Your membership has expired

The payment for your account couldn't be processed or you've canceled your account with us.


    Smarter: How to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean

    Daily cleaning of the toothbrush after use in bathroom sink Photo: Getty Images

    Of all the things to keep clean, I would think that a toothbrush would be a top priority because we’re literally putting it in our mouths twice a day. So this week I’m looking into the right ways to clean and store your toothbrush.

    Also in this issue: Our response to your question about how to keep track of streaming subscriptions, and is there a difference between laundry detergent and stain removal spray?


    I have to take better care of my teeth. That’s the lesson I learned multiple cavities and three crowns later.

    I was a child who dreaded going to the dentist, and I’ve now advanced into an adult who still dreads going to the dentist but does her best to make the trip less traumatic. I floss every day now. And I do my best to brush my teeth the right way

    The other day, however, when I was brushing my teeth, I realized there was an important part of my oral care that I was neglecting: the toothbrush itself. Considering how much I was relying on this little brush to keep my teeth clean, I never paid much attention to the cleaning of the utensil itself. 

    More Tips From the Smarter Newsletter

    So how should you keep your toothbrush clean? First, it’s worth noting that although a toothbrush can harbor bacteria even when it looks visibly clean, there’s no evidence that bacteria will cause adverse health effects.

    That being said, there are still general guidelines you can follow for better toothbrush care and hygiene. You should rinse your toothbrush with tap water until it’s clean, then store it in an upright position and let it air-dry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Avoid covering or storing your moist toothbrush in a closed container, which can promote the growth of bacteria.

    If you’re traveling, you can use toothbrush cases, plastic bags, or travel toothbrushes with a built-in case to keep your toothbrush clean. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, though, your toothbrush should be kept uncovered in a clean, dry place to prevent bacterial accumulation, says Martinna Bertolini, DDS, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of periodontics and preventative dentistry at the University of Pittsburgh.

    If there’s more than one brush in the same holder, don’t let them touch each other, the CDC says. The best places to keep your toothbrushes stored are in uncovered cup holders far away from toilets or as dry as possible inside ventilated cabinets or drawers, Martinna says. Electric toothbrushes can dry in their own base, in an upright position.

    And yes, the common wisdom that you shouldn’t share toothbrushes is correct, because you could be exchanging bodily fluids and germs with another person, according to the American Dental Association.

    The ADA also suggests you should replace your toothbrush every three to four months or more often if the bristles are getting matted or frayed. That’s because the effectiveness of the brush decreases as the bristles become worn. 

    Can you sanitize a toothbrush with mouthwash? If you’ve ever considered soaking your toothbrush in mouthwash to sanitize it, you wouldn’t be that far off the mark in terms of thinking it might work. According to a study, immersing a toothbrush in 3 percent hydrogen peroxide or certain mouthwashes can reduce bacterial colonization.

    However, the CDC cautions against this method because soaking toothbrushes in disinfecting solutions or mouthwash may actually spread germs under certain conditions. Disinfecting your toothbrush through more creative means, such as using dishwashers, microwaves, or ultraviolet devices, is also discouraged, in part because you might risk damaging the brush.

    Bonus link: Are any toothpaste ingredients dangerous to your health?

    You’re reading Smarter, a newsletter that answers consumer questions with useful tips from our experts. Sign up to get Smarter in your inbox or check out more Smarter issues here.


    Oxi Clean Max Force Spray Bottle and Tide Ulta Stain Release Laundry Detergent sitting on top of washing machine

    Photos: Consumer Reports Photos: Consumer Reports

    What’s the difference between a laundry detergent and a stain remover spray?

    (The answer is at the end of the newsletter.)


    Question from reader Sherry Bullard:
    How do I keep track of my streaming subscriptions?

    It can be overwhelming to try to remember all the streaming services you’re subscribed to. One thing you can do is to subscribe to all your services using just one credit card, says James K. Willcox, a senior electronics editor at CR who writes frequently about TVs and streaming services.

    You can also subscribe to multiple streaming services through a single service, such as Amazon, Apple TV+, or Roku. You’ll be billed for those other services through that main account.

    Also consider adding the dates that your streaming subscriptions will auto-renew, or when a free trial expires, to your calendar. This way you can decide which ones you want to keep and which ones you can live without before you have to pay.

    Plus, if you’re looking to cut costs on streaming, you can check out the best free streaming services out there.


    Space heaters, if not used properly, can be dangerous. It’s one of the leading causes of home fires and accounts for 4 out of 5 home heating fire deaths.

    Here’s what you should know to use your space heater safely.

    @consumerreports With winter storms this weekend, it’s vital to use space heaters safely. #winterishere #spaceheater #coldweather #winterstorm ♬ original sound - Consumer Reports


    🚗 How to Protect Yourself in a Multicar Pileup
    After a crash, it’s good to stay in your car rather than getting out immediately.

    🍳 Find a Healthy Cooking Oil
    Which has more saturated fat, extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil?

    Get Your Floors Clean With Less Effort
    For those who hate cleaning floors, these tools will make all the difference.


    Both stain remover sprays and liquid laundry detergents are typically made with the same ingredients. The main difference is that stain removers are meant to be used in their concentrated form, while laundry detergents are intended to be diluted with lots of water.

    So if you have a tough stain you want to pretreat and you don’t have a stain remover spray at hand, you can dab some detergent onto the stain and let it soak for 5 minutes before washing.

    And here are the best stain fighters, according to our tests (available to CR members).

    Owl Icon

    "Be kind to your teeth. They need it."

    Thanks for reading Smarter! If you want more tips that will make you a little bit smarter, sign up to have the newsletter delivered straight to your inbox every week.

    Headshot of CR Author Pang-Chieh (BJ) Ho

    Pang-Chieh Ho

    I'm a newsletter writer who likes looking into the different ways we can live smarter. The topics I cover typically explore unanswered questions we have about the products we use every day and bridge the gaps between what owners' manuals advise and what we actually do. In my spare time, I like to take photos, critique movies out loud while I watch (at home!), and take care of my ever-increasing plant "children."