The Toothbrush Mistake You’re Probably Making

updated Sep 21, 2022
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(Image credit: Leanne Bertram)

For most of us, our toothbrushes are brightly colored wands that we yank out of the medicine cabinet each morning and night just long enough to brush our teeth before tossing them back in again. And with all the gross particles flying around the bathroom, it only makes sense that we stow them away behind a closed door — right? Wrong! You should be storing your toothbrush upright, for starters, says the American Dental Association.

The correct way to care for your toothbrush after brushing is to rinse it well so that all residue comes off, give it a good shake to remove excess water, and then store it upright in a cup or holder so that it’s not touching any other toothbrushes.

Even more importantly, the ADA recommends storing your toothbrush out in the open (as opposed to placing it in a cabinet), so it can be exposed to air and sunlight so that it dries naturally before it’s used again that night or the next morning.

“A moist environment such as a closed container is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms than the open air,” the ADA states on the organization’s site.

Here are a few mistakes you might be making:

Don’t Lay Your Toothbrush Flat

You’re doing right by giving your toothbrush a good shake after brushing, but laying it flat on the counter allows any water that didn’t shake off the bristles to pool, creating a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. A simple holder like this minimalist one from West Elm does the job and is super easy to clean.

Don’t Store Your Toothbrush Too Close to the Toilet

You’re storing it upright in a cup, so it’s not touching another brush — but just how close is your toothbrush in relation to your toilet? If your bathroom is small and you’ve got a powerful flusher, that toilet water could be coming dangerously close to your toothbrush (a 2005 study recorded toilet microorganisms’ long jump average to be around 2.7 feet, although some experts believe it could be as much as 6 feet from the bowl). So if your vanity top is too close for comfort, consider a wall mounted holder that you can install a safe distance away from the toilet.

Don’t Stash Your Toothbrush in the Medicine Cabinet

If you’re hiding your utilitarian, Crayola-colored toothbrush because it clashes with the decor of your lovely loo, then maybe it’s time to up your toothbrush game.

Try matching your fixtures with these metallic electric brushes from Quip, for instance (make sure you check any new toothbrush with your dentist, and of course, remember that function should always win out over form in this case—worst case, you can always just upgrade the holder and choose a neutral color).

As far as how often your toothbrush should be replaced, the ADA recommends every 3-4 months, or sooner if the bristles start to fray. Do you follow those guidelines? How often do you replace your toothbrush?