How to Disinfect a Toothbrush (and When to Replace It)

See how easy it is to clean your toothbrush and why it's time to ditch the toothbrush cover.

We show you how to disinfect a toothbrush because it might be grosser than you think. Keeping toothbrushes on the counter (or tucked away in a medicine cabinet or drawer) exposes them to germs lurking in your bathroom. (Yet, your toothbrush's primary job is to remove bacteria in your mouth.)

While you might think that using a cover for the top of your brush helps keep it cleaner, the lack of airflow can create the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Now that you're sufficiently disgusted, there is hope—with a little care and consideration, you can feel confident about your oral care tools. Follow these tips for cleaning your toothbrush.

How Often to Disinfect a Toothbrush

Disinfect your toothbrush at least once a week. But, clean and rinse it every day, after each use. This will help prevent buildup on the bristles and handle.

What You Need:

  • Small bow or cup
  • Antibacterial mouthwash
  • Disinfecting wipes or clean cloth

How to Disinfect a Toothbrush With Mouthwash

Step 1: Fill Bowl

In a small bowl or cup, add enough antibacterial mouthwash to fully immerse the head of your toothbrush.

Step 2: Soak Toothbrush

Soak the toothbrush head in the mouthwash for no more than 15 minutes. (Overexposure to mouthwash can damage the bristles, so don't leave it any longer.)

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

Rinse your toothbrush with warm water. Then, let it completely air-dry.

How to Clean Electric Toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes can be disinfected in a similar manner. Simply remove the head and soak it in antibacterial mouthwash, following the steps above.

Remember that any gaps in your electric toothbrush (e.g., between the head and handle) are perfect for mold to grow. Prevent this by removing the head and wiping the base with a disinfecting wipe or clean cloth after each use.

Keep pieces separate to let them dry completely. Again, avoid covering your electric toothbrush (only do so when traveling), or look for a cover with holes to allow airflow.

How to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean Longer

These tips will help you keep your toothbrush clean between weekly disinfecting.

  • Before and after each use, rinse the bristles thoroughly with warm water to remove debris.
  • Clean the brush's handle daily by wiping it with a clean cloth or disinfecting wipe. Besides removing food particles, this also helps keep the handle free from toothpaste residue.
  • Properly dry and store your toothbrush.

How to Store Your Toothbrush

How you store your toothbrush has everything to do with its potential to harbor bacteria. Warm, moist environments help germs thrive. This is why you shouldn't use a toothbrush cover or place your toothbrush in a drawer or medicine cabinet. Instead, air-dry your toothbrush.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends letting your brush air-dry completely, upright, without touching other toothbrush heads. After rinsing, shake off the extra water and run your finger along the bristles to remove water sitting on the head. Then, place it upright in a cup or toothbrush holder to completely dry, being careful it doesn't come into contact with other brushes.

Seasonal Upkeep

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 recommendation: Avoid sharing toothbrushes, which can spread bacteria.

How Often to Replace Your Toothbrush

Despite caring for and cleaning your toothbrush regularly, replace your toothbrush every three to four months (or sooner if the bristles are noticeably frayed). If you notice discoloration or buildup or have been sick, it's also time to replace your toothbrush.

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