Every time you flush your toilet, a cloud of water vapor deposits microscopic poo particles on everything in your bathroom — including your toothbrush.

Your toothbrush is probably covered in poo — at least if you leave the toilet seat up when you flush, that is. The reason? That sudden rush of swirling water that pushes the toilet bowl contents down the drain creates a towering vortex of microscopic poo particle-infused vapor that diffuses throughout your entire bathroom and eventually settles on every surface, including the bristles of your uncovered toothbrush.

This phenomenon, known as “toilet plume,” was first described in a landmark 1975 study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. Further research has confirmed that toilet plume spreads infectious aerosols throughout your bathroom, including the potentially fatal bacterium Clostridium difficile, or C. diff.

Ways to get the poo off

Even though the American Dental Association admits there’s little evidence to suggest bacteria on toothbrushes is likely to make you sick, ADA recommendations acknowledge the ick-factor and offer several ways to sanitize your toothbrush:

  • Ultraviolet sanitizer devices: If you’re comfortable using light to zap bacteria on your toothbrush, UV sanitizers available on Amazon cost anywhere from $11 for a portable device to $47 for a wall-mounted multi-brush cleaner.
  • Soak it in hydrogen peroxide: For a less expensive solution, the ADA says a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide has been shown to reduce toothbrush bacteria by up to 85%.
  • Soak it in Listerine: According to the ADA, Listerine brand mouthwash will also kill up to 85% of the bacteria on your toothbrush, which may be the most convenient remedy if you already use Listerine.
  • Absolutely do not do this: Whatever you do, do not put your toothbrush in the microwave or dishwasher, as high heat could melt or otherwise damage the brush.
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