that.

I ask the internet if I can change the battery. The internet says yes. All you have to do is open the case, unsolder the old battery and solder the new one in again. In 2021 I got soldering tools for Christmas and so far I haven’t had a reason to use them (or only ones that don’t match my previously non-existing soldering skills). But now!

I open the case of the toothbrush using a good tip from iFixit: put a screw in the hole at the end and pull the cover out on that screw.


Then I watch two desoldering videos, heat the solder in three places, and use a pump tool to suck it out of my multi-piece soldering tool. That’s fine.

Unfortunately, the battery cannot be removed afterwards. Technical diary reader Dokape later explains at Mastodon: “The soldering lug of the battery was still not completely free on the circuit board, so you couldn’t disconnect the battery.
You would have had to heat the battery’s solder tail with the soldering iron until the solder is liquid and at the same time pull the battery’s connector through the circuit board. Then the other connection. With practice the flux goes, as a beginner you fail at it.”

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But I don’t know that at the moment, so I lever around with a screwdriver, first carefully and then more and more energetically, until one of the tiny SMD components crumbles off the circuit board when I hold it in the wrong place.


The tiny thing is missing here.

There’s no way I can solder it back on. So the toothbrush is junk now, but since I would have thrown it away without this experiment, I’m only sorry in that it was a toothbrush that was only a few years old and good apart from the battery. It had only a few functions and therefore rarely annoyed me with unnecessary beeps.

I search the internet for repairable toothbrushes. Cell phones have it now, so why not toothbrushes? Firstly, a battery replacement is predictably necessary after a few years and secondly, it is not rocket science.

I find many toothbrushes advertised as sustainable. Their sustainability lies in the fact that their housing is made of wood or bamboo. A single toothbrush advertises that it can be repaired, but you are not allowed to open it yourself either. You have to send them in. And their replacement brushes (very special, of course) are only available in the UK.

Then I find a battery-powered toothbrush. Instead of this battery, I could put a standard rechargeable battery in the toothbrush and then take it out and charge it. I could even have several batteries (which I already do because of the VR glasses) and then maybe never have to brush my teeth manually with the toothbrush that has stopped.

Unfortunately, reviews of this battery brush say that it brushes teeth much weaker than other toothbrushes from the same brand that have built-in batteries. Maybe that has to do with the fact that the battery I couldn’t remove from my brush is 3.6 volts and regular AA batteries and accumulators are only 1.5 volts.

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If anyone has already solved the problem, I would appreciate a message. Until then, or until I think of something better, I’ll brush my teeth just like I did thirty years ago: badly, but with my own rechargeable power.

(Kathrin Passig)

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