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Medically Reviewed
Published: January 25, 2024

How to clean your electric toothbrush and brush head

Author: Jon Love (2 Comments)
Medical reviewer: Dr Gemma Wheeler, BDS
Quick summary
  • Thoroughly rinse your brush with tap water after brushing. Store it upright to help it air dry.
  • See our advice below on keeping brush heads clean and avoiding grime buildup.
Montage of electric toothbrushes with grime on them

Things you should do daily

If possible, you should complete the following things daily to keep your toothbrush in a good condition.

  1. Rinse your toothbrush handle and head with tap water after brushing to remove toothpaste and debris.
  2. For Oral-B heads in particular, make sure you rinse inside the brush head.
  3. Leave the head disconnected from the handle to dry.
  4. If possible, leave the toothbrush components stood upright in an area with good airflow to dry fully between uses.
Toothbrush being cleaned under running water

Make sure you take the head off and rinse it

This applies to some brushes more than others, most notably Oral-B.

If you don't do this regularly you can end up with something like that shown in the image below.

How to clean your electric toothbrush and brush head 1
It's unhygienic to put a grimey toothbrush into your mouth

This is an extreme, but very real example. A mixture of toothpaste and living bacteria from your mouth form an unpleasant 'gunk' around key toothbrush components.

Not only is this bad for your oral health, but it can cause the brush to deteriorate more quickly.

You should also clean inside the brush head. Again, this is particularly important if you have an Oral-B brush. At a minimum, taking the head off and rinsing it with running water every day or two should prevent too much grime from building up, but you may need to give it a more thorough clean periodically.

You should replace your brush head every 3 months, but even within that time we have found that a significant amount of grime can build up if the inside of the brush head isn't rinsed and cleaned well enough.

How to clean your electric toothbrush and brush head 2
Grime can quickly build up around brush heads if they are not rinsed after use

Video: how to clean your brush head

This video shows how to clean your brush head and demonstrates just how grimey it can get if it isn't cleaned properly.

Various photos of brush heads with grime on them

Ongoing tips for electric toothbrush maintenance

Whilst these things need not be done everyday, you should try and complete the following fairly regularly to ensure your brush remains functional and hygienic.

  • Wipe the toothbrush thoroughly with a damp cloth, using a mild detergent when necessary.
  • If necessary use an old toothbrush, a cotton bud or interdental brush to help break up and remove grime left in harder to reach areas.
  • Clean accessories such as charging stands, travel cases and brush head holders.
  • Replace your brush head every three months.
  • Replace the brush head sooner than 3 months if the bristles are frayed and not in the tight formation as they were when the brush head was new.

Thoroughly rinse your brush with tap water after brushing

By rinsing the brush under the tap, the volume and force of the water on the bristles will dislodge the majority of food debris and toothpaste that resides within the bristles. This means there are fewer sources for the bacteria to feed on and grow.

Store your brush in an upright position and let it air dry

By letting your toothbrush stand upright and air dry the excess moisture can drain away from the bristles and they can dry out naturally. This creates less opportunity for bacteria to grow.

If storing several brushes near to one another, try to arrange them in a way that avoids the bristles coming into contact. This reduces the chances of cross-contamination and the spread of germs.

How to clean your electric toothbrush and brush head 3

Avoid routinely covering or storing brush heads in closed containers

If a brush head is covered, the damp environment in which it sits can be an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria and the microorganisms that make up harmful bacteria.  It is perfectly fine when required to pop a brush within a travel case or container, but avoid doing it all the time. It is better for your brush head to air dry if possible.

Replace your brush head every 3 months

Over time the bristles of the brush head will naturally degrade. They will split, fray, wear or become damaged as a result of your brushing routine.  They are not designed to last or be used for longer than 3 months.

As the bristles degrade the effectiveness with which they clean the teeth decreases and they have the potential to damage your teeth and gums.

Replacing the toothbrush on average every 3 or so months is good practice to maintain a good level of oral health.  However, subject to your teeth and brushing style, you may need to replace the head more frequently. Always consult your dentist for their advice if you are concerned.

How to clean your electric toothbrush and brush head 4
You should replace your brush head every 3 months

Store your brush away from the toilet

Whilst there is limited evidence of the possible effects of contamination, storing your toothbrush away from the toilet is good practice to prevent any possible bacterial issues.

This doesn't mean going to great lengths, but reasonable precautions such as not storing the brushes on or directly above the toilet are a good idea.

Regularly clean any storage containers used for holding toothbrushes

If you store your brush in a cup or stand, any excess moisture on it likely drains to the bottom.

You can be left with a pool of residue that harbours the very bacteria and germs you should be trying to clean away from your toothbrush.

Depending on the electric toothbrush you have, leaving it sat in residue can damage or break it, especially if the contact point for the charger is exposed at the bottom of the brush.

Regularly cleaning out the container that you keep your brush in can really help to protect it from any contamination and prolong its lifespan.

Wipe the charging stand with a damp cloth

If cleaning a charging stand, ensure it is not connected to the power outlet and don't place it under running water. Just wipe it with a damp cloth and let it dry before reconnecting.

If you put the toothbrush on the charging stand directly after rinsing it under the tap, you may find that a layer of grime builds up on the charging stand over time. You should be able to remove this with warm water. The solution to avoid this ongoing is to either dry the toothbrush before putting it on the stand, or wipe the stand clean regularly.

Author: Jon Love
Medical reviewer: Dr Gemma Wheeler, BDS

Leave a comment

Chris Ringer
November 25, 2020

Hi. Great article. I bought a Sonicate Airfloss Ultra. I added the mouthwash to start the cleaning and before I put it in my mouth, my girlfriend gave me the waterpick I really wanted. So I didn't use the Airfloss Ultra and want to sell it. I was wondering the best way to get the mouthwash smell out of the reservoir? I've tried everything that I thought wouldn't hurt the brush but still have the mouthwash smell. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Chris.

Jon Love - Chief tester
November 26, 2020

Hi Chris. Interesting question. I can't honestly say I have the answer. This is outside my area of expertise. Potentially just leaving the door open and letting it vent for a few days will clear most of it. Potentially a white vinegar solution may work, but then there may be a white vinegar smell instead. Perhaps if you are honest about it when you go to sell it, it will be fine. A buyer is likely to replace the head I suspect, so perhaps not such an issue.

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