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How to Clean and Store a Toothbrush

toothbrush holder and cup

A Discussion on What works and What Doesn't for storing and keeping a toothbrush clean

No matter what toothpaste or mouthwash you use, it will be hard to have fresh breath and good oral health if the toothbrush you use is overrun with bacteria, mold, and decaying food particles. A clean toothbrush that is in good condition is essential for good oral hygiene and in killing the germs that cause bad breath. There are a lot of myths and ideas that surround how to store and keep your toothbrush clean from bacteria and other particles such as storing your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible and in a closed container. Some of these are important and effective in sustaining proper health, while others are unnecessary, not worth the time, or are just plain too expensive. In this article we will discuss proven methods that will keep your toothbrush clean and in optimum working performance and also discuss why other methods may be too much work for too little results.

Cleaning and Storing Basics

This is a list of things that work and that are the most useful in keeping a clean effective toothbrush.

Rinse it

The easiest way to keep your toothbrush clean is to rinse it with hot water (hot water cleans and kills germs easier) before and after brushing. Use your thumb and move it back and forth against the bristles while underneath or in water. It is important to do it before brushing as well as after because airborne bacteria or other particles such as dust may have settled on the toothbrush since your last brushing.

Dry it

The bacteria that cause gum diseases are anaerobic. That means they live in a low oxygen environment and these bacteria are killed by exposure to air. The simple act of letting your toothbrush dry between brushing will kill many bacteria. Do not store your toothbrush in a covered container where it does not receive adequate ventilation. Also the bristles usually come in contact with the walls of a closed container and that will contaminate the toothbrush unless the toothbrush container was just cleaned.

Store it upright

Storing your toothbrush upright (bristles up, handle down) after use is very important. This allows the water to drain from the bristles easier and all the water and particles collect at the bottom of the handle of the toothbrush. Also you may notice that a nasty scum collects at the bottom of containers that do not have a drain at the bottom, and you do not want your bristles touching that scum that could cause your bristles to collect mold and bacteria.

a stainless steel toothbrush stand

What is the best toothbrush holder?

A toothbrush holder that holds the toothbrush upright, has good ventilation, and is made so other toothbrushes do not touch each other as to prevent cross contamination. Also some people may prefer toothbrush stands that suspend the toothbrush or have a drain in the bottom to prevent the build-up of scum and gross water. Remember to clean your toothbrush holder regularly. I clean mine once a week at the same time I deep clean my toothbrush.

Don't swap

It is usually common sense for adults not to swap toothbrushes with each other, but young children need to be taught which toothbrush is theirs and to only use their toothbrush. Color coding or writing names on the toothbrush will help. When people use each others toothbrushes the also swap each other's germs and could easily cause sickness.

Replace regularly

The ADA (American Dental Association) recommends replacing your toothbrush with a new one every 3-4 months. Personally, I think this is way too long. If you take your time as you brush and if you brush 3 times a day, then the bristles on your toothbrush should be looking pretty haggard at about a months time. Once the bristles get frayed and bent the effectiveness of your toothbrush is drastically lowered. Once your toothbrush isn't performing as well as it used to, it is time to replace it.

Do toothbrush sanitizers work?

There are many products on the market now that claim to sanitize and kill all the bacteria on your toothbrush. There are antibacterial rinses, UV (ultraviolet) Light Sanitizers, and even antibacterial bristles are found on some toothbrushes. Do they work? Some of them do a good job of killing bacteria while some of them do not live up to their claims. A better question is: Is completely sanitizing a toothbrush every time even necessary? Studies have shown that some of these products do kill bacteria, but there is not a single study that also shows using any toothbrush sanitizer will reduce your risk of getting sick.

Keep in mind that your mouth is swarming with bacteria but only a small percentage of these are considered pathogenic (able to cause disease). Your toothbrush will almost never be completely free of germs, and that's okay. Many germs don’t affect your health at all. In my opinion these new sanitizers are more trouble for than they are worth because they cost money, are usually harder to clean, and just aren't necessary.

Deep cleaning and sanitizing a toothbrush

Do not boil, microwave, or place your toothbrush in the dishwasher in order to sanitize it because these may damage your toothbrush. In order to sanitize your toothbrush all you need to do is soak it in an antibacterial solution for at least 10 minutes. Solutions you may use for cleaning are: antibacterial mouthwash that contains alcohol, mixture of 1/3 bleach and 2/3 water, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar.

When should you deep clean a toothbrush?

There is no proof that you even need to completely sanitize your toothbrush. So you may skip this step if you want to. If you are a little paranoid and just want to ensure that your toothbrush stays clean then sanitize it in solution about once a week.

