Toothbrush care
May 24, 2019 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Do you dry your toothbrush with a towel, or air dry?

Obviously this is a "who is the weirdo in this relationship?" question.

Towel user specifies they mostly do this when it is humid, and they feel the brush will take too long to air dry properly. They also think it is especially necessary to towel dry toothbrush when traveling, before toothbrush goes into case.

Air drier thinks a brief swipe with a towel is unlikely to speed the drying process any, given the density of toothbrush bristles, and is probably just speeding the engrossening of the toothbrush.
posted by the primroses were over to Grab Bag (58 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Towel drying seems gross. I have never heard of someone doing that. I do not do that. I will shake off excess moisture and let dry in the air.
posted by so fucking future at 9:46 AM on May 24, 2019 [34 favorites]

I'll dry it with a piece of tissue if I'm going to put it in a container, e.g. when traveling.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:49 AM on May 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

I have never heard of anybody doing anything but air-drying. Sitting here in shock.
posted by rue72 at 9:53 AM on May 24, 2019 [99 favorites]

Towel-drying a toothbrush is very weird to me. Wouldn't the bristles pick up any lint? Is there a designated toothbrush towel, or are you using a hand or bath towel to do this? Because that's kind of gross.

I give mine a few raps against the sink to get water off, then airdry
posted by Fig at 9:53 AM on May 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Uh, no, I don't dry my toothbrush with a towel.
posted by Automocar at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I only towel dry if I’ve just brushed and I need to pack it up to go in my suitcase. Otherwise I air dry.
posted by sallybrown at 9:56 AM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have never heard of drying ones toothbrush, and it sounds at best pointless and at worst gross.
posted by General Malaise at 9:57 AM on May 24, 2019

Team air dry. But if it's about to go into a bag, I'll wipe the handle with a towel and wrap the bristle part with a paper towel for traveling - not to help it dry, but to keep it from getting everything else wet.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:58 AM on May 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

Drying with a towel just sound like a way to add germs to the toothbrush. Ew.
posted by acidnova at 9:58 AM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

What? No! I will usually whack the toothbrush firmly on the edge of the sink to get the water off, but that's it. Towel-drying sounds really germy.
posted by Gray Duck at 10:02 AM on May 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

Just give it a good shake.
posted by jozxyqk at 10:05 AM on May 24, 2019

Lol, what? No, no towel-drying here. It doesn't sound gross to me, just...unnecessary?
posted by anderjen at 10:05 AM on May 24, 2019

I air dry only. Towel drying seems like it would spread germs.

For travel, I have a snap on toothbrush head cover. It has holes to let the air in so the bristles can still air dry.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:09 AM on May 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

Whacking yes, I found a plastic clamp thing that reminds me of a spring type hair clip. It clamps onto the head of your toothbrush for travel. You can find these in the small portion toiletries for flying / travel, in big stores that have huge aisles of toiletries. They are inexpensive and easily cleanable, maybe great for buggy environments for easy, sanitary day to day, operations.
posted by Oyéah at 10:15 AM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is going to be a sit/stand thing or a which-way-do-you-stand-in-the shower or anything of the sort where it turns out there are two kinds of people. The towel dryer is just wierd. Don't touch your toothbrush bristles against anything if you can avoid it. That's why even those cases are often structured to not touch the bristles (And usually have holes to allow for humidity to exit).

If you want to press it against a *paper* towel before you travel to keep it from dripping all over everything, ok, fine, but that's it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:20 AM on May 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

Air dry, though if I'm traveling, it needs to be dry before I pack it; if the brush doesn't seem dry, I'll use a hair dryer on it.
posted by odin53 at 10:20 AM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

air dry! and yeah, i use those little toothrushheadproterctors when we travel, or just wrap the brush in a bunch of tp if i cant find 'em!

you're supposed switch brushes every 3 months at minimum anyway, I mean I'm sure they get germy, but like..??

so intrigued, though. like someone up ahead was saying - is there a designated toothbrush towel? seems like you'd have to have several!

do people blow dry their toothbrushes?
posted by speakeasy at 10:25 AM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

omg it's a thing.
posted by speakeasy at 10:26 AM on May 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

This probably makes me an outlier in the other direction, but I always rinse my toothbrush before and after using it. So when I'm traveling, I just chuck it in my bag, no case, no special drying. I figure it's clean before it goes in and I'll clean it again before the next time I use it.

