The American Dental Association (ADA) states that “Toothbrush sanitizers have not been shown to provide a health benefit.”
When we first published this article, there was a statement from the ADA that supported the use of a sanitizer for higher risk patients:
“Common-sense supports that for patients who are more susceptible to infections, a higher level of vigilance to prevent exposure to disease-causing organisms may offer some benefit”.
When we last updated this article, this statement was no longer featured on the ADA’s website. However, it can still be viewed in this PDF handout.
Within this advice, the examples included as a high-risk patient are someone who:
- has a systemic disease that may be transmissible by blood or saliva
- has a compromised immune system or low resistance to infection due to disease, chemotherapy, radiation, treatment, etc.
If this applies to you or a family member, you may want to give stronger consideration to a toothbrush sanitizer. But again, we cannot find an up to date statement that confirms this.
With all that being said, we understand that some people will still be interested in sanitizing their toothbrush. We have therefore tested a variety of the products available and give our recommendations below.
We’ve also put together a buyer’s guide that explains toothbrush sanitizing and answers common questions.
Our Top 6 Choices for Best Toothbrush Sanitizer
Having tested several different sanitizers, check out my recommendations below for the best available today.
1. Pursonic S1 Portable UV Toothbrush Sanitizer
Simple and easy to use, this toothbrush sanitizer from Pursonic works like a charm.
Powered by 2 x AA batteries (not supplied), the UV light sanitization process begins as soon as you close the lid of the case.
|Pursonic S1 Portable UV Toothbrush Sanitizer||2,857 Reviews||$19.99 $13.95||View on Amazon|
The sanitization process runs for 5 minutes, killing 99.9% of germs, at which point the UV light is automatically switched off.
It is really easy to tell whether the cleaning process is in progress as through the lid of the case you can see a green LED. When lit, the UV light is on. If the green light goes out, then that is the clean complete.
The sanitizer is actually fairly slim, just a fraction longer than the average toothbrush and just over twice as wide, or to be more precise 8.6” x 2.1” and weighs 4.7oz with the batteries.
Although not designed primarily as a travel case for your toothbrush, you could use it as such.
The case is made from plastic. The base is a gloss white color, and it is on the underside that the batteries fit.
The lid/top of the case has a rougher texture which helps with grip and is more of a sea blue color, with a white panel on the lid that has the Pursonic logo on it.
Overall the case feels robust enough but does not feel quite as solid as some other options.
Inside the sanitizer you can fit a regular manual toothbrush or you can fit the brush heads from electric toothbrushes.
A very neat touch, which you don’t appreciate until you use it is inside is a little rubber grip that holds the brush in place, but it can be moved to 1 of 3 different positions to make for a better fit for your toothbrush.
All of this and it is one of the cheapest options available.
- Good value
- Automatically turns on and off
- Powered by 2 x AA batteries
- Adjustable rubber grip to hold brush in place
- Takes manual brushes as well as electric toothbrush heads
- Green LED to show when on or off
- Plastic construction is ok, but not the best
It’s been created with a more environmentally considerate approach than other electric toothbrushes.
It’s slimline travel case also has a UV sanitizer built into it.
A single press of the button on top of the travel case activates the cleaning cycle that lasts for just 60 seconds.
SURI says the light cleans the bristles of the brush head, killing off 99.9% of bacteria in 1 minute.
For this feature is that for it to work, you need to have the case connected to power. There is no battery within the case itself to run the cleaning cycle. The case is powered by a USB-C cable.
- Environmentally considerate materials and design
- Slim handle
- The timer and pacer encourage brushing for the recommended time
- USB charging stand
- A magnetic wall mount
- USB C powered travel charging case with UV-C cleaning
- Free brush head recycling programme
- No pressure sensor to alert you when brushing too hard
- The cleaning action isn’t as satisfying as other electric brushes
- USB charger makes it less convenient for some
- Availability – Not widely stocked
3. Philips Sonicare UV Sanitizer HX6907/01
If you didn’t need the combination of an electric toothbrush and UV sanitizer as listed at number 3, how about being a savvy shopper and buying just the sanitizer on its own.
Bought as an accessory like this, it can be picked up for a very good price.
