The importance of oral health is promoted by dentists, dental organizations, product manufacturers, and the list could go on.
They say health creates beauty.
The perfect smile, the freshest breath. We all know it from commercials. Chewing gum, fresh mints, mouthwash, and toothpaste. And of course, the right toothbrush to have the control in our hands. And then just follow the outlined routine of when and for how long, and you’ll be armed to the teeth.
Or have I left anything out?
Rinsing Our Mouths But Not Cleaning the Toothbrush?
You are advised to brush your teeth and rinse your mouths to kill bacteria but is that all worth it if we don’t clean the very object (hint: the toothbrush) that we place inside?
Few things enter our mouths as regularly as our toothbrushes. Though a means of creating hygiene, toothbrushes can also be the carriers of bacteria and germs, especially when we don’t keep them in a clean place or when they come into contact with a dirty surface, for example, a bathroom floor.
How many times have we dropped, knocked over, or even thrown our toothbrushes across the bathroom with it ending on the bathroom floor?
And after it fell on the floor, how many times have we just put it back recklessly next to the sink, throwing caution to hygiene? Or how often has it ended its life in the waste bin, because we thought it to be impure and unworthy of a continued life in our wellness sanctuary?
Either way, we missed out on the possibility of a third option for lack of care, interest, or knowledge.
In the case that we are not anti-environmentalists who don’t mind spending their savings on toothbrushes, or would like to avoid a possible painful and annoying mouth infection, there is a way to keep our conscience, our health, and our bank account happy.
So drumroll and here it is: How do you clean your toothbrush after it falls on the floor?
Step #1: Determine the Damage Before Cleaning Your Toothbrush
There are various situations where toothbrushes need to be cleaned, ranging from stains and dirt caused by everyday use to thorough deep cleaning after it is contaminated specifically by a toxin or bacteria after submerging the toothbrush in toxic substances.
One possible way to severely contaminate your toothbrush is by dropping it on the bathroom floor, where it can gather bacteria carried in the air and also practically everything we carry on our feet.
Not all floors are equally contaminated, however. Much depends on the frequency of cleaning. If you regularly mop the floor in the bathroom, there is a much lower chance that your dropped toothbrush gets severely contaminated.
Also, you can significantly reduce the number of pathogens on the floor (that might get in contact with your brush) if you don’t enter the bathroom with shoes on your feet.
You should also keep in mind that pets sometimes can have surprisingly dirty paws, especially after a walk outside. So if you live with a pet, I recommend you always clean your toothbrush thoroughly if it falls on the floor.
Step #2: Choose the Right Method to Sanitize Your Brush
After dropping the toothbrush on the floor, there are several ways to sanitize, disinfect, or sterilize it, but it is a good idea to first determine which method to use depending on the state of the toothbrush.
Germs might appear on the handle of the brush. Though this is hopefully not the part you put in your mouth (sorry all you playful minds!) it is still a source and carrier of bacteria and as such you should keep it in mind when cleaning.
The bigger cause for concern is clearly the head, where the bacteria can settle on the bristles and then enter your mouth. Wanting to get rid of it already? Here are my best tips.
7 Effective Ways to Sanitize Your Toothbrush
One of the easiest and definitely most inexpensive ways to sterilize a brush is by submerging it in boiling water for a few minutes.
Sounds pretty obvious, right? It’s a good common practice as boiling will eliminate most of the bacteria and viruses. Just be sure not to scald yourself and to run cold water over the brush afterwards.
FYI: Toothbrushes are made of plastic, therefore you shouldn’t keep them submerged in boiling water for too long because they could melt. If you want to play it safe, heat the water to a lower temperature, such as 194°F (90°C) or below. That’s more than enough to kill most viruses and bacteria.
If you are like me, looking for a slightly more intensive but still low budget method, (hey, who doesn’t, right?) a very simple and cost-effective way is to soak your brush in vinegar for at least two hours after you dropped it on the floor to kill germs. If you need faster results, I suggest that you use boiling water, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.
When it comes to cleaning, vinegar is pretty versatile and can be used for many purposes, such as disinfecting kitchen surfaces or sanitizing your gym equipment.
You can also use vinegar regularly (once a week) to keep your toothbrush clean. An easy-to-follow routine can be to choose a certain day and do this overnight after you finish brushing your teeth before going to bed. Once again, rinse both the brush and your hands after doing this.
Have you ever dropped something into the toilet? Click here to learn how you can disinfect something that fell in the toilet.
3. Baking Soda
Baking soda is often used when it comes to unclogging a drain. Many articles claim that it is also a great disinfectant, however, I only recommend using it if you clean your floor regularly. Although it may kill some kinds of bacteria, it usually won’t help you get rid of the tougher ones that live on your bathroom floor.
However, baking soda can be a great choice for regular cleaning purposes: it’s another cheap solution for daily cleansing or occasional brush sanitizing. You probably have it hidden away in one of the kitchen cupboards. Never thought you would use it in the bathroom, right? Just stir 2 spoonfuls in 1 cup of water and soak your brush for 30 seconds in this solution.
4. Rubbing Alcohol
If you are ambitious enough to search for and apply more concentrated and perhaps better resulting substances, you might want to try using rubbing alcohol. This is also an effective way to disinfect your toothbrush.
It may not be thought of as commonly in households as vinegar or baking soda, but it might be worthwhile, getting hold of a bottle for cleaning and disinfecting purposes (for instance, using diluted rubbing alcohol is a great way to make your purse germ-free or clean your wrist rest). Soaking the brush for a few minutes in a small cup, followed by a thorough rinsing will do the trick.
5. Hydrogen Peroxide Solution
Continuing the list of substances that can help with a more thorough cleaning, we can add another possible way to disinfect your toothbrush by applying what is called a 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution.
This may sound like something coming from a Chemistry lesson, but Hydrogen Peroxide can actually be bought in ordinary pharmacies and grocery stores. To create the solution you need to mix 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoonful of Hydrogen Peroxide. You can also store your brush in this solution but make sure to change it every day.
Though maybe not the first in the line of possible sanitizers, mouthwash also makes the list. Mouthwash might not be the most efficient toothbrush sanitizer but if you have it in your bathroom at home anyway, and use it for your mouth, why not use it for your brush as well, right?
According to Colgate, it is advisable to soak the head of the brush for 15 minutes when using a mouthwash. Not longer because it can damage the bristles. Also, you shouldn’t use the same mouthwash for several brushes because it loses its effect (1).
There is a range of different brands to choose from but if you are one for evidence, according to a study that analyzed the efficacy of different mouthwash products, Listerine proved to be one of the most thorough and efficient brands on the market (2).
7. Denture Cleanser
It clearly doesn’t come to mind when thinking about toothbrush sanitizing but according to The Children’s Oral Health Institute (3).
Another effective way to sanitize a toothbrush is with the use of denture cleanser tablets. Just drop the tablet in water as instructed on the label of the product and soak the head of the brush in the solution (4).
For Those of You Who Have Gone Electric
If you happen to use an electric toothbrush and it accidentally falls on the floor, a way to sanitize it is to clean its head, using water and bleach. Mix the two together using 1 part bleach and 10 parts water and soak the head in the solution for an hour.
Then carefully rinse the head, washing off any bleach residue. At the same time, it is also advisable to apply the same solution to the handle, using a wipe. Give it a good rub to make sure everything disappears that is not meant to be there.
However, Not Even the Best Can Last Forever…
In spite of all the care and precaution you dedicate to your brush, it will still have to be replaced from time to time. The American Dental Association recommends that you replace your brush every three to four months or even sooner if the bristles are frayed (5).