If you’re like most of the population, the chances that your toothbrush is resting on your counter or nestled in a drawer are pretty high. If this is you, then the odds are good that you’ve wondered a time or two about just how clean your toothbrush might be. Below we’ve got some helpful tips on how to make sure your toothbrush is clean and how you’ll know when it’s time for a replacement.

Store it in open air

Contrary to how you might feel about placing a cover over your toothbrush to protect it from germs, it’s actually best to store your toothbrush upright in a clean holder or cup where it can be exposed to the open air. The ADA recommends this to prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria.

Give your toothbrush space

If your toothbrush is being stored with others then make sure there is space between them. This will help prevent cross contamination from one toothbrush to another.

Rinse It Thoroughly

Make sure that after every use you give your toothbrush a good rinse to dislodge any remaining toothpaste or food particles. We recommend using warm water rather than cold. Some people may opt to use antiseptic mouthwash to rinse a toothbrush which is also a good option for cleaning them on occasion.

Don’t Share a Toothbrush

While this might seem like common sense, remember that it’s never a good idea to share a toothbrush. Your mouth contains germs and bacteria that can spread to someone else from your toothbrush. This is particularly true if you’ve got a cold or the flu.

Watch for Buildup and Damaged Bristles

Use your eyes to examine your toothbrush before using it each day. If you notice toothpaste buildup or residue of any kind it’s probably time for a replacement. Similarly, if the bristles are matted or discolored then it’s time for a new toothbrush.

Clean Your Toothbrush Holder Regularly

While paying attention to the status of the toothbrush is important, we also want to remind you not to forget about the holder you’re using for storage. It’s possible for bacteria and germs to buildup on these as well so be sure to clean them regularly. Either wipe the holder down with a disinfectant wipe or run it through the dishwasher to be sure that it’s staying clean.

When in Doubt, Throw It Out

While most toothbrushes can last for an average of 3-4 months before being thrown out, if there’s any question in your mind about whether or not your toothbrush is clean we recommend just tossing it in the garbage.

We also suggest that if anyone in your house has recently had a contagious illness that you throw out the toothbrush once they’ve recovered to ensure any potential germs lingering on the brush don’t re-contaminate members of your household.