How To Clean & Dry Your Toothbrush — And When To Just Replace It
While you might think that a quick rinse of the toothbrush under the tap is enough to keep it clean, oral hygiene experts say otherwise.
"The mouth contains many types of bacteria. While in the mouth they interact, and usually the 'good' bacteria hold the 'bad' bacteria in check," explains Mark B. Desrosiers, DMD, a member of the American Association of Endodontists and assistant professor at Boston University School of Dental Medicine. "A toothbrush is a different environment and can encourage the growth of the 'bad' bacteria if not cared for properly."
"Your toothbrush can harbor bacteria from your mouth, which will multiply if not disinfected," echoes Steve Dumas over at Philips Sonicare. "The best way to clean your mouth is with a brush you keep clean by sanitizing regularly."
Luckily, cleaning your brush isn't too much of a headache (toothache?). Every two weeks (or every week during cold and flu season), get in the habit of brushing off that bad bacteria using one of the following techniques:
How to clean your toothbrush.
First, they recommend removing any toothpaste buildup from the handle with a solution of dish soap and warm water.
From there, remove the bristle head if it's detachable (no big deal if not; just stick the whole brush in) and submerge it in a glass of household hydrogen peroxide for at least 15 minutes. "This will help remove any toothpaste residue, as well as work away at bacteria on the bristles," they tell mbg. Desrosiers adds that if you don't have hydrogen peroxide on hand, antibacterial mouthwash would work here too.
"After soaking the toothbrush head, run under warm water and use your thumb to gently rub the bristles to remove any remaining toothpaste particles and the peroxide," the Grove Guides say. This step is important because although the household hydrogen peroxide found in most stores is only a 3% dilution, it's still not safe to ingest.
Once your deep cleaning is done, let your brush's bristles dry completely before using it again.
In the dishwasher (yep, really!):
Desrosiers says that his favorite way to clean a toothbrush is to pop it in the dishwasher like you would silverware. This approach works with manual plastic brushes, but wood, bamboo, and electric toothbrushes would be better suited to hand-washing.
How to keep up with a clean brush.
Once your brush is squeaky clean, be sure to keep giving it a rinse with water after every use. Then, store it upright in an open container so it can air-dry.
Research shows that warm, moist conditions can cause the microorganisms on brushes to grow and flourish, so you'll want to keep yours in a spot that's as cool and dry as possible. While brush covers are good for traveling, this means they may not be best for everyday home use.
Even the most diligent of toothbrush cleaners and driers should replace their brush head every three months or whenever its bristles start to splay, Desrosiers says.
Dental health is nothing to slouch on, and clean teeth start with a clean brush. With these tips, you'll be smiling pretty for months to come.
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Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 articles on mbg, her work has appeared on Bloomberg News, Marie Claire, Bustle, and Forbes. She has covered everything from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping to a group of doctors prescribing binaural beats for anxiety. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.