How to Sanitize Your Toothbrush (Because It's Grosser Than You Think)

Plus, why it's time to ditch the toothbrush cover.

You clean the rest of your bathroom, so why not clean your toothbrush, too? Keeping it out on the counter or tucked away in a medicine cabinet or drawer exposes it to the germs lurking in your bathroom. Plus, let's not forget that its primary job is to remove bacteria from your mouth. And while you'd think using a cover for the top of your brush would keep it cleaner, the lack of airflow can actually create the ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

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 confident about your oral care tools.

How to Properly Store Your Toothbrush

How you store your toothbrush has everything to do with its potential to harbor bacteria. Warm, moist environments help germs thrive. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends letting your brush air-dry completely, upright, without touching any other toothbrush heads. 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 toothpaste residue.

How to Disinfect Your Toothbrush

If it's time to sanitize your toothbrush, soak its head in antibacterial mouthwash for no more than 15 minutes. Easy! However, overexposure to mouthwash can damage the bristles.

Electric toothbrushes, on the other hand, 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 the base after each use. Keep pieces separate to let them dry completely. Again, avoid covering your electric toothbrush every day (only when traveling), or look for a cover with holes to allow airflow.

What Not to Do

While some sources recommend putting your toothbrush in the dishwasher, boiling it in water, and using a UV sanitizing light, these methods can damage the bristles or the entire brush. The ADA's other big recommendation: Avoid sharing toothbrushes, which can spread bacteria.

How Often to Replace Your Toothbrush

While toothbrush care and cleaning can keep them in good shape, replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are noticeably frayed.

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