Storing the toothbrush by the toilet

There have been studies done that small amounts of germs become airborne from the toilet whenever it is flushed. Due to this knowledge some people store their toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible. Really it only needs to be 2-3 feet away from the mouth of the toilet bowel, and even then it is not proven that the trace amounts of germs collected on the toothbrush will adversely affect one's health at all. Just to be sure, I would discourage storing toothbrushes on the toilet tank.

What to do with your toothbrush if you are sick

When you are sick there may be more pathogenic bacteria than normal, and when you brush your teeth some of that bacteria is collected on the toothbrush. Studies have not been done to show how much is left after you rinse your toothbrush and if it would be enough to cause you to get sick again in the future or not. Just to be sure, when you are sick disinfect the toothbrush by letting it soak in an antibacterial solution for 10 minutes after brushing each time.

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Comments on this page
Guest [06/08/2014 18:17] 

Do u know the black things on your toothbrush how do you get rid of that.

Blanche Martin. Guest [05/09/2014 12:40] 

If I have to touch a not clean enuf for me item, (like everywhere) or want to clean my toothbrush over night, I just reach for my bottle of vinegar. Vin is also fab for cleaning the M/Wave,Hob,oven fronts, windows, mirror,you name it. Use it on a few pieces of kitchen roll and you will just love the shine. It can stops unsightly fungus in its tracks, from growing under finger and toe nails. Just fill under the nail cavity with vin/water using a medicine dropper and keep nail upright for a while to dry. As the nail grows, it will become good again. When my husband came home from hospital with his back covered in spots, I washed him with vin. and on telling a Dr. he said I had done the best possible thing, and that vinegar was all there had been to keep bugs at bay during WW1 & 2. Remember, 50-50 white vinegar and water for bugs, cleaning and shine, but brown vinegar for food. I also cleaned a 60 odd year old, well used, EP&S tablespoon spoon. I stood it in an inch of vin overnight. The result was one inch bright and clean the rest of it was still quite tarnished, result - I put the whole spoon in vin the next night. great and I can still use my grandmothers spoon with love. A litre of vinegar can cost as little as 86p and you can pick it up when shopping. Saves a visit to the Dr. who will give you 'STUFF' we know could be harmfull or a trip to the Chemist where they will charge o lot of money for few applications of medication. And no I don't own a vinegar shop. Oh, to say nothing of fish and chips!

Guest [04/03/2014 12:49]E-Mail  

For the person who commented about recurring strep throat...gargle with salt water - one part salt to 2 parts warm to hot but not boiling water. Gargle 3x per day for a couple days. The salt kills strep.

Guest [03/07/2014 19:53]E-Mail  

So I have little kids and they drop their toothbrushes on the floor by the toilet ALL THE TIME! can\'t buy a new toothbrush every few days. This is helpful to know how to clean them now. Peroxide? Or peroxide-bleach mix?

sarah [12/12/2013 10:20]E-Mail  

if I have a cold sore should I sanitize my tooth buch each day until its completely gone?

lily k [10/15/2013 01:07] 

Good info. Now im off to get creative with my bathroom

Guest [10/03/2013 13:13] 

I am doing this for a science fair project :)

Richard [09/22/2013 05:23]E-Mail  

Look at utube cylerdent - these work and give u the freshest possible brush taste, a lot of cruise line passengers buy them

Guest [07/11/2013 20:27] 

Best article I\'ve read on the subject. It answered all my questions. Many thanks.

Vitamin42 [06/29/2013 11:46]E-Mail  

Very helpful and informative.

Guest [05/05/2013 07:46] 

Best and most sensible article I\'ve read. My second case of strep throat this year so trying to eliminate all sources of contamination. Thanks for the article.

Jeannie [03/30/2013 11:32] 

Great article. I am currently battling a beast & wanted to know what to do with my toothbrush. Well now I know. Yay! Off to hydrogen peroxide mine. Peace all!!!

Guest [12/11/2012 15:17] 

Keep toothbrushes out of the bathroom, think about it.... Never near a toilet ewwk blah.. And go without toothbrush covers can mold*

Guest [12/11/2012 15:14] 

Replace your toothbrush every month or two keep yourself well and take no chance of being sick

Guest [10/20/2012 15:54] 

This was so helpful and saved me some money. Thanks.

Brandon [09/09/2012 20:27] 

thank you very much! you told me exactly what i needed to know.

Guest(yujin) [08/31/2012 01:58]E-Mail  

A lot of Thank You...
This article is very helpful..I\'ll share it...

Tifa [08/29/2012 01:57] 

Very interesting article. Thank you!

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