5 Ways To Clean Your Toothbrush & Tongue Scraper 

5 Ways To Clean Your Toothbrush & Tongue Scraper 

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Medical Reviewed on Jan 31, 2023
byDr. Matthew Hannan DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
5 Ways To Clean Your Toothbrush & Tongue Scraper 

Your toothbrush isn’t meant to last forever. But if you’ve got a snazzy design and get sick two weeks after you buy it, knowing how to clean a toothbrush (or sanitizing toothbrush heads) can be extremely helpful. But is it possible for disinfecting toothbrush or other oral products to be effective at all? If done properly, yes. We’ll also show you how to clean your tongue scraper and toothbrush so that you’re not re-contaminating your mouth whenever you use them. 

Why Clean A Toothbrush or Tongue Scraper?

You put your toothbrush and tongue scraper in your mouth every single day. And with all of the possible things floating around in the air in your bathroom, it’s a generally good idea to have a routine toothbrush disinfecting strategy already in place.

Plan on sanitizing your toothbrush once a week. But some people like to do it daily! In all honesty, rinsing your brush well and allowing it to air dry in an upright position is fine for everyday use. As long as you replace your toothbrush every few months or when you’re sick.

How To Clean Toothbrush Or Scraper 

Toothbrush bristles are made out of thin, flexible plastic material, so you’ll need a gentle—yet effective—toothbrush disinfection process that won’t damage them.

As for tongue scrapers, these devices are made out of metal or plastic. The plastic ones can be cleaned the same as a toothbrush, but you might still need to toss them every 3-6 months. Whereas metal ones might last you a few years, assuming they don’t get bent or warped. 

1. Rinse With HOT Water

Hot water helps kill germs. Try to rinse your toothbrush with hot tap water after every use to flush away and kill whatever is already lurking between your bristles. Then shake as much of the water out as you can then store it upright and let it dry completely.

2. Soak in Antibacterial Mouthwash

Antibacterial mouthwash helps kill germs inside and outside of your mouth (particularly the types of bacteria that your toothbrush is made for.) Consider leaving the toothbrush head down in a cup of mouthwash for 30 minutes, then setting it up to air dry. For best results, don’t water the antibacterial mouthwash down any. The only issue with this option is it can lead to a lot of waste and be more expensive.

3. Denture Cleaner Works Too

Effervescent denture cleaner is great for dentures, orthodontic retainers, and bleaching trays. It helps loosen residue so that it’s easier to rinse off afterward. Guess what? You can use denture cleanser to soak your toothbrush, too. Let it set in the cleanser for about half an hour, then rinse it off and allow the wet toothbrush air dry in a toothbrush holder.

4. Alternative Toothbrush Disinfectants

Another effective and affordable option for cleaning your toothbrush is using distilled vinegar or a 1% household bleach solution. With the bleach, you’ll probably want to water it down to a 1:1 water/bleach ratio, or even less bleach than that. As for the vinegar, you don’t need to water it down at all.

5. Pop it in the Dishwasher

Is your toothbrush or tongue scraper dishwasher safe? Put it in the silverware basket or the top rack of your dishwasher (as long as you’re sure it’s not going to slip down into the bottom and melt) and put it through a normal cleaning cycle. The high temp water and detergent will help clean away most bacteria.

How To Clean an Electric Toothbrush Head

With electric toothbrush heads, the sanitizing process is just a little different from manual toothbrushes. Most of it will depend on whether or not the brush head is removable or is permanently attached to the brush. And if it’s removable, can it be exposed to hot temperatures or chemicals without damaging any of the internal components? Most of these devices can be cleaned the same way as manual toothbrushes, assuming you’re not putting any electrical pieces inside of a soaking solution or dishwasher.

UV Toothbrush Sanitizer

There have been several studies on various ultraviolet (UV) toothbrush sanitizing systems. These different types of disinfectant machines essentially expose the toothbrush head to UV light to decontaminate the bristles. They can be used daily, weekly, or even after being sick.

However, certain types of bacteria are more susceptible to UV light toothbrush disinfection than other microbial strains. If you want to use a UV sanitizer after already disinfecting your toothbrush with one of the rinses/processes listed above, you’re probably going to be as good as you can get without buying a new toothbrush.

If you’re a germ-a-phobe (hey, nothing wrong with that these days) or have multiple family members, investing in an affordable UV toothbrush sanitizer can help you prevent passing bugs back-and-forth with other household members or people in your circles.

