How to Clean Your Toothbrush

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 08, 2022
5 min read

You probably brush your teeth every day to keep them clean. You should clean your toothbrush regularly, too. Read on to learn how to disinfect your toothbrush and keep it clean. 

Your mouth is home to many different types of germs and bacteria. When you brush your teeth and tongue, the bacteria, saliva, toothpaste, food debris, and blood stay on your toothbrush. Studies have found that even after rinsing a toothbrush with water, it can still be contaminated with microorganisms.

Experts say that thousands of different types of microorganisms can grow on toothbrush handles and bristles. Many of these are harmless and are naturally found in your mouth. But some can cause illnesses, like the flu. 

Scientists say that there's no evidence that using a toothbrush with normal bacteria on it will lead to oral infections or other health problems. But it's a good idea to keep your toothbrush clean just in case.

If you're looking for the best way to disinfect a toothbrush, you have several options. But first, you should note that experts don’t recommend putting your toothbrush in the dishwasher or microwave because the heat may damage it.

UV sanitizer. A study found that an ultraviolet toothbrush sanitizer is more effective than saline and antiseptic mouthwash (chlorhexidine gluconate) for toothbrush disinfection. Other experts say that using a UV sanitizer is not necessary and may damage your toothbrush.

Disinfecting solutions. Some studies have found that soaking your toothbrush in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution or antibacterial mouthwash can help kill any bacteria that may be on it.

To make and use this solution: 

  1. Mix 1 teaspoon of peroxide in 1 cup of water 
  2. Swish the bristles of your toothbrush in the solution or soak for 15 minutes 
  3. Rinse your toothbrush with water before brushing
  4. If you decide to soak your toothbrush in the solution, change the solution every day

You can also disinfect your toothbrush by swishing it in an antibacterial mouthwash for 30 seconds. If you don't have mouthwash, you can use 2 teaspoons of baking soda mixed into 1 cup of water instead. Soaking your toothbrush in white vinegar once a week may also help disinfect it.

Some experts warn that soaking toothbrushes in mouthwash or disinfecting solutions may spread germs under the right conditions.

Denture cleaners. Denture cleaning solutions can be used to disinfect your toothbrush. Denture cleaners have enzymes and detergents that help break down food proteins. The citric acid and sodium bicarbonate in denture cleaners can also help loosen food stuck between toothbrush bristles. Rinse your toothbrush well after using a dental cleanser. 

Rinse with hot water. For most people, using hot running water to rinse your toothbrush is usually enough to keep it clean. 

Wash your toothbrush before and after you use it. Hot water will help soften the bristles and release toothpaste and food particles. Rub your thumb over the bristles under the hot water, and rinse it again with cold water to make the bristles firm up. 

Air dry. A moist environment promotes the growth of bacteria or mold. Studies have found that toothbrushes kept in closed containers, travel cases, and toothbrush covers have more bacteria than those left to air dry.

After you've finished brushing, rinse your toothbrush and shake off the excess water. Run a finger or thumb across the bristles to help remove the water. If you choose to cover your toothbrush with a holder or container, air dry your toothbrush first in an upright position.

You may want to have two toothbrushes. This lets you use one while the other air dries.

An electric toothbrush head can be cleaned in the same way as a regular toothbrush. Remove the toothbrush head from the base before cleaning it. Like with manual toothbrushes, electric toothbrush heads should be replaced every 3 months or whenever the bristles are fading or worn.

Keep toothbrushes away from the toilet. Every time you flush the toilet, fine droplets of toilet water are propelled into the air. These droplets can remain in the air for up to 2 hours. They then settle onto different surfaces, which can include your toothbrush. Try to flush the toilet with the lid closed and store your toothbrushes as far from your toilet as possible.

Keep the area clean. Regularly clean your toothbrush holder and cover with soap and water. Use disposable wipes to wipe down wall-mounted toothbrush holders, cups, and stands. Regularly wipe down your bathroom countertop and sink. This will remove any saliva droplets and excess toothpaste.

Don’t share a toothbrush. You might regularly share utensils and food with your family members, but you shouldn’t share a toothbrush. Experts say this is because brushing may sometimes cause gums to bleed. This means that sharing a toothbrush could expose you to diseases spread through contact with blood.

Every member of your household should have a different-colored toothbrush that’s easily identifiable. This will keep you from accidentally using someone else's.

Socially distance your toothbrushes. If you share a bathroom with others in your household, don't put your toothbrushes together in a common toothbrush holder or drawer. It’s best to keep toothbrushes several inches apart.

Wash your hands. Wash your hands before you brush your teeth to help to lower your risk of contamination. You should also wash your hands after you brush your teeth. This will help reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses after touching your mouth and lips.

Sometimes, it might be better to replace your toothbrush rather than clean it. In general, you should change your toothbrush about every 3 months. When the bristles are worn, your toothbrush may not clean your teeth as well.

Check your toothbrush for buildup, frayed bristles, or discoloration. If you see any of these, it’s probably time to throw it out. You should also replace your toothbrush after you've been sick. This will help to prevent reinfection or passing the infection on to a member of your household.

Viruses, like the flu, can survive on moist surfaces. When you’re sick, don’t share a toothbrush holder with anyone else. Viruses can spread through physical contact, such as when your toothbrush touches another.