Haven't died of toothbrush plague yet.

Definitely wouldn't use a towel.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:26 AM on May 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

If you blot the toothbrush on a towel first, it air-dries much faster, thus allowing less time for icky things to grow. Rinse it first, of course.

There are vastly fewer microbes on a clean dry towel than on a damp used toothbrush, at least in a humid climate.

It's gross to go to brush your teeth and find that the toothbrush is still damp from the previous brushing.
posted by chromium at 10:33 AM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Suck the moisture out of the bristles, shake, then air dry.
Hard shell toothbrush container for travel.
posted by whuppy at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

When I feel the need to do more than air-dry the toothbrush, I rinse it and then hold it by the end of the handle and shake it down like an old-school thermometer. I’m the weirdo, and you both are fine.
posted by wryly at 10:37 AM on May 24, 2019

Oh, yeah... another "wet the toothbrush before or after the paste" question.
I've stocked up on the Crest travel toothpaste and brush sets for decades. Target has them in the sample size aisle. The handle comes off and snaps over the bristles, protecting them.

Wet bristles first, then add paste. Hang from a clip inside a cabinet drawer. Air dry.
Carry a separate travel toothbrush for backpack. Snap the handle over the wet bristles after use. Air dry.

So... floss or toothpicks (or neither)? I'm on Team Floss.
posted by TrishaU at 10:43 AM on May 24, 2019

Never thought of towel drying the bristles on either an electric/battery-operated or a manual toothbrush. I towel dry the handle on my battery-operated toothbrush because I don't want excess moisture to get down into the battery compartment. Given that I live in the humid oppressive southern USA, I could see myself drying bristles with a paper towel. I may pick up that habit once this thread has a chance to work itself deep into my OCD'd, germaphobic fertile imagination. I generally give my toothbrushes an occasional soak in hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol so if toothbrush plague ever becomes a thing, maybe I'll avoid it.
posted by Gino on the Meta at 10:48 AM on May 24, 2019

Putting your toothbrush in the dishwasher on occasion is a good way to get it really clean.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2019

I have literally never heard of drying a toothbrush. Is that weird? For traveling, I just throw my toothbrush (electric) in with everything else. Maybe I’m gross.
posted by sucre at 10:53 AM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is mostly a thing for electric toothbrushes with removable heads. The instructions on mine suggest a) operating the toothbrush under running water for a couple of seconds, b) removing the head and rinsing both head and the part where the head attaches to the electric toothbrush, and c) drying the toothbrush handle and head before leaving it on the charger to dry.

I have confirmed through experiment that actually following this process results in a much-less-nasty electric toothbrush, without gross things growing inside the toothbrush head, than a simple rinse-off under water does. I leave my toothbrush head loose on top of the toothbrush while it's charging to maximize air flow.
posted by asperity at 10:53 AM on May 24, 2019

Oh, but as mentioned, I do remove and rinse the brush head of my electric toothbrush to avoid gunk buildup. Air dry though.
posted by sucre at 10:57 AM on May 24, 2019

I definitely recommend drying off the handle and at least tapping the water out of the brush head. Much better results than simple removal while leaving both wet.
posted by asperity at 10:58 AM on May 24, 2019

I do the following but I'm a sloppy brusher; paste foam everywhere:
* remove the toothbrush head from handle (please please do this if you have an electric toothbrush; shit gets gross up in there)
* quickly towel dry the handle
* run water through the head from the bottom where it attaches
* quickly towel dry the plastic part of the head (not bristles)
* "flick" water off the bristles with my (clean) thumb, bzzip bzzzzip bzzzzip, usually towards the mirror to my wife's chagrin
* handle kept on charger, head kept separate.

After reading through, pretty similar to asperity.
posted by supercres at 11:05 AM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Air dry bristles, paper towel wipe down of handle.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:07 AM on May 24, 2019

Towel. The. Toothbrush. Dry.
This has never occurred to me. If it goes in the mesh bag in my luggage, it gets a vigorous flick.

