How to Clean Your Toothbrush (Facts & Myths)

How to Clean Your Toothbrush (Facts & Myths)
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Table of Contents

  1. Cleaning My Toothbrush
  2. How To Clean Your Toothbrush
  3. What About An Electric Toothbrush
  4. Eco-Friendly Toothbrush
  5. Cleaning Your Toothbrush Is Simple
  6. References
The best way to clean your toothbrush is to rinse it with running water and let it air dry

Am I Cleaning My Toothbrush Correctly?

You use your toothbrush at least twice a day, so it is important to know that this vital oral care device is as clean as possible. Many articles available online now promote disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide, mouthwash, or even special devices that allegedly clean your toothbrush. However, these are not necessary, as long as you properly care for and store your toothbrush between uses and replace it when the bristles wear down.

How to Clean Your Toothbrush

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA) provide basic guidance for how to clean a toothbrush.

  • Rinse your toothbrush with tap water when you are done brushing, until the bristles look clean.
  • Store the toothbrush in an upright position, so water drains from it.
  • Make sure your toothbrush air dries.

When the bristles wear down, or when you have used the brush for between three and four months, get a new toothbrush. This ensures your brush effectively cleans your teeth, and it can prevent some buildup of germs. However, if you follow the steps above, your toothbrush should not spread germs.

There are some things to avoid.

  • Do not store your toothbrush in a container that prevents air flow.
  • Do not store your toothbrush in disinfectant or mouthwash.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals like hydrogen peroxide.
  • Do not share your toothbrush.
  • Do not put your toothbrush in the dishwasher or microwave.
  • Do not use devices like ultraviolet emitting devices to “disinfect” the toothbrush.

Trapping your toothbrush in a container, especially while it is still wet, can give bacteria a place to grow. If you are trying to store your toothbrush in a place where it is less likely to collect bacteria, it is still important to leave it in open air rather than placing it in a medicine cabinet or enclosed space. This can create a humid environment that can collect more bacteria than open air.

Similarly, placing your toothbrush in a disinfectant or mouthwash can actually spread germs more than simply rinsing the brush. Chemicals like disinfectants and hydrogen peroxide can break down the bristles, which may kill germs on the brush but can prevent your teeth from getting properly cleaned.

It’s best to store your toothbrush in an open container next to the sink.

The ADA reports that rinsing your toothbrush in standard tap water is plenty to keep the brush clean and safe for your teeth.

What if I Have an Electric Toothbrush?

If you have an electric toothbrush, the steps to keep the brush clean are slightly different than with a manual toothbrush.

  • Remove the brush head from the handle and rinse that with tap water.
  • Put the head back on the handle to store upright, and let it air dry.
  • Store the brush head in a special case when traveling, but do not store it in a container at home.
  • Regularly replace the brush head, but you do not need to replace the brush handle.
  • Keep the area where the handle attaches to the brush head clean by wiping it down with a clean cloth.

Just like with a manual toothbrush, you do not need to use a special sanitizer or cleanser to keep your brush heads clean.

What if I Have an Eco-Friendly Toothbrush?

If you are one of many people making personal changes to reduce waste and help save the environment, you may have looked into eco-friendly toothbrushes.

One of the most common and popular all-natural materials is bamboo. Some types of bamboo brushes have nylon bristles, others use biodegradable plant-based material, and some even use boar bristles. Regardless of what your eco-friendly toothbrush is made of, cleaning and care recommendations are similar.

  • Rinse the bristles with tap water.
  • Pat the bristles and bamboo handle dry with a clean cloth or towel. Wood and plant-based materials can soak up more water, so they dry more slowly.
  • Store upright to air dry.
  • Replace every three to four months or when the bristles look worn out.

Follow any other care and disposal instructions that come with your eco-friendly brush. Cleaning chemicals like hydrogen peroxide can be especially damaging to natural material like bamboo or boar bristles, so avoid these when caring for this kind of toothbrush.

The wooden handle of your toothbrush may change color as you use it. This is normal since many bamboo brushes do not use dyes, processing chemicals, or strong sealants in order to help protect the environment. A discolored bamboo brush does not mean it is dirty.

Cleaning Your Toothbrush Is Simple

There is no reason to buy special disinfecting devices, soak your toothbrush in disinfectant or hot water, or perform other steps to get the brush especially clean.


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Toothbrush. MouthHealthy from the American Dental Association (ADA). Date fetched: May 3, 2021.

What’s the Most Sanitary Way to Store Your Toothbrush? (March 2019). SELF. Date fetched: May 3, 2021.

How to Clean Your Electric Toothbrush. OralB. Date fetched: May 3, 2021.

Your New Bamboo Toothbrush – Care and Disposal. BambuuBrush. Date fetched: May 3, 2021.

Use & Handling of Toothbrushes. (March 2016). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Date fetched: May 3, 2021.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.