How To Clean A Toothbrush & Tongue Scraper Clean Tips

Did you drop your toothbrush or tongue scraper on the bathroom floor? In the sink? Somewhere that you wouldn’t feel comfortable licking with your tongue? Then it’s time to disinfect your toothbrush.

Here are some ways to keep your oral care products cleaner between when you’re disinfecting them at home:

1. Wash Your Hands Before And After Brushing Your Teeth.

You probably wash your hands whenever you’re prepping food or right after using the restroom, but do you wash them before you brush and floss? You should. Otherwise, you’re putting germs on your toothbrush, tongue scraper, and right inside your mouth when you stick your fingers in there to floss.

2. Store Your Toothbrush In Hydrogen Peroxide.

Compared to using other types of mouth rinse to clean or disinfect your toothbrush, hydrogen peroxide is more affordable. You might consider soaking it in hydrogen peroxide overnight, then allowing it to air dry the next day.

3. Don’t Store Toothbrushes Side By Side.

Chances are that most households have people sharing a bathroom. Do you share toothbrush holders too? Make sure your brush bristles aren’t “kissing” each other when you finish using them. Otherwise, you can transfer the bacteria that cause gum disease, cavities, and bad breath.

4. Don't Store Toothbrushes Near The Toilet.

Yep. When you flush the toilet, it causes particles to float throughout the air (aerosols) that can land on your bathroom counter and toothbrush. You could essentially be putting fecal matter into your mouth if your toothbrush is stored close to a toilet. To help eliminate the gross factor in general, make sure you’re shutting the toilet lid before you flush.

5. Use Toothbrush Covers Or Leave It Out To Air Dry.

In a best-case scenario, it’s ideal to have your toothbrush sitting in an upright position (so that anything dripping will drip down and away from the part that goes in your mouth) and allowed to air dry in a clean room. But if you’re traveling or don’t have a lot of control over storage space at the moment, you can also use a toothbrush cover to prevent any contamination to the bristles. This option is also great if you’re sharing the area with multiple people (think college dorms or summer camp.)

6. NEVER SHARE Your Toothbrush With Other People.

Even if you have been dating somebody for years or love your kids more than life itself (and probably share foods or drinks from time to time) do NOT share a toothbrush with them or anyone else. There’s a difference in what’s floating loose in a little bit of saliva and the thick bacteria along the gumlines that your toothbrush bristles are cleaning off.

7. Use A Touchless Toothpaste Dispenser.

Parents love these because not only does it help prevent messes and cross-contamination of germs, but it also prevents their kids from using too much toothpaste. All you do is put the toothbrush below the dispenser and it squirts it out onto the bristles.

 8. Use A Separate Travel Toothbrush And Scraper.

Whenever you’re packing everything into a bag and traveling around places with other people (or staying in a hotel room) you never know what’s going to get on your toothbrush or tongue scraper. I recommend having a spare of each one to travel with, while keeping your regular one at home to prevent toothbrush contamination.

9. When In Doubt, Toss It Out

Not sure whether you should keep and sanitize your toothbrush? Thinking you might be on the verge of needing a new one? Then it’s time. Just like leftovers in the refrigerator, when in doubt, throw it out. If you’re cleaning your toothbrush on a regular basis, you might want to mark on your phone, calendar, or even somewhere in your bathroom so that you can keep on a schedule. 

Talk With Your Dentist

Some people only need to change out their toothbrush while other individuals need to toss them a month or two after use. Your dentist and hygienist can give you a better idea as to how long your toothbrush should last. A big factor is the brush you’re using and if you’re brushing too hard or too much. If you’re aggressively scrubbing your teeth, the bristles may start to splay over after a month or two, making the brush essentially worthless. Or if you just want to make sure you’re cleaning your toothbrush properly, you can always ask your dentist for advice.  

How to clean a toothbrush

Sanitizing or disinfecting toothbrush heads or knowing how to clean your tongue scraper can help you prevent the transmission of germs, unnecessary bacteria growth, and keep your body healthy. Some people buy UV toothbrush sanitizing machines that they prefer to use. While others go with hot water and special cleansing products. Make sure you allow everything to air dry, regardless. And no matter how often you’re sanitizing a toothbrush, it still needs to be tossed after a few months.

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Matthew  Hannan DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Matthew Hannan DDSDr. Matthew Hannan is a board-certified dentist and graduate of UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.
Last updated onFebruary 10, 2023Here is our process

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