You probably use your toothbrush every day to scrub plaque and bacteria off the surface of your teeth and tongue.

While your mouth is left much cleaner after a thorough brushing, your toothbrush now carries the germs and residue from your mouth.

Your toothbrush is also probably stored in the bathroom, where bacteria can linger in the air.

This article will cover ways you can disinfect your toothbrush to make sure it’s clean and safe to use every time.

There are several methods of disinfecting your toothbrush between uses. Some are more effective than others.

Run hot water over it before and after each use

The most basic go-to method of sanitizing your toothbrush is to run hot water over the bristles before and after each use.

This gets rid of bacteria that may have collected on the toothbrush in the hours between brushings. It also eliminates new bacteria which may have accumulated after each use.

For most people, clean, hot water is enough to sanitize a toothbrush between uses.

Before applying toothpaste, run hot water gently over the head of your toothbrush. The water should be hot enough to produce steam.

After you’ve brushed your teeth and mouth thoroughly, rinse your brush with more hot water.

Soak it in antibacterial mouthwash

If a hot water rinse isn’t enough to give you peace of mind, you can soak your toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash.

Keep in mind that doing this may wear out your toothbrush faster, as these mouthwashes usually contain harsh ingredients that make bristles break down.

This method involves letting your toothbrush sit, head down, in a small cup of mouthwash for about 2 minutes after each brushing.

Should you be boiling toothbrushes?

You don’t need to boil your toothbrush to get it clean enough to use, and the plastic handle of most toothbrushes might start to melt in boiling water.

If you still want to use boiling water, heat water in a tea kettle or in a pot on your stove. Once it boils, turn the heat off and dip your toothbrush in for 30 seconds or so.

Denture cleanser

In addition to hot water and mouthwash, you can use denture cleansing solution to disinfect your toothbrush.

Denture cleanser is made up of antimicrobial ingredients that target bacteria and plaque that grow in your mouth.

Don’t reuse denture cleanser you’ve already used on your dentures.

Dissolve half a cleansing tablet in a cup of water and dip your toothbrush in it for 90 seconds to get your brush extra clean.

UV toothbrush sanitizer

You can also invest in an ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizer product made specially for toothbrushes.

One study comparing UV light chambers made for toothbrushes with saline solution and chlorhexidine gluconate solution found that UV light was the most effective way to disinfect toothbrushes.

This equipment can be on the expensive side, and it’s not necessary to have one for safe brushing. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for whatever UV sanitizer you purchase.

Note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t say that you need to use a UV chamber to clean your toothbrush.

For the most part, you can sanitize an electric toothbrush head the same way that you disinfect a regular toothbrush.

Make sure to disconnect the toothbrush head from the electric base before putting anything but toothpaste and warm water on your toothbrush.

If your electric toothbrush is the kind that doesn’t detach from the base, just use warm water or a quick mouthwash soak, and store it in a clean, dry place.

Once your toothbrush has been disinfected, you can take steps to keep it clean.

Storing your toothbrush correctly is probably as important as cleaning it after use.

Store it in hydrogen peroxide solution that’s changed daily

A 2011 study showed that keeping your toothbrush in a small cup of hydrogen peroxide is an economical way to keep bacterial growth to a minimum.

Swap out the hydrogen peroxide each day before putting your toothbrush down, bristles first, into the cup.

Avoid storing toothbrushes side by side

Throwing multiple toothbrushes together into a cup can cause bacterial cross-contamination among the bristles.

If there are multiple people in your household, keep each toothbrush a couple of inches apart from the others.

Keep it as far away from the toilet as possible

When you flush the toilet, fecal matter rises into the air in what’s known as the “toilet plume” effect.

This plume spreads harmful bacteria all over the surfaces in your bathroom, including your toothbrush.

You can prevent these bacteria from contaminating your toothbrush by storing it in a medicine cabinet with the door closed. Or, you may simply keep your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.

Clean toothbrush covers and holder

Bacteria from your toothbrush can get on any toothbrush covers and storage containers you may use to hold your toothbrush.

Make sure to clean any toothbrush covers and containers every 2 weeks to keep harmful bacteria from taking hold.

It’s not necessary to cover your toothbrush, but if you choose to, be sure to let it air dry beforehand. Covering a wet toothbrush can lead to more bacteria growth on the bristles.

Use a toothpaste dispenser

When you apply toothpaste to your toothbrush, there’s always a chance that your toothbrush and the toothpaste tube will make contact and transfer bacteria.

You can use a toothpaste pump dispenser to reduce this risk of cross contamination.

Sometimes the best way to make sure you’re using a clean toothbrush is to simply replace it.

As a general rule, you should replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every 3 to 4 months.

You should also throw away your toothbrush in each of the following circumstances:

  • The bristles are worn out. If the bristles appear bent or frayed, your toothbrush can’t clean your teeth as effectively.
  • Someone in your household is sick. If you or anyone in your household has had a contagious disease, such as strep throat or the flu, continuing to use your toothbrush can spread infection.
  • You’ve shared your toothbrush. If someone else has used your toothbrush, there’s no way you can completely disinfect it. Everyone’s mouth flora is unique, and you shouldn’t be scrubbing your mouth with bacteria from someone else.

Your toothbrush can harbor bacteria from your mouth. These bacteria can multiply if your toothbrush isn’t properly disinfected. Without proper disinfection, you’re trying to clean your mouth with a dirty toothbrush.

Cleaning your toothbrush with hot water between uses is probably enough for most people to feel that their toothbrush is sufficiently disinfected.

If you want to take the process a step further, simple soaking methods with mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or denture cleanser will get your toothbrush sanitized.

Proper toothbrush care and storage are essential to your oral health, as is replacing your toothbrush regularly.