Apparently, the French Don’t Floss

One of the benefits of getting out of debt and working 90-hour weeks (perhaps I exaggerate but only a little) is having the means to actually take a vacation. And we did — two glorious weeks in Europe.

What an amazing experience. And by “amazing” I refer to the $9.50 dental floss. I’m not kidding. Somehow in my haste to make our flight, I forgot to pack mine. No problem, I thought. I’ll just pick it up when we get there. And that’s exactly what I did, but not quite as easily as I’d hoped.

Seeing the somewhat familiar word “Pharmacie” led me to believe I’d found a store that carried what I needed. I quickly found toothbrushes and toothpaste but, alas, no floss.

Unfortunately, the clerk’s English was on par with my French. I learned quickly that “floss” does not easily translate. She had no idea what I was talking about. Even my clever hand gestures for the intended use made about as much sense as my French. Another clerk observing suggested something to this clerk that brought the universal “ah-ha” moment. With that she dashed into a back room. After some time, out she came with the familiar package of dental floss. But only one. Not a box full to replenish the shelf stock.

Getting this far was such an effort, I didn’t think to inquire about the price. I figured a couple of euros at the most. Wrong. The charge was ?6.50, or at the time, nearly $9.50. My expensive lesson taught me two things: First, the French don’t floss. Second, opting to buy my floss while strolling Paris’ famed Champs-Elysees wasn’t exactly the wisest move. I might have done better buying a toothbrush on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

How grateful we should be that dental floss is so cheap in the U.S. Not only does floss offer an easy and reasonable path to good dental health, it offers other uses as well:

Fill the cavity of a turkey, duck or chicken with stuffing and tie the legs together with dental floss (plain please, not the minty-fresh variety).

Use dental floss to repair the mesh screening on playpens.

Floss is strong and stretchy, making it a great option when you’re hanging picture frames. Unlike braided wire, it won’t ruin the paint on the wall behind.

Use a length of dental floss to take warm cookies off a baking tray without turning them into a crumbled mess or waiting for them to cool. Just slide a piece of floss under your baked goods to keep them from sticking, then slide them gently off.

Stretch a length of floss tightly and use it in a slight sawing motion to cut through a cheesecake, birthday cake, even soft cheese. Soft cheeses like goat cheese can turn into a mushed mess if you try to cut slices with a knife. Get neat pieces by guiding a piece of floss down the cheese. This works even better than a wire-type cheese cutter!

Use floss as thread with a needle to attach buttons, repair tents and backpacks. Use it to hang pictures, sun catchers or wind chimes—Christmas tree ornaments, too.

String beaded necklaces onto floss because it is soft and flexible while very strong. The uses for dental floss are seemingly endless.

Dental floss. C’est un truc magnifique!

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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