Sally Underwood
Updated on April 17, 2021

We use them every day, relying on them to de-frizz, detangle and generally tame hair, but how much attention do we pay to our hairbrushes?

Whether yours is round, paddle, bristle or boar hair, the reality is that as well as smoothing hair, brushes can also end up collecting spare strands, dead skin, product build-up and oil, leaving them less effective.

Ultimately, this can end up with us distributing dirt or oil back through our hair, resulting in lank locks or hair that lacks shine. Worse still, bristles can become a breeding ground for bacteria or yeast, leading to potential scalp issues.

Luckily, though, keeping brushes clean is one of the quickest ways to maintain hair health. But, what is the best way, and how often should you do it?

Read on to learn some tips and steps on how to clean a hairbrush.

The Cleaning Steps

While the exact technique varies slightly with each brush type (see farther down this post for more details.), the steps and tools for cleaning your hairbrush are the same:

1. Remove all the hair

First, manually remove any hair lodged in your brush by pulling out what you can by hand, before using the end of a comb (or something similar like a bamboo skewer or tweezers) to remove any remaining strands. If hair build-up is particularly bad, use a pair of scissors to cut away the excess.

2. Pick your cleanser

Just as it works to clean your hair, a gentle shampoo will also thoroughly cleanse brushes. Avoid any harsh detergents, especially if cleaning a natural-bristle brush, which might damage your hair tools, but do pick a shampoo containing sulphates to thoroughly clean them.

Alternatively, a couple of teaspoons of baking soda will also gently cleanse while lifting away dirt and debris.

3. Use warm water

Using warm, not hot, water, fill a medium-sized bowl and add your chosen detergent.

4. Don’t skip the details

After cleansing your brush according to its type and what it is made of (see below for more details on how to clean each type of hairbrush), if dirt remains, use a toothbrush soaked in your cleaning solution to gently remove the rest. There are also special brush cleaners of different shapes.

5. Dry brush carefully

Finally, dry carefully, laying the brushes with their bristles down on a paper or hand towel, before letting them dry overnight to make sure all moisture is gone.

Different Kinds of Hairbrushes

Whether it’s plastic, metal or natural material, the type of brush will dictate exactly how it needs to be cleansed and how to avoid damaging it.

Paddle brushes: As one of the most helpful tools in any haircare enthusiasts kit, paddle brushes are great for blow drying and smoothing hair. So, to keep locks looking their best, make sure to clean your paddle hairbrush thoroughly by dipping a toothbrush in your cleansing solution and gently going over the roots of bristles and the brush pad itself.

Never fully submerge the brush pad itself in water as this can lead to moisture building up behind the bristles, causing mildew or mould to form.

Bristle brushes: Whether a round brush or small styling tool, nylon-bristle brushes are one of the most common hair-care tools. And, although it may take a little while longer to remove all the hair from the small bristles, after doing so they can be cleaned in the same way as paddle brushes; using a toothbrush soaked in your cleansing solution to cleanse bristles and pads.

Plastic brushes: Rigid plastic brushes like combs or wet brushes are perhaps the easiest to cleanse since they are often wide-toothed (meaning more space between each bristle so less hair gets trapped there) and are also able to be fully submerged in water.

Pretty much the most robust brush types, these can be kept in water for 20 minutes to dislodge any oil and dirt before using a toothbrush to remove any excess grime.

Wooden brushes: Eco-friendly and often long-lasting, wooden brushes can be kind on the hair and the environment. But, to avoid having to replace them, the wood needs to be kept in good condition.

Therefore, you need to clean wooden hairbrushes with care, using a cleansing solution-soaked toothbrush again; except this time, make sure to use only the gentlest shampoo or other cleanser. Similarly, try to not allow the brush to get too wet as it may have trouble drying out fully, leading to potential mildew issues.

Boar brushes: Boar brushes are one of the oldest forms of hair tools and are typically recommended by stylists for their ability to absorb hair’s natural oils, distributing them evenly along strands and helping to keep ends moisturised.

These natural bristles can be delicate, however, so take care to cleanse them the same way as wooden brushes; using the gentlest cleansers and never allowing them to get too wet.

Men’s brushes: Finally, men’s brushes need to be kept clean, too. Depending on its type and material, use the guide above to gently cleanse any hairbrushes that are designed specifically for men.

Types Of Brushes For Hair

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How Often to Clean?

How often you should clean your hairbrush depends on several factors, including what it’s made of, how much product you tend to use, and whether you have any other hair issues like dandruff or head lice.

For all brush types, though, make sure to manually remove hair build up at least once a week to help reduce product build up and to give your brush the best chance of detangling and smoothing hair.

For plastic, nylon or metal brushes, aim to wash them once a month. If your hair is prone to product build-up, though, up this to once every three weeks.

For boar bristles and wooden brushes, cleanse every other month to avoid damaging the tool itself. If you use a lot of products in your hair, however, wash the brushes every six weeks.

What About Dandruff?

For scalp conditions like dandruff, keeping brushes clean of lint, dirt and oil is especially important to avoid irritating sensitive skin further and to prevent build-up of yeast, which can exacerbate the condition. When a hairbrush is kept clean, brushing can actually be good for dandruff by removing dead skin cells and distributing oils throughout hair.

Take care to clean a hairbrush with dandruff by using an anti-dandruff shampoo containing anti-fungal ingredients, such as tea tree oil to limit yeast and bacteria growth. Similarly, wash brushes more often than normal — around every two weeks for plastic, nylon or metal brushes, or once a month for boar bristle or wooden brushes.

Hair Brushes Cleansing Method

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Don’t Let Head Lice Bug You

Finally, if you or someone in your household has had head lice, take special steps to clean the brush thoroughly to avoid spreading lice and their eggs farther. Place brushes in hot (not boiling) water for at least 15 minutes to kill any remaining bugs without damaging the tool itself. Alternatively, remove hair from the brush and place in a sealed bag in the freezer for at least 12 hours.

After killing all the lice, cleanse the brush as normal, according to its type using the guide above.

Keeping your brushes clean is one of the quickest (and cheapest) ways to keep hair looking healthy. Understanding how to clean a hairbrush easily — and how often — could also help extend the life of any expensive tools, meaning less money on brushes and more for the things you love.

Featured Image via Instagram

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