How to Identify Mold on your Toothbrush
Oral health is vital to our smile and one of our most important practises in maintaining it is to brush our teeth twice a day.
This helps to keep our teeth clean, remove unsightly plaque and particles of food, freshen our breath, balance our mouth PH and remove bacteria and germs.
Yet did you know the average toothbrush contains about 10 million bacteria and in the right environment, will eventually develop mold.
No one wants to clean their teeth with a mucky, moldy toothbrush, so how do we know if our toothbrush IS moldy and, if it is, what can we do about it?
In this guide, we will explore what causes a toothbrush to go moldy, what to do and, more importantly, how to prevent it from happening.
Spotting the Signs of Mold
Toothbrushes CAN and do develop mold, which may be either visible or invisible to the naked eye.
For instance, mold can easily hide between the bristles, inside grooves on the handle and around the base area of electric toothbrushes.
The mold may also be visible as black or pink slime, dark spots or simply as yukky black gunk on your toothbrush, its’ handle or around the base or holder. It may even smell bad with a musty odour.
So, what’s actually growing on your toothbrush? And, if these signs are not present, does that mean you are in the clear?
Not necessarily, so read on to find out more.
Most Common Causes of Mold on Toothbrushes
Our mouths contain millions of microscopic bacteria which we transfer onto our toothbrush whenever we brush our teeth. This bacteria can then multiply and develop into mold and other germs, especially if the surrounding conditions are just right.
Toothbrushes experience wear and tear like any object we use regularly and the way we maintain and store them can also lead to mold formation.
Bathrooms can be busy, humid and damp environments in general and we may not think too much about it until we see the telltale sludgy signs that we have indeed got a problem, Houston.
One of the first signs of mold we spot may come from the way we store our toothbrush between uses. It may develop dark patches at the bottom wherever it sits in stagnant liquid.
Not rinsing after use can also speed up mold formation and trap germs deep inside the bristles where they can fester and grow.
Some simple maintenance can help avoid these problems so read on to find out more.
Dangers of Using Toothbrushes with Mold
It is never a good idea to be exposed to or to ingest mold as it may be harmful to health.
Mold is a living organism that tends to grow in dark, damp environments.
Exposure to small amounts of mold is unlikely to be harmful however large amounts or prolonged exposure may lead to adverse health effects and even illness.
Those who are vulnerable, for example because of weak or compromised immune systems are more likely to experience sickness after exposure to mold.
If you are worried about the effects of potential mold exposure on your health you should consult a GP or Health Professional.
Can you use a Moldy Toothbrush?
If you spot signs of mold on your toothbrush, even on the handle, you should simply replace it.
Mold can spread quickly and will only get worse. As a rule, you should replace your toothbrush every three to four months whether it has signs of mold or not.
How to Remove Mold from Electric Toothbrushes
Electric toothbrushes are said to be much more effective at keeping our teeth clean and our mouth fresh.
However, they can also be much more expensive than manual brushes so it is not as easy to just replace them at regular intervals.
If you have an electric toothbrush, you will need to take more time and care over maintenance to prevent mold, bacteria and other germs from multiplying.
How to Spot Mold on your Electric Toothbrush
You may notice black or pink gunk building up on the unit, around the base or on the head.
There may also be black spots in and around the bristles and, if mold is forming, you may notice a strong, pungent smell or a musty odour.
Once it gets to this stage, you won’t want to put it into your mouth so read on to find out how to deep clean and maintain your electric toothbrush.
How to Deep Clean your Electric Toothbrush
Separate the various parts of the toothbrush – remove the head from the handle section and lay each part on a clean paper towel. Inspect each part thoroughly, looking for signs of black spots, slime or gunk.
Clean the head
Take a bowl and mix together half a cup of water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. The mixture will fizz and bubble up so use a bowl large enough to allow for this. Place your toothbrush head into the solution and leave it there to soak for 30 minutes. Remove and rinse the head well under flowing, warm water. Shake well to remove excess water and leave to dry.
Clean the handle and base
You can use a mild bleach solution or anti-bacterial detergent and a cloth to gently clean the handle of the unit, and the base (remember to unplug the charger before performing cleaning). You can also use disinfectant wipes to clean the handle. Do not immerse these parts into water.
Allow all parts to dry before reassembling.
You should deep clean your electric toothbrush in this way once a week to prevent mold and build-up of germs and replace the whole head regularly.
Eco-Friendly and Bamboo Toothbrushes
These types of toothbrush may be more likely to harbour mold than plastic ones as the materials they are made from may be more porous so can absorb and hold moisture leading to the growth of mold.
You can lightly towel dry after use and then leave to air dry in a standing position with the bristles facing upwards. You might also consider having a different one for morning and evening so each has a chance to dry out fully between uses.
Preventing Mold Growth on Toothbrushes
Prevention is better than cure, so follow these steps to ensure that mold does not have an opportunity to thrive on your toothbrush in future;
- Rinse your toothbrush well after each use – hold it under running water for 20 seconds and remove all the toothpaste and other debris. Wipe down the handle, shake well or tap gently against the side of the sink a few times and then leave to air dry fully
- Store correctly – many problems with moldy, gross toothbrushes originate from the way they are stored between uses. Remember, mold needs 3 things to grow – moisture, nutrients and the right temperature. The easiest way to stop it is to deprive it of one of these essentials. By keeping your toothbrush dry and storing it properly, mold will be unable to grow
See below for some tips on storage.
How to Choose a Toothbrush Holder that Doesn’t Get Gross
Avoid using storage cups or toothbrush holders where moisture can pool at the bottom. This leads to the perfect environment for mold growth, especially with the added nutrients from saliva, dust and toothpaste. Ewww.
Maintain airflow – the most important thing you can probably do to keep your toothbrush mold free is to maintain air flow between uses. This allows the bristles to dry out fully, preventing mold from ever growing.
Do not store your toothbrush wet inside closed or airtight containers or lying down in dark bathroom cabinets. Let them dry fully in the air in a standing up position.
Use a bottomless holder – otherwise pools of moisture will gather leading to the formation of the dreaded dark goop. Using a holder with no bottom prevents this as the excess moisture can escape and the toothbrush can fully dry. The best holders are racks or holders with holes for the toothbrush to sit through in an upright position.
If you do have a cup type of container, consider drilling holes in the bottom to allow any excess moisture to get out. If you are unable to do this, make sure you clean and disinfect the holder or cup regularly, at least once a week.
Some Other Tips to Look After Your Toothbrush
Here are some more tips to keep your toothbrush fresh and hygienic to use;
- Replace every three months or sooner if damaged – older toothbrushes are more likely to be porous so they can absorb and also hold moisture thus becoming a breeding ground for mold. They will also be less effective as the bristles will fray and become damaged over time
- Store well away from the toilet area – toilet ‘plumes’ or splashes can travel towards your nearby toothbrush, adding even more bacteria so keep your toothbrush well away
- Replace if you/family member are sick – the bacteria and germs may remain causing your sickness to return
- Soak in boiling water for 2-3 minutes once a week – doing this will remove all bacteria
- Or soak in anti-bacterial mouthwash for 10 minutes- this will also remove germs (or use mild hydrogen peroxide). You should especially do this if you drop it on the floor.
- Choose a toothpaste that kills oral bacteria – this will help you in your quest (triclosan/copolymer are the key ingredients)
- Don’t share toothbrushes with others in the family, don’t share storage containers and even consider not sharing toothpaste as contact with the opening can transfer germs between all
- Some people put their toothbrush in the dishwasher for a deep clean and to sanitise it