Inside: Should you clean a toothbrush? Learn if you should (the answer is yes), and how to clean a toothbrush to rid it of the nasty germs and bacteria that live in the bristles.

Have you ever wondered, “do toothbrushes carry germs?” as you carefully inspect the very thing you put inside your mouth twice a day to try and eliminate the germs and bacteria that can form between your teeth? 

The answer is yes. Toothbrushes do carry germs. 

(And an outrageous amount of them, at that.)

Both the CDC and the American Dental Association recommend replacing your toothbrush every 3 – 4 months. Surprisingly enough, the recommendation to replace your toothbrush every 3 – 4 months doesn’t come due to the fact that toothbrushes harbor a large number of germs, but rather because the bristles often become frayed and worn and won’t brush your teeth as effectively.

But the fact still remains: even if you DO replace your toothbrush every 3 months without fail, it is still contaminated with many germs and bacteria in the meantime.

So what is there to do?

Rather than switching out toothbrushes daily (that would get costly), you can learn how to clean a toothbrush so that you can eliminate the growth of germs and bacteria between uses.

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How to Clean a Toothbrush

While cleaning your toothbrush won’t necessarily extend its lifespan, it will, at least, decrease the number of germs that live on it (and thus, in your mouth) in the meantime.

There are several methods to clean a toothbrush. From vinegar to toothbrush sanitizers, there are a large number of ways to clean your toothbrush and rid it of nasty germs. 

Let’s dive in.

How to Clean a Toothbrush: The 8 Most Popular Methods

1. A Mouthwash Bath

My favorite – and most used – method for cleaning my family’s toothbrushes is to bathe them in an antiseptic mouthwash once every week or two (usually I do this while I am cleaning the bathroom). 

I start by washing out our toothbrush holder cup, then I rinse the toothbrushes under hot water. Next, I pour an antiseptic mouthwash (we use this one) into the toothbrush holder – just enough to cover the heads of the toothbrushes – and place the toothbrushes into the cup, head down. 

Then, I leave them to soak for about 15 minutes (or however long it takes me to clean the bathroom). 

When they’re done soaking, I dump the mouthwash down the drain, rinse the toothbrushes off, and place them right-way-up back in their holders and they’re ready to be used.

What’s the hype about antiseptics? Won’t any mouthwash do?

When choosing to use mouthwash to clean your toothbrush bristles, it’s important to use an antiseptic mouthwash as antiseptics can both kill and prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and viruses (while antibacterial will slow – and sometimes kill – bacteria growth, it cannot kill or prevent viruses from growing).

2. Clean With Saltwater

Here’s how to clean a toothbrush with salt water, it is both simple and effective, though not quite as effective at killing bacteria and viruses as using an antiseptic mouthwash. Even still, learning how to clean a toothbrush with salt water can help eliminate bacteria.

Make a solution of 1/2 tsp. – 1 tsp. Salt to water and stir until the salt is fully dissolved. Then, place the toothbrush (head down) into the saltwater bath and allow it to sit for 10 – 20 minutes. When done, rinse it off and it’s ready to use.

3. Baking Soda

Baking soda can kill bacteria (specifically the bacteria that can cause tooth decay) with its powerful antibacterial action. 

Here’s how to clean a toothbrush with baking soda: soak your toothbrush in a baking soda and water solution of 1 tsp. baking soda to 1/2 cup water for 10 – 20 minutes. This can help eliminate harmful bacteria from accumulating on your toothbrush.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide works much like cleaning your toothbrush with an antiseptic mouthwash. When it comes to how to clean a toothbrush with hydrogen peroxide, it’s quite simple.

Simply place your toothbrush – bristles down – into a cup of hydrogen peroxide and let it soak for up to 20 minutes. 

Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly to remove any lingering hydrogen peroxide and your toothbrush is ready to use.

Hydrogen peroxide is a great way to kill germs and bacteria from your toothbrush bristles as it is a powerful antimicrobial agent, used regularly to disinfect and sterilize surfaces and objects.

5. Vinegar

Vinegar is one of the most versatile kitchen staples many people have on hand in their house at all times. You can use it for everything from making tasty salad dressings to cleaning bathrooms and freshening up your laundry

And, it can even be used to clean your toothbrush.

You can use either apple cider vinegar or plain white vinegar to clean your toothbrush, the process is the same.

Soak the toothbrush in a cup of vinegar for up to 5 minutes, rinse the brush off thoroughly, and use.

Vinegar has antimicrobial properties, is used to disinfect, and kills bacteria and viruses, and it’s all-natural.

6. Boiling Water

The next thing that works to clean a toothbrush is to carefully place the head of the brush into a pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes. This will kill off any harmful bacteria that are harboring on your brush, but this process carries a few more risks.

First, holding your hand over a pot of boiling water poses the risk of burning yourself, so if you choose to go with this method of toothbrush cleaning, be careful. 

The second risk is the possibility of damage to the plastic on the toothbrush, though this usually won’t occur.

After you’ve finished boiling the toothbrush head, rinse it under some cold water and allow it to sit for several minutes before using it to ensure you don’t burn your mouth.

Now you know how to clean a toothbrush with boiling water, an easy method that uses nothing other than water and heat.

7. Rubbing Alochol

Rubbing alcohol is also an effective way to sterilize and sanitize your toothbrush. Place enough rubbing alcohol to cover the head of your toothbrush in a cup and allow it to soak for 10 – 20 minutes. 

Rinse thoroughly, and use.

8. UV Brush Sanitizer

You can also purchase a UV Toothbrush Sanitizer (you can find them on Amazon here) to eliminate up to 99% of the germs living on your toothbrush, without lifting a finger.

What is the Best Way to Sanitize a Toothbrush?

The best way to sanitize and sterilize a toothbrush is to clean it with something that has powerful bacteria, virus, and germ-fighting properties.

To keep it affordable, you can use ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. As an alternative, you can purchase a UV Brush Sterilizer. 

My favorite ways for how to clean and sterilize a toothbrush are:

Keeping Your Toothbrush Clean: Regular Maintenance

Before using your toothbrush, run hot water over the bristles for several seconds, and again after you’re finished using the toothbrush. This will help keep your toothbrush sanitized and clean between uses.

When you do clean your toothbrush with a more vigorous cleaning method, such as any of the 8 methods mentioned above, it’s important to only clean your toothbrush like this from time to time. 

You don’t want to clean it with these methods daily, or you will risk causing significant damage to the bristles and they won’t clean your teeth as well over time.

I clean my family’s toothbrushes with the above-mentioned methods about once every one to two weeks.

How to Clean A Toothbrush After Dropping It

Cleaning a toothbrush after dropping it doesn’t have to be confusing. Simply rinse the bristles and handle off under hot running water, then pick one of the 8 methods mentioned above to sanitize the head of the toothbrush to ensure it is clean before your next use.

If, however, the toothbrush got dropped in the toilet… I would recommend skipping the cleaning, throwing it straight in the garbage, and getting yourself a new toothbrush.

How to Clean A Toothbrush: Conclusion

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “how do you deep clean a toothbrush?” now you know.

Keeping your toothbrush clean between uses by regularly running hot water over the head before and after each use will help keep germs and bacteria at bay. 

That along with regularly (once every few weeks) deep cleaning your toothbrush will keep the toothbrush in good shape and free from germs for months. You’ll be able to keep using the same toothbrush for a very long time – only once the bristles are no longer doing their job will you need to switch it out for a new one.

If it has been a while since you last cleaned your toothbrush, or you’ve never cleaned it before, pick one of the 8 ways to clean a toothbrush mentioned above and give it a whirl.

Your teeth will thank you.