How to Sterilize Your Toothbrush

March 30, 2010 at 12:19 am 3 comments

Whether you plan to buy your own dental tools, or clean baby bottles, you should understand how to sterilize some important household items.

The purpose of sterilization is to remove fungi, bacteria, viruses and spores. Some people believe exposure to some bacteria is a good thing, and they might be right, but exposure to some varieties of these organisms can be very bad for you.

There are a number of ways to perform sterilization using: heat, chemicals, radiation, pressure and filtration.

Heat is probably the most misunderstood method of sterilization. It is a popular practice to boil baby products in water and if the duration is long enough, it may disinfect them but it does not sterilize them. The boiling method is really good at removing particles, which can be a source of bacteria, but is not great at killing the bacteria itself. If you do use this method, be sure to start with cold water since hot water from your tap is already a bacteria risk (see: why you shouldn’t drink hot water from your tap).

To sterilize with heat, you need a holding time of 3 minutes at 273 °F  (134 °C). Water turns to steam at 212 °F (100 °C), so you can’t use water to sterilize something directly. But, you can use steam. In fact, that’s basically what hospitals use inside a device called an autoclave. It is like a small dishwasher that uses steam and pressure to sterilize items. Color changing tape is used inside to tell the operator when optimal sterilization conditions have been met. Some new dishwashers and clothes washing machines have steam cycles too.

Chemical sterilization is another common method of sterilization. Bleach is one of two sterilizing chemicals that you might find in your home already. Some laundry soap contains bleach and many dishwasher detergents contain it too. It is especially important in your dishwasher since most dishwashers use hot water to release food from dishes and hot water from your hot water tank can be a bacteria risk on its own. This is also why it is especially important to get rid of dishes with cracks and crevices where bacteria can flourish.

The other chemical that you may have already or can easily find at the drug store is Hydrogen Peroxide. High concentrations of 35% or higher can offer very short sterilization cycle times. The retail formula is usually around 3%, and it is much safer at that concentration but will require lengthy exposure to sterilize.

Running your toothbrush through the dishwasher with a bleach based dishwasher detergent is probably your best bet. Of course, take all safety precautions for these methods and read the packaging for all chemicals.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Sterilization, Steam

Entry filed under: Around The House, Demystified, Despite Popular Belief, Food and Drink, Health and Beauty, ProTips.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cole  |  April 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I would never have thought to put my toothbrush in the dishwasher

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