Why does my electric toothbrush have a two-pin plug?

person holding black electronic device
Power pins: electric toothbrushes use different plug sockets in the UK

If you’ve bought an electric toothbrush, or even an electric shaver, you’ll find that it comes with a two-pin plug on the end. This seems to take some folk by surprise. Find any electric toothbrush on Amazon and it doesn’t long to find a review such as this:

So, let’s explore why this is the case and what that plug actually is.

What kind of plug is it?

Although it looks like a European plug, it’s not – the pins are slightly the wrong distance apart. Instead, this is a special type of plug named BS 4573. Catchy, eh? More commonly it’s known as a UK shaver plug.

Why do we use a two-pin plug on toothbrushes and shavers?

The simple answer is safety. We’re picky in the UK, we don’t like to be electrocuted. Putting a 240v electric supply in a wet bathroom is a problem waiting to happen.

So, the only type of power socket that is allowed in a UK bathroom is a special isolating version. They’re meaty too – I’ve installed one flush in a wall before and I thought I was going to come through the other side. Even then there are strict rules about where in the bathroom they can be fitted, which is why many are installed over mirrors.

As a result, only low-powered items such as toothbrushes and shavers will work in these sockets and they need the special two-pin plugs.

How can I charge my toothbrush if I don’t have a two-pin socket in my bathroom?

You’re not alone – I don’t either. You’ll need to charge the item outside of your bathroom, using a simple adapter that plugs into a standard UK mains socket.

They’re pretty cheap – you can pick them up from most supermarkets, or from Amazon, for only a couple of pounds.

Extend the battery life of your electric toothbrush

About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind WordPress.com and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.


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  • Just bought a new electric toothbrush and it came with a 3 pin plug! I raised the safety issue with them and they simply said it’s not supposed to be charged in the bathroom. They don’t seem receptive to this issue