How to clean your hairbrushes and combs

I enjoy cleaning my hairbrushes and combs. It’s quick and easy, it makes your brushes and combs look like new, it’s good for your hair, and it gives you the rewarding feeling of taking good care of something. (Hey, it all adds up!)

Honestly, there was a time (teenage years) when it never occurred to me to clean my brushes and combs. As soon as I was alerted, though (must have been an article in Seventeen or some such!), I was on it. 

a person holding a wooden comb with both hands

Why should I clean my brushes and combs?

Think about using your brush or comb. A clean brush or comb removes debris from your hair and distributes your hair’s natural oils from the scalp through the length of your hair, smoothing along the way. If your brush or comb also contains dust, grime, bacteria, dandruff, yeast, skin particles, old oils, and/or old hair product (which can make it even easier for debris to stick), then these substances, too, will be deposited on your hair. Ugh. Your hair becomes dirtier, not cleaner, and your scalp can become irritated and your hair follicles clogged. Not good.

How often should I clean my brushes and combs?

Ideally? Once a week. After all, bacteria and dust and hair product build up every time you use your brush and comb. Realistically, though, most of us can manage every two weeks or once a month, and that’s okay — much better, in fact, than “never!”

How often you should clean depends a bit on how much hair product you use, too; your brush and comb will be dirty quicker if you use a lot of hair product. If you see buildup of hair product on your brush, it’s time. BTW, natural products cause less buildup than other products. 

How should I clean my brushes and combs?

Don’t let the steps fool you. This is a quick and easy process!

A wooden paddle hairbrush, facing up
  1. Remove any hair from the bristles and teeth. Usually you’ll be able to pull the hair out with your fingers, but for stubborn hair (in a round bristle brush, for example) use the tail of a rat tail comb to pull or a small pair of scissors to cut the hair out. (This reminds me of removing hair from the vacuum beater!) A sewing seam ripper works well, too. It’s best to make it a habit to remove hair from your brushes and combs each time you use them. On average, we shed 50 to 100 hairs daily. That’s a lot of accumulation in a short time!
  2. Prepare a pan of soapy water (see options below). 
  3. Swish the brushes and combs in the soapy water. Rub the bristles of your brushes together. (One reason it’s a good idea to clean all your brushes at the same time.) If your brush has soft padding where the bristles attach to the base of the brush, or if the brush handle and pad or your comb is wood, don’t soak it. Otherwise — if your brushes and combs are plastic or metal — you can soak them for a half hour or so in the soapy water. 
  4. For combs, use an old toothbrush to scrub the teeth clean. (Place a little more soap on the toothbrush for added help.)
  5. Rinse the brushes and combs under warm running water.
  6. Shake out excess water.
  7. Place the combs and brushes on a clean towel in a cool, dry place to dry, bristles down. If the environment is humid, use a hair dryer on low to dry the brush before any mold has a chance to start developing. (This is especially important for brushes with a soft padded base, but it’s good for any brush that might not dry quickly).
a wooden comb, brush, manicure scissors, a small towel, and a drawstring bag on a cream-colored tile surface

What kind of soap should I use to clean my brushes and combs?

You don’t need any fancy solution for that “soapy liquid” you use to clean your brushes and combs. Here are some options and optional additions:

  • Mild dish soap and warm water. Liquid castile soap is perfect.
  • Mild shampoo and warm water. A clarifying shampoo will have the best ability to break down buildup on bristles and teeth, but any shampoo will do.
  • Add a tablespoon of vinegar to your soap or shampoo for added cleansing of dirt and removal of bacteria. 
  • Add a drop or two of tea tree oil to the cleansing solution. Tea tree oil has antiseptic qualities, and it’s good for your hair to boot. (I have an aversion to the smell; if you haven’t tried it, give it a whiff before using.)
  • Add a tablespoon of baking soda to cut the oils on the bristles and teeth. (Don’t add both baking soda and vinegar, though, unless you want a volcano in your pan.)

Note: Use warm, not hot or cold water. Hot water may deteriorate your handles, bristles, and any glue that holds them all together. And cold water won’t get the job done as well.

close up of a plastic paddle hairbrush

Replacing your old brush and comb

If your brush has buildup that you can’t wash out, or if the bristles are looking splayed and tired (or missing!), it’s time to invest in a new one. Also replace your brush if the cushion or pad is cracked or very squishy. A good brush will last for years, so it’s worth the investment.

Wooden brushes and combs are what I like best. I’m in the market for a new one, and here are some good options I found:

  • This wooden hair brush comes with a handy brush cleaner.
  • I’m considering this one that touts zero static, which would be a lovely features.
  • I’d like to replace my plastic wet comb, and I think this bamboo wide-toothed comb might be perfect. 
  • I don’t need a personalized brush, but I think this would make a nice gift.
  • Speaking of gifts, I love giving baby brushes and combs. Is there anything sweeter than new baby hair?

(Note that I’m an Etsy affiliate, so if you find something you love and make a purchase through any of my links, I’ll make a little commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting C2K!)

What kinds of brushes and combs do you like to use? Do you have a good source to share?

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How to clean your makeup brushes and sponges

How to take good care of scissors

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