steal this idea: cleaning with toothbrushes

toothbrush cleaning

I have become my Grandmother. I can remember standing in her kitchen, watching as she washed out Ziploc bags. That she would do this for a disposable item seemed odd to me so when I was 12 or so, I asked her why. In a typical response from someone who lived through the Great Depression, she looked at me and said, “What else would I do with a perfectly good bag?” What seemed quaint or odd to me at the time is now, of course, just a fact of daily living — not so much to save money, but to conserve resources. So yes, I wash out bags when I can. And instead of tossing out new toothbrushes after someone comes down with strep or some other bug, we sterilize them in the dishwasher. For toothbrushes that are past their prime, we mark the handles with a Sharpie and put into use elsewhere in the house. My favorite uses?

1. Microplanes. Before you hand wash, use a clean, dry toothbrush to remove any remaining nutmeg, hard cheeses or vegetables. From there, it’s only a matter of a quick scrub and rinse in the sink.
2. Sink drains. Pour a little vinegar down the drain and use a toothbrush to scrub away all the gunk in the drain and around the finished edge where it meets the sink.
3. Dishwasher. Dipped in vinegar, a toothbrush can remove buildup from around the door hinges and seals. Or dip in a kitchen cleaner to scrub off food deposits from the bottom screen or door seals.
4. Window screens. Try using a dry toothbrush on a dry screen at first. If that doesn’t remove the debris, give the screen a quick spray, then follow with a toothbrush dipped in vinegar.
5. Window frames. Whether dirt, bugs or mold have collected, a small container of soapy water to frequently rinse the toothbrush in is the only other supply needed — besides a little patience and elbow grease.
6. Sink edge or any other caulk line. A slightly damp toothbrush does the trick. Simply follow behind with a soft rag.
7. Coffee maker burner. Take dry toothbrush to the burner and you can easily remove all the burned on spots. Follow with a wet sponge. You’ll be amazed at how dirty a burner can get.

Of course, there’s always the old standbys, too — grout and linoleum, fireplace bricks, lampshades — but let’s hear from you. What’s your favorite reuse of a toothbrush? — Sarah L.

From our partners

Cleaning with a toothbrush is one of the things my friends lovingly tease me about. I grew up with a family full of farmers who had lived through the Great Depression and WWII in Italy (being bombed and getting lice is not fun, so I hear) so waste was not a good thing growing up.

Besides, what’s better for hardcore scrubbing in tight crevices than a toothbrush? Nothing works better than a toothbrush, a dab of dish soap and some baking soda for “green” cleaning really cruddy stuff.


I do clean with toothbrushes, but I love my little Oxo little cleaning brushes:

They’re much sturdier than a toothbrush, and clean things that would defeat a toothbrush. I use them for cleaning the vacuum filter, they’re great for cleaning around faucets, including under the handles when they’re turned on (clean under there if you never have, it gets gross.) They have loads of uses!