You can view it here on the Sonicare site.
It holds 2 electric toothbrush heads at any one time.
Sonicare heads fit best, but others will sit in place.
It has not been designed to take a manual toothbrush though.
It can be moved, but it is not geared towards portability due to its size and the fact it is powered by mains power rather than batteries.
Also built-in is a Sonicare charging stand, so existing Sonicare brush users can actually make use of this, charging your brush whilst the brush heads get sanitized.
The benefit is you never need to worry about replacing the batteries and with a 10 minute cycle it really makes sure that bacteria is killed off.
Available in white and black color options, you can pick the one that fits your home best.
Very well made, you get the peace of mind of having a sanitizer made by a leading brand within consumer electronics.
The UV bulb inside is also replaceable.
- Holds 2 electric toothbrush heads at once
- Runs for 10 minutes at a time
- Well built
- Reputable brand
- Replaceable UV bulb
- Can be purchased for a good price
- Not portable
- Requires mains power
- Best suited to Sonicare toothbrushes
- Cannot accept manual toothbrushes
4. Wagner UV Toothbrush Sanitizer
This Wagner sanitizer is neatly designed. It has a compact form factor, which can be wall mounted, so that the toothbrush hangs down from the unit itself.
Although it can be mounted on the wall, the provided adhesive plate is designed in such a way that the sanitizer can be clipped and unclipped as and when you want.
This means it is easy to move when it needs recharging or when you wish to travel.
|Wagner Portable UV Sanitizer||709 Reviews||$29.95 $19.99||View on Amazon|
Built into the unit is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery which will allow for up to 28 sterilizing cycles to be run on a single charge.
Each cycle runs for 6 minutes, which is a little shorter than is ideal, but not the shortest cycle time I have seen on such products.
Compatible with all toothbrush heads, the inner compartment can be removed for cleaning as and when needed.
- Can be wall mounted
- Built-in rechargeable battery
- 6 minute cycle is a little short
5. Mimore Toothbrush Sanitizer
The Mimore toothbrush sanitizer is wall mountable and holds up to 4 toothbrushes, both manual and electric.
|Mimore Toothbrush Sanitizer||1,231 Reviews||$32.99 $25.99||View on Amazon|
Included in the box is a wall plate, onto which the sanitizer mounts. This plaste has an adhesive strip on the back, but you can mount it with screws if you prefer.
The design of the wall plate means you can lift it off and reattach it as and when you want. For example for cleaning, or when you want to recharge the battery.
Inside is a rechargeable lithium battery with a 1500mAh capacity. This means you can have it mounted on the wall without the need for a cable to be connected.
It will then allow for about 14 days of use on a single charge.
The sanitization process runs for 6 minutes (360 seconds), killing 99.9% of germs, at which point the UV light is automatically switched off.
There is a display on the unit that counts down the cleaning time, making it very easy to know it is functioning.
It will automatically stop the cleaning cycle if the compartment is opened.
The unit is made from a wipe clean white plastic and isn’t too large. It measures in at 8.78 x 3.74 x 2.24 inches.
- Good value
- Built-in rechargeable battery
- Can be wall mounted
- Holds up to 4 brushes
- Plastic construction is ok, but not the best
6. Tao Clean Germ Shield UV Sanitizer
This is a slightly more expensive option than some of the others listed. There are some benefits to justify this though.
The main benefit being that it is powered by user removable and replaceable AA batteries. You need 2 of them. This makes it very travel friendly and more portable than some of the other options.
|Tao Clean Germ Shield UV Sanitizer||487 Reviews||$39.00 $27.60||View on Amazon|
Despite the look of it, it is not too big at 4.25 x 4.13 x 92 inches (10.8 x 10.49 x 12.5 cm), but if you do like to travel light, this might not be ideal.
You can place only a single toothbrush in it at any one time. But it does accept manual and electric brushes. You place them into it upside down.
This is a countertop unit and is not designed to be wall mounted, so brushes don’t hang out of it. They are less likely to get knocked over.
The white coloured unit is fairly easy to keep clean.
When activated a blue light is emitted from the LED ring at the base of the unit.
