How to Clean Your Toothbrush—It Needs It!

Toothbrushes in a jar

Superkitina / Unsplash

Overview
  • Working Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Other than picking the right color, how much attention do you pay to your toothbrush? Your toothbrush, whether manual or powered, should be one of the hardest working tools in your home. It gets used at least twice a day to remove food bits, plaque, and bacteria from your teeth, gums, and tongue. Does a quick rinse with cold water after each use keep it clean? Not really!

Toothbrush bristles can harbor traces of toothpaste and bacteria from your mouth, bacteria from your hands, and if left exposed to the open air of the bathroom, fecal coliform from airborne particles from the toilet. Fortunately, with just some products you probably already have on hand in your medicine cabinet, your toothbrush can be easily sanitized.

Interesting Facts

  • The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your manual toothbrush or powered toothbrush head approximately every three to four months or more often if the bristles become matted or frayed. The effectiveness of the brush actually decreases as the bristles become worn.
  • While toothbrushes are sold with hard, medium, and soft bristles, the ADA recommends using a toothbrush with soft bristles because they minimize the risk of gingival abrasion.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Small cup
  • Toothbrush storage tube (optional)
  • UV-C sanitizer (optional)

Materials

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Alcohol-based antibacterial mouthwash
  • Denture cleaning tablets
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Cotton ball

Instructions

How to Sanitize a Manual Toothbrush or Powered Toothbrush Head

  1. Rinse With Hot Water

    While most of us use cold water when brushing our teeth, hot water is much more effective in cleaning a toothbrush. Before and after each use, rinse the toothbrush head with the hottest water available from your tap.

    Warnings

    Do not attempt to boil your toothbrush. place it in the microwave, or run it through the dishwasher. The extreme heat will begin to melt the bristles and the plastic of the toothbrush handle.

  2. Soak in Antibacterial Mouthwash

    Pour enough antibacterial mouthwash (most are alcohol-based) into a small cup to cover the head of the toothbrush. Allow the toothbrush head to soak for at least two minutes before storing it. Dispose of the mouthwash properly.

    Warning

    Before soaking or cleaning, always make sure your toothbrush is disconnected from a power source if it's electronic.

  3. Soak in Denture Cleanser

    Most denture cleansers contain disinfecting ingredients and come in an easy-to-use dissolving tablet form. Dissolve one-half of a tablet in one cup of cool water. When the effervescing stops, allow the toothbrush head to soak for one minute. Rinse well with cool water before storing or using the toothbrush. Dispose of the denture cleanser.

  4. Soak in Hydrogen Peroxide

    Pour enough fresh three-percent concentration hydrogen peroxide into a small cup to completely cover the head of the toothbrush. If the hydrogen peroxide is fresh, you should see tiny bubbles form as it goes to work sanitizing the toothbrush head. Once exposed to light, the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in the peroxide will revert to plain water so the toothbrush is safe to use after soaking. Dispose of the hydrogen peroxide and use fresh peroxide for the next cleaning.

  5. Use a UV-C Sanitizing Device

    UV-C a germicidal short wavelength, ultraviolet light that sanitizes by breaking apart the DNA of bacteria and viruses leaving the DNA unable to harm or reproduce. UV-C devices are available in various sizes to clean electronic equipment like phones and laptops but can also be used to clean toothbrushes, teething rings, car keys, and dog toys.

    Follow the manufacturer's recommended instructions for use.

How to Clean a Powered Toothbrush

The brush head of a powered toothbrush is cleaned just like a manual toothbrush after disconnecting it from the power source. Use a disinfecting wipe or a cotton ball dampened with hydrogen peroxide to clean the handle daily. The handle should be cleaned after every use if it is shared by multiple family members.

Disconnect the recharging base from the electrical source and clean it at least weekly with a disinfecting wipe. Allow it to dry completely before plugging it back into the electrical socket.

Tips to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean Longer

  • Never share a toothbrush with others.
  • Do not store a toothbrush in a shared toothbrush holder where it can touch other toothbrushes.
  • Store toothbrushes in a covered area like a medicine cabinet or drawer.
  • If storing in an enclosed case, allow the toothbrush to dry completely before storing to prevent the growth of microbes.
  • Store toothbrushes as far away from toilets as possible.
  • Use a toothpaste dispenser with a pump to prevent cross-contamination from the opening of the toothpaste tube.