I have a dental pick that has been lying around for a couple years which I haven't used. It has been on the floor and lying around nooks and crannies of drawers that haven't been really clean.

I wanted to boil it and then rub it with sanitizing alcohol. Is this sufficient? Or could it be that the fact that it has been lying around for so long it picked up some really heavy viruses or bacteria (or chemicals)?

 Dental pick


2 Answers 2


Unless there have been animals around it recently, it's unlikely there are any viruses on it. As for bacteria, or more specifically bacterial spores, wet heat is a far better sanitizer than alcohol. A half hour at a full boil should kill anything particularly nasty, like clostridium tetani.

If you want absolute peace of mind this should do the trick, although I'm not sure if that handle will make it through this process:

  1. Scrub off any large debris.
  2. Put it in an autoclave. If you don't have an autoclave, a pressure cooker should do the trick.
  3. Run the device according to the directions. It's pressurized steam, after all, you don't want to blow up or burn up.
  4. Wait for it to cool, then use as normal.
  • The material should be heat resistant otherwise autoclaving will damage it.
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 12:32

If it hasn't been in a mouth for years, then it's already largely free of bacteria and viruses. It's just bare plastic and metal, neither of which can sustain pathogen growth. Any bacteria on that pick from the last time it was in your mouth are almost certainly long since dead.

So just wash it in soapy water and it should be fine. There is no need to boil or sterilize it unless you suspect it's been in contact with infectious material (eg, feces) or you're a practicing dentist and will be using it on patients.

  • Downvotes without comment aren't helpful.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 1:50
  • I didn't down vote, but I could speculate that it may be because of the second paragraph having no references, though I don't think it is really needed.
    – michaelpri
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 23:20
  • @michaelpri Your guess is as good as mine. The notion that a dental tool that you're using only in your own mouth needs to be sterilized (vs. simply clean) is silly. I wonder how many downvoters autoclave their toothbrushes before every use.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 0:51
  • @CareyGregory I absolutely agree with you comment. I would up vote this but I have already a while ago.
    – Muze
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 20:03

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