The cleaning cycle lasts for 4 minutes in total and is activated once you close the door on the front after having placed the toothbrush inside.
- Powered by 2 x AA batteries
- Suitable for manual and electric brushes
- 2 year warranty
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We are not sponsored by big brands or healthcare companies. Our site is funded by affiliate revenue and ads, but we only recommend products that we have tested and truly believe to be worth your money.
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My recommendations are listed above, but I will be the first to tell you there are lots of different sanitizers on the market and you don’t have to go with the ones I suggest.
All will have their own pros and cons, but the following buyer’s guide should help you pick an ultraviolet light sanitizer that will leave you with a clean toothbrush.
What is a UV sanitizer?
A UV sanitizer is a piece of equipment that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to kill germs and bacteria.
Sanitizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from small pocketable solutions to cleaning toothbrushes and small items, to large countertop units capable of sanitizing much larger items.
How does a UV sanitizer work?
The bulbs within a UV sanitizer emit short-wavelength light to kill or inactivate microorganisms.
Bacteria are a group of single-celled microorganisms that reproduce through cell division.
The light destroys the bonds of nucleic acids (small biomolecules essential to all forms of life) that make up DNA.
It is this disruption or damage to the DNA affects the cell division and means they cannot reproduce and perform the functions they need to, therefore stopping the growth of bacteria.
UV is invisible to the human eye.
There are three different bands of UV light, depending on the wavelength. It is the shortwave UV-C radiation that is effective at killing germs.
Whilst it is a little more technical than this if you look at the science, the longer the item is exposed to UV light the better the effectiveness in killing or rendering it inactive.
Bacteria can actually be shielded by other particles as well as being better able to withstand UV, but after a few minutes of exposure in most instances, particularly with toothbrushes, an effectiveness of up to 99.9% is achieved.
In some sanitizers (not applicable to those listed above) air or water is circulated repeatedly to change the conditions and allow for multiple passes of the UV light onto the bacteria to achieve the most effective eradication.
The following video is not of a toothbrush sanitizer, but it demonstrates the use of UV light to kill bacteria.
You can clearly see how the longer it is exposed the more effective it is. However, even a relatively short time period will kill off the vast majority of bacteria, if not all of it, decreasing the risk and in your instance, leaving you with a cleaner toothbrush.
Benefits and drawbacks of a sanitizer
Here are list of what I consider to be the main pros and cons to UV sanitizers.
- Sanitization through UV does not involve any chemicals.
- Clean, easy and stress-free method for killing bacteria.
- Highly effective with up to a 99.9% success rate.
- Different designs for different people and needs.
- Battery and mains powered solutions.
- Some can double up as travel/storage cases.
- Cost effective.
- Not a universal size. Not all sanitizers will work with all toothbrushes.
- Running time. The most effective run for the longest time.
Does using a UV sanitizer give you a cleaner toothbrush?
Up to 99.9% of bacteria on a toothbrush can be killed off using UV light.
This is demonstrated by the explanation and video above answering the question ‘ how does a UV sanitizer work’ and is supported by studies like that by JR Berger from 2008, that looked at the efficacy of UV sanitizers.
How important is running time?
For the best results find a sanitizer that has a longer running time.
The longer the cycle of UV light the higher the effectiveness and likelihood of getting rid of harmful bacteria.
Should I buy a battery powered or mains powered sanitizer?
Those that are powered from mains electricity are likely to be more useful long term as they are easier to maintain without the need to continually replace batteries.
However, those units with batteries tend to be more portable and versatile.
It will depend on what your desires are.
If you are happy to buy and replace the batteries fairly regularly and want the advantages such bring then go for it.
Those that are mains powered are however likely to run for longer, as is shown by the 10 minute run time of the Philips Sonicare UV sanitizer. They are to likely to be larger and accommodate more toothbrushes.
Those larger units, designed for more than just toothbrushes will be mains powered only in most instances as their size and power consumption would not make them appropriate for removable batteries. They tend to be a more permanent installation within the home.
How much should I pay?
Ultimately it will depend on how much the sanitizer is worth to you.
Prices can start from as little as $10 but reach $60 or so for toothbrush sanitizers.
