How to clean an electric toothbrush

We discover the best and easiest ways to keep your toothbrush as clean as your teeth.

Electric toothbrushes are brilliant things. They can help you clean much more effectively than with a manual toothbrush, they can help whiten your teeth as well as clean them, and they’re particularly helpful for those of us with sore or stiff hands. 

Unfortunately, though, electric toothbrushes share one characteristic with their manual brothers and sisters: if you don’t clean them properly they can end up covered in gunk. Excess toothpaste is a particular problem, as it likes to seek out nooks and crannies where it can hide and harden into a tough toothpaste crust. 

The good news is that electric toothbrushes are really quick and easy to clean – even that toothpaste crust is simple to get rid of. Here’s what the manufacturers and dental experts say you should do daily, weekly and every few months.

Two electric toothbrushes on the side of a sinkCredit: Shutterstock / Mouse family

Cleaning summary

Project overview

You don’t need any specific tools to clean your electric toothbrush. That said, we’d recommend that you keep a basic, non-electric toothbrush around to get into the grooves on your toothbrush, as those grooves are places where toothpaste likes to hide.  

If you really want to banish bacteria you could invest in a rechargeable UV sanitiser. Toothbrush-specific sanitisers are smaller than a pack of cards and blast your bristles with bacteria-killing ultraviolet light, and you can use them as often as you like. 

Many electric toothbrushes come with a travel case to help keep your toothbrush clean when you’ve packed it alongside your pants. 

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Why you need to clean your electric toothbrush

We spoke to Dr Ben Atkins, a dentist in Manchester who is also a trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, the charity dedicated to raising awareness of good oral health.

“It’s important to clean your toothbrush as that prevents debris from sticking and being reintroduced to your mouth,” he told us. “And it’s important to change your electric brush heads once they start to fray or every three months to prevent bristles from damaging your gums.” 

How often should you clean your electric toothbrush?

You should always give your toothbrush a good rinse under hot water – the hotter the better – after each use, cleaning off any toothpaste and food particles. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a hard toothpaste crust that’s trickier to remove. 

Some brush manufacturers, such as Bruush, suggest an additional clean every week or two by soaking the brush heads in either antibacterial mouthwash or a mild hydrogen peroxide solution for up to 5 minutes. Give the brush head a good rinse afterwards to make sure all the cleaning solution has been removed. 

The majority of electric toothbrush manufacturers recommend that you replace your brush heads every three months, or earlier if they’re showing signs of fraying or losing bristles. 

Two electric toothbrushes side by side on a bathroom shelfCredit: Shutterstock / Anna Mente

Clean toothbrush body

How to clean an electric toothbrush body

By “body” here we mean the bit of the electric toothbrush that the whole brush head section attaches to.

For this bit of your toothbrush all you need to do is give it the occasional wipe with a clean damp cloth. It’s okay to use mild detergent to remove any stubborn marks. 

Store your toothbrush vertically with the brush head at the top, and place it as far away from the toilet as possible: toilets put bacteria into the air every time you flush. 

Clean toothbrush head

How to clean an electric toothbrush head

Credit: Shutterstock / TShaKopy

Run the hot tap and when it’s good and hot, give your toothbrush’s brush head a good rinse. If there’s some hardened toothpaste on the stem, hot water will soften that and make it easy to rub off. Shake off any excess water. 

You’ll often find that the bit where the brush head attaches to the rest of the body is a magnet for toothpaste: that little gap between the two sections is where toothpaste likes to harden. The combination of hot water and an old, ordinary toothbrush makes light work of that little problem.

A good rinse in hot water both inside and outside the brush head should do the trick for a daily clean, but if you want to do a deep clean you can soak the brush head in a cleaning solution for 3-5 minutes before rinsing it off.

Some manufacturers recommend using either antibacterial mouthwash or a hydrogen peroxide solution, but we’ve seen denture cleaning solution recommended too. 

Clean charger block

How to clean an electric toothbrush charger dock

The charger dock shouldn’t get very dirty, so in most cases you’ll be able to give it a quick spray and wipe it with a damp cloth or paper towel.

If there’s a toothpaste crust on it you can run it under the hot tap to soften the toothpaste and pick it off, but make sure you unplug it from the wall first and keep the plug well clear of any water. 

Carrie Marshall

Written by Carrie Marshall she/her

Updated:

Writer, broadcaster and musician Carrie Marshall has been a technology journalist for 24 years. Her CV is a who’s-who of magazines, websites and newspapers ranging from T3, Techradar and Woman & Home to the Sunday Post and People’s Friend, and she has been providing no-nonsense technology help and buying advice to BBC Radio Scotland listeners since the early 2000s.

Carrie has written and co-written nearly twenty books as well as a BBC radio documentary series, and her memoir Carrie Kills A Man is on sale now.

Carrie is particularly interested in how technology can make our lives easier, especially if that gives her an excuse to buy yet another kitchen gadget.

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