How to keep electric toothbrush clean?
August 20, 2018 5:24 PM   Subscribe

I've had this toothbrush for a couple of years now and didn't know it could get so disgusting.

I just popped off the head to change it when I discovered, to my horror, a mix of slimy black and white goop that seriously made me queasy to even look at and think it had been so near my mouth. I wiped off most of it but will need to do a deep clean with some vinegar to feel okay using it again. But for future reference, are there any proven tips for keeping it clean? Is it simply a matter of popping off the head after each use and thoroughly drying the entire unit? Or is there a magical toothbrush out there that doesn't gunk up?
posted by madonna of the unloved to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yes you should take the head off every time. I rinse the stem-part of mine, and separately rinse the head, and they dry separately. The stem still gets some scale, but it wipes off (and I hit it with vinegar now and again). I don't do that with the heads, but I do replace them on a reasonable schedule.
posted by janell at 5:29 PM on August 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

Honestly after a few years I think you just need to throw them out and start over. There's something fundamentally uncleanable about electric toothbrushes. You can clean them every time you use them, air them and rinse them and occasionally scrub them, but they still get dingier and dingier over time. That's been my experience, anyway. I don't buy the expensive kind, I buy the basic version because it doesn't sting so much to replace it. They brush just the same.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:16 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have this model, which looks to have a similar brush head design, and mine doesn't get gunked up at all. I just popped off the head for the first time in weeks, and it looked pretty clean under there.

I think if you're able to prevent moisture from getting between the joints, the 2 Series models are supposed to stay gunk-free. (I had one of the E-series brushes previously, and that one definitely got gross if I didn't take the head off frequently, which I didn't.)

If that joint gets wet or toothpasty when you brush and you can't avoid getting water in there when you clean it, or if you have a humid bathroom with poor ventilation, then it sounds like gunk would be prevented by taking it apart so it can dry out after use.
posted by wondermouse at 6:22 PM on August 20, 2018

I take mine apart after every brush!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Add me to the list of people who rinse it after every use.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:17 PM on August 20, 2018

i rinse it, head on and then head off, and shake both parts dry after every use. the most messy it gets is some whitish scaling around the base while it's recharging, which wipes off pretty easily with a wet paper towel. mine is easily 10 years old if not older. maybe 13.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:32 PM on August 20, 2018

I have that same brush and it does develop a gooey black horror show inside if the brush head isn’t removed after each use so the socket can dry.

Rubbing alcohol soaked q-tips + a lot of patience will clean out what you have in there now. Don’t forget to wipe down the magnet end of the brush head too. Then just get in the habit of leaving the brush off in between uses.
posted by jamaro at 8:06 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Take it off and rinse it after every brushing. Once every few weeks soak it in hydrogen peroxide overnight and then tap and rinse it out in the morning (prepare to be horrified again). If you have a waterpik then blast it with that after soaking. Change for a new head every few months.
posted by Cuke at 8:30 PM on August 20, 2018

Just double checking to make sure this isn't a case of toothbrush mistaken identity. Do the replacement heads look like this or like this?

(The second, older, design, which I'm suspecting is the one you may have, was very prone to this issue.)
posted by kickingtheground at 9:21 PM on August 20, 2018

I pull the head off every time to rinse, both the head and the handle. Shake off and put away. Once in a while, I splash some hydrogen peroxide on the brush to do a number on any bugs hiding in the bristles. That seems to work well for me.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:26 PM on August 20, 2018

Yep, got to take it apart and clean the joint and also have a look at the handle and base regularly. Handle and base can be cleaned with gentle cleanser and cloth, the joint with a bit of vinegar, no soaking of course. You just want to give the cleaning agent a chance to actually do its job and wipe or rinse off and dry immediately.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:35 PM on August 20, 2018

I rinse the whole thing after each use, then take it apart and clean it with alcohol swabs maybe once a week? Maybe less.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:12 AM on August 21, 2018

Is it simply a matter of popping off the head after each use and thoroughly drying the entire unit?

For me, it's simply a matter of popping off the head after each use, rinsing both head and stem thoroughly, then not putting them together again until the next time I brush my teeth. The handle lives on its charging stand on the shelf and the head lives in a drawer.

Also, since the heads are the only part that actually comes in contact with mouths, I have no qualms about sharing the expensive electric part with everybody else in the household; each of us has our own head. I'm pretty sure this is exactly why the little colour rings for marking ownership fit on the heads, not on the handles.
posted by flabdablet at 2:45 AM on August 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Is it simply a matter of popping off the head after each use

Yes. You are supposed to do that. They are meant to be left separate all day every day, and only put together when you brush your teeth.
posted by tzikeh at 5:15 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure my Sonicare Diamondclean manual said to separate and clean once a week. Which sounds about right to me. Cleaning/drying the inside every single use sounds totally nutty to me. Separating and cleaning once a week keeps mine shiny and clean. Honestly, even when I did it only every month or two, it still stayed very clean inside. Maybe the Diamonclean has a firmer connection than other versions, I don't know.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:27 AM on August 21, 2018

I spray mine with hydrogen peroxide every few weeks and use an old toothbrush on anything stubborn. Then rinse it with water and let it dry overnight before putting it back together.
posted by 14580 at 6:29 AM on August 21, 2018

I have the same exact brush. I rinse the handle after each brushing, as well as the bare top of the handle where the metal stem sits, but do not keep the head separate from the handle. Once a week or two, I drop the head into a cup of 1:1 water:hydrogen peroxide solution overnight.
posted by Atrahasis at 12:28 PM on August 21, 2018

This is a revelation. I've been using an electric toothbrush incorrectly for years. I've never, ever removed the head between brushings, but I've also never experienced the gunk problem either (I replace the heads every ~2-3 months).

One question for you all, how do you not lose the tiny plastic ring that goes with the head? I've lost those immediately (like, before the the new head makes it onto the base) more than once. I imagine those odds would increase significantly if I was dealing with that on a daily basis.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:57 PM on August 21, 2018

FWIW, I've never had to do this with my Oral-B electric toothbrush, and while I'll occasionally get toothpaste buildup if I'm not careful about rinsing, it never gets nasty like you describe, even though I leave the head attached all the time. (I think this is because the Oral-B heads have holes in them that allow the internals to drain and get air through them, but I don't really have any clue beyond that.)
posted by Aleyn at 3:01 PM on August 21, 2018

« Older Heat Safety for Cat on a Porch   |   Sleep Hath Murdered MacBook Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.