It is possible to pay more for larger units that will be big enough to sanitize more than just a toothbrush.
You might think $250 is well spent if you can now put in a variety of different items from around the home that you would like to be virtually sterile.
Difference between sanitized and sterile
It is worth knowing that there is a difference between these 2 words, although quite often they can mistakenly be used interchangeably.
Sanitizing a product will kill of bacteria up to 99.9 percent.
For example, if one million bacteria are present at the outset, 1000 bacteria remain after a 99.9 percent reduction.
When a product is sterilized, this means that all living organisms have been destroyed and 0 bacteria would remain.
Even specialist companies will often advertise a certain reduction e.g., 99.9999% effective, instead of sterilization, because it is very hard to confirm total sterilization.
To my knowledge, no product exists that you and I can buy that would actually sterilize a toothbrush.
If you see a product that claims to achieve this you should question, whether or not this is actually genuine.
With efficacy at 99.9 percent, given the data that questions the need for sanitizing in the first place, this is very good and your risk reduced significantly.
Do I need one?
The American Dental Association does however suggest that a sanitizer is not necessary.
In recent years, scientists have studied whether toothbrushes may harbor microorganisms that could cause oral and/or systemic infection….The human body is constantly exposed to potentially harmful microbes. However, the body is normally able to defend itself against infections through a combination of passive and active mechanisms…. Although studies have shown that various microorganisms can grow on toothbrushes after use, and other studies have examined various methods to reduce the level of these bacteria, there is insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific adverse oral or systemic health effects.
My own research has found that studies by K Belanger-Giguere in 2011 and Peker IIkay in 2014 that suggest that to be effective, the sanitizers need to run for longer, ideally 20 minutes or more, when most out of the box run for less than 10.
Science and clinical studies play a major part in directing advice, guidelines and how we live our lives.
Whilst the advice may well change in the future, when you consider the situation as it is at present, the vast majority do not, and would not consider sanitizing their toothbrush. This has been the case for many decades, despite knowing bacteria is present. Nonetheless, the majority of people remain fit and well and rarely is it determined that individuals have succumb to illness or health problems as a result of toothbrush hygiene.
Despite knowing that a sanitizer can kill 99.9% of germs, the ADA’s opinion is not at all flawed.
Therefore it is fair to say you do not NEED a UV sanitizer.
However, there is little harm in taking extra precautions, for the relatively low cost of buying one.
The ADA do themselves say:
A common-sense approach is recommended for situations where patients may be at higher risk to infection or re-infection by various microbes….a higher level of vigilance to prevent exposure to disease-causing organisms may offer some benefit.
The following are a list of commonly asked questions regarding UV sanitizers.
- What type of light is used to kill bacteria?
- UV-C light is the shortwave light that is used to kill bacteria.
- How long does it take for UV light to kill bacteria?
- Bacteria can be killed in just a few seconds, when a short distance from the light. The more bacteria and the more products to sanitize at once, the less effective. The efficacy is best when the cycle is longest.
- How long do batteries last in a sanitizer?
- It depends on the sanitizer, the number of items being cleaned, the length of the cycle and how often it is used. For most people, the batteries will last a couple of months on average before needing replacement, thanks to power saving features such as automatic power off.
- Can a sanitizer prolong the life of my toothbrush?
- It is advised, irrespective of whether you use a sanitizer to replace the toothbrush head every 3 months. A sanitizer may kill off bacteria but it does not impact the wear on bristles from twice daily brushing. Split, frayed or damaged bristles can occur as a result of brushing techniques, pressure and tooth positioning. This, in turn, can be damaging to the teeth and gums, therefore requiring regular replacement.
- The lamp in my sanitizer has stopped working, can I replace it?
- It depends on your sanitizer. Most portable and cheap sanitizers do not have a replaceable bulb. It tends to be the larger or countertop units that will be capable of having the bulb replaced.
- Typically the life of a bulb is between 6,000 and 8,000 hours so it will take some time normally before it stops working.
- How do I care for my sanitizer?
- Refer to the user manual for your sanitizer, it will provide directions. Although UV kills bacteria it will likely suggest some form of mechanical cleaning (wiping it clean, frequently).