There's a character in a David Lodge novel that is obsessed with the state of his toothbrush and his brushing skills, but I can't remember which novel. So, mildly obsessive toothbrush practices are a Thing.
posted by theora55 at 11:16 AM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I dry it on a towel when travelling & it's going in a case because bacteria breed in damp environments. Day to day I'm all about the air drying.
posted by wwax at 11:22 AM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

My spouse grew up a towel dryer and now I've found myself on that side too. 🙀
posted by advicepig at 11:29 AM on May 24, 2019

Suck the moisture out of the bristles
wh... whuh...?


[screams forever]
posted by Don Pepino at 11:37 AM on May 24, 2019 [19 favorites]

> Suck the moisture out of the bristles, shake, then air dry.
Hard shell toothbrush container for travel.

Same, but only for travel (when it goes in its own pocket in my toiletries bag). At home, where I use an electric toothbrush, the head gets removed and hung on a little suction cup thingy to air dry.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:00 PM on May 24, 2019

They also think it is especially necessary to towel dry toothbrush when traveling, before toothbrush goes into case.

See, this I would do. Or at least, I'd air-dry before putting it in the case. Otherwise, in that enclosed environment it could get musty. Otherwise, couldn't care less.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:04 PM on May 24, 2019

Bump dry, then air dry. I wack the handle, near the head, against the hand towel on the rod. This shakes off loose water. Then I hang it out to dry for the rest of the day.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:05 PM on May 24, 2019

I air dry but I also wash it with a little drop of dish soap (before using) in case something grew on there while it was drying.
posted by bleep at 12:07 PM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I suppose I might dry the handle. When travelling I usually shake, flick, and aim the hair dryer at it for like, 20-30 seconds.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:12 PM on May 24, 2019

Wash with dish soap, yes! I have a mouth guard that has to be scrubbed with "a mild detergent" (not toothpaste because of the abrasives). They gave me this weird big denture brush to use to clean it but a. it's too weirdly big; the toothbrush fits into the toothpocket of the mouthguard better and b. having two brushes to perform minute oral-care ablutions was irritating plus c. the weird big denture brush was just too grandma to even look at, so I took to using my toothbrush and diluted dish detergent, which is what I refill the foaming handsoap bottle with, so it's right there. Well, I noticed that my toothbrushes stay clean and fresh pretty much indefinitely since the advent of the mouthguard that has to be cleaned with dish soap. That's the only thing that changed. Dishsoap ftw!
posted by Don Pepino at 12:26 PM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Seriously though, Team Air-Dry here.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2019

I'm definitely team air dry.

For my electric toothbrush, the full routine is:

- Run toothbrush head under water, then put toothpaste on
- Brush teeth
- After brushing, I take the tooth brush head off, and run it under water (both the bristles and also while holding toothbrush head under the faucet upside down)
- Shake tooth brush head a couple times to get any excess water off

A few times a week, I also take a damp towel (actually, I usually use those cotton pad make up remover things, just because they're handy), and I wipe down the handle of the toothbrush as well as the base, just to keep them from getting too gross.

Oh, and I didn't even used to do the detaching the toothbrush head and running it under water each time, but when I got my nice new electric toothbrush about 6 months ago, the directions recommended doing this, and it does keep it from getting gross.

If I had to immediately put the toothbrush into a case for travelling, I would use a paper towel to dry the bristles just so it doesn't get gross and musty, but that's really the only scenario when I can imagine doing that.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:52 PM on May 24, 2019

A towel sounds pretty unsanitary...think of all those mouth germs. When I do a deeper clean of my electric brush I do use a paper towel on the handle (not the bristles!). I use a travel cover (this smiley face one) even at home and always tap dry.
posted by pinochiette at 1:11 PM on May 24, 2019

I religiously towel-dry not only my electric toothbrush head and bristles, I also towel-dry the body and bristles of my GUM® Dual Action Tongue Cleaner Model 760RB. ESPECIALLY before traveling. You suck-it-dry folks are taking your lives in your hands.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:53 PM on May 24, 2019

Air dry.


