How to Sanitize Your Toothbrush (Because It's Grosser Than You Think)
Plus why you should ditch the toothbrush cover.
You clean the rest of your bathroom, so why not your toothbrush? Keeping it out on your counter, or even tucked away in your medicine cabinet, exposes it to all of the germs lurking in your bathroom. Plus, let’s not forget that its primary job is to remove bacteria from your mouth. Now you might be thinking, Oh I have a cover for the top of mine! and while you’d think that would keep it cleaner, the lack of airflow can actually create the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Gross.
Now that you’re sufficiently disgusted, there is hope—and learning how to sanitize your toothbrush is less complicated than you think. With a little care and consideration, you can feel good about the state of your oral care tools. Here’s how to disinfect a toothbrush the easy way.
How to Properly Store Your Toothbrush
Let’s start by acknowledging that how you store your toothbrush has everything to do with its potential to harbor bacteria. Warm, moist environments help germs thrive. Let your brush air dry completely, upright, without touching any other toothbrush heads, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends. Before and after each use, rinse the bristles thoroughly with warm water to remove any debris. Pay attention to the handle of your brush, too, and wipe it clean. Besides removing food particles, it also helps keep the handle of the brush free from dried on toothpaste. Where you get into seriously gross situations is if you let all that gunk build up over time.
How to Disinfect Your Toothbrush
If you’re feeling the need to up the sanitizing power, you can soak the head of your toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash for no more than fifteen minutes. More isn’t more in this case. Overexposure to the mouthwash can damage the bristles.
Electric toothbrushes can be really tricky. Just remember that any gap—like between the head and the handle—is the perfect place for mold to grow. To prevent it, remove the head and wipe down the base each time you use it. Keep them separate to let each piece dry completely. Again, avoid covering your electric toothbrush every day (only when traveling), or look for a cover with holes that allow for airflow.
What Not to Do
There’s a lot of advice out there that recommends putting your toothbrush in the dishwasher, boiling it in water, and using a UV sanitizing light, but some of these methods can potentially damage the bristles or the entire brush. So definitely avoid these! The ADA's other big recommendation: avoid sharing toothbrushes, which can spread bacteria.
How Often to Replace Your Toothbrush
Besides these easy toothbrush care and cleaning tips, be sure to replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are noticeably frayed.