I have a dedicated container with isopropanol/ rubbing alcohol just for my toothbrush head that I use sometimes. Dip it in there and flick. The alcohol will displace the water on the toothbrush head, and evaporates much faster than water.

The evaporation part rapidly kills bacteria (in theory - the time it takes to air dry is sufficient time for enough alcohol to enter bacterial cells, disrupting protein function and when it evaporates, it desiccates the rest of the cell).
posted by porpoise at 2:12 PM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Air dry mostly, but I do towel/tissue dry sometimes when I'm traveling somewhere and need to throw the toothbrush back into a carrying case/bag (say, in a hostel bathroom or something like that). In that case a toothbrush cover still isn't ideal, since I'm not drying because I'm afraid it's going to get other things wet, I'm drying because it's going back into an enclosed space and I want not to get gross/potentially moldy.

At home I air dry, but I do towel dry the handle because if I throw it back in a cup when it's wet, it eventually gets gross at the bottom of the cup.
posted by sprezzy at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2019

(Oh, it's 70% isopropanol, available in the first aid section at your local pharmacy-type place)
posted by porpoise at 3:05 PM on May 24, 2019

- Wet toothbrush
- Apply dab of toothpaste, brush teeth
- Rinse off toothbrush, stand it in the mug to air dry
- On the weekend, while I am doing laundry, I soak the toothbrush in pharmacy hydrogen peroxide
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 3:18 PM on May 24, 2019

> You suck-it-dry folks are taking your lives in your hands

I'm keeping the hygiene hypothesis going into my middle age. Let's check back in a few decades and see how it's turned out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:53 PM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'll probably be long dead from Towel Gobloots by then.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:24 PM on May 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

vigorous flick

Team flick here. Rinse well. Air dry if at home. flick-and-pack otherwise. Only change the toothbrush when the bristles start to come off. I'm from the dirt-eating generation.
posted by jessamyn at 8:26 PM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wash it off with the hottest water available from the tap, give it a good whack to get the bulk of the water out and then use my thumb to rake back and forth across the bristles spraying whatever moisture is left all across the room and then air dry. Totally relying on the assumption that the hot water will kill off some things and evaporate quicker than cold water.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:13 PM on May 24, 2019

I just rinse my electric toothbrush and then turn it on for a couple of seconds to get excess water off it. Probably do a pull apart clean once a week. Never does it go near a towel.
posted by cholly at 11:26 PM on May 24, 2019

Response by poster: Ok, that went about how I expected it to go. I also air dry, and was flummoxed when I saw the towel drying in action.

I appreciate all of you taking the time to weigh in, especially you brave souls who admitted to towel drying after the early "wtf, everyone air dries" responses - nice to know the boyfriend is just regular weird and not pod-person, literally nobody does that, weird.

I am not marking best answers, because presuming to judge your toothbrush care regimens feels unnecessary, but thanks for all the input!
posted by the primroses were over at 7:46 AM on May 25, 2019 [7 favorites]

I always flick, at home or travelling, but I have never found the toothbrush not to be dry when I took it back out of the case in another location at the end of the day. My case has holes on one end to facilitate air flow and I place the brush end in the end of the case that has the holes.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:16 PM on May 25, 2019

When my Nephews were living with me, one morning, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the 13yo wipe his toothbrush on his jeans. Kindly told him no, you shouldn't do that for many, many reasons.

Boys. They never stop amazing me.
posted by james33 at 6:31 AM on May 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

FWIW, copied from an electric toothbrush user manual that might be mine:
Cleaning Instructions: After brushing, rinse your brush head or accessory carefully under running water for some seconds with the handle switched on. Switch off the handle and remove the brush head or accessory. Clean both parts separately under running water then wipe them dry before reassembling the toothbrush. Disassemble charging unit before cleaning. Never place the charger in dishwasher or water; it should be cleaned with a damp cloth only (see picture 6, page 2). Brush head holder, brush head compartment and protective cover are dishwasher-safe."
I dunno what the heck y'all think is on your towels, but if it's good enough to dry my face it's certainly good enough to whack my toothbrush against. Paper towels?! None of this is sterile. Not even the paper towels.
posted by asperity at 8:02 AM on May 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

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