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How to Clean a Hairbrush: A Step-by-Step Guide

Written by Robbie Salter
How to Clean a Hairbrush: A Step-by-Step Guide

Okay, let’s be honest, when was the last time you cleaned your hairbrush? We don’t just mean just pulling the hair out. When was the last time you really sanitized your brush?

No worries if the answer is a long time ago or never. Most people don’t make cleaning their hair brushes a priority.

On that topic, we have some good news and some not-so-good news. You really do need to regularly clean your hairbrush. So what’s the good news? It’s simple and easy.

Today we’ll break down the process and talk about why it’s important.

Why Should You Clean Your Hairbrush?

Your hairbrush sees a lot. From leave-in conditioners to gels to hairspray to finishing cream, the bristles pick up tiny particles of products and hang onto them when we brush our hair. They also pick up dead skin cells, dirt, oils, and, of course, loose hair.

Some of that transferred material is visible to the eye. It doesn’t take long, especially for those with thick and curly hair, for a new hairbrush to collect a wig of its own.

It’s estimated that most people lose 50 to 100 hair strands a day. That said, much of the other material like oil and dirt goes unnoticed, and that’s what makes cleaning your hairbrush really important.

Every time you pull a dirty brush across your scalp and hair, you risk transferring dirt, oil, and dead skin cells back onto your head.

Considering that most of us brush our hair soon after showering, that means you could be doing some harm minutes after you cleanse your hair. Furthermore, a brush that’s covered in hair is simply not as effective at moving the product through hair strands and removing knots.

Assuming you want to keep your hair and scalp clean and happy — it’s always been our biggest goal — we hope cleaning your hairbrush just shot up your to-do list.

How Often Should You Wash Your Hairbrush?

This is a little bit of a complicated question, as it can depend on how much product you’re putting in your hair and how much you naturally shed.

As a general rule of thumb, cleaning your hairbrush once a week will help alleviate the issues of product and skin build-up. The weekly cadence is also easy to remember once you start doing it regularly. If you don’t often use hair care products, you can clean your hairbrush every 2–3 weeks.

Set a reminder, so you don’t forget.

At the very least, do remove the hair from your brush as often as possible, even daily. It will make your hairbrush far more effective.

The most important thing is that you get into the habit of regularly cleaning out the bristles, freeing the loose hair, and clearing away dirt and grime.

What if I Have Dandruff?

People experiencing dandruff have all the more reason to regularly clean their hairbrush. When we see dandruff-caused flakes on our scalp, what we’re actually seeing is an imbalance of our scalp’s microbiome.

Dandruff tends to coincide with an overgrowth of a fungus called Malassezia. It feeds on sebum, the oil your hair follicles naturally produce, which is why dandruff tends to be so dense and greasy. Skin cells and sebum build-up and before long, flaking appears on our scalp, hair, and shoulders.

The scalp is generally more sensitive when experiencing dandruff and can easily get irritated or itchy. When that’s the case, you want to avoid introducing anything that will further irritate it, and that very much includes the lingering material on your hairbrush.

As good as that scratching may feel, you should make sure your bristles are totally clean to help restore balance to your scalp’s microbiome.

Speaking of brushing feeling good, have you considered picking up a scalp brush? It’s a little like a hairbrush, but it’s more focused on massaging and exfoliating the surface of the scalp.

For those of us with dandruff and build-up (it’s very common, so that’s probably most of us!), the scalp brush can do wonders in clearing away dead skin cells and leftover product, helping shampoo go even farther to cleanse your scalp. We recommend using it on dry hair before a wash day about once or twice a week. And then regularly wash it using the instructions below.

Every time you pull a dirty brush across your scalp and hair, you risk transferring dirt, oil, and dead skin cells back onto your head.

How to Clean Your Hairbrush

That’s as good a segue as any to move into the step-by-step guide for cleaning your brush. For most people, everything you’ll need for a wash can be found in your cupboard or in the shower:

  • A small bowl that can fit your brush

  • Warm water

  • Gentle shampoo

  • A comb with a pointed handle

  • A toothbrush

  • Scissors (if necessary)

You just need something to help pick hair out of the bristles. Feel free to get creative.

1. Remove the Collected Hair

First things first, you’ll need to remove the hair that’s collected in your bristles. If it’s been a while since you last cleaned your brush, you may need to use scissors to break up the hair clumps into something more manageable. Curly girls, we feel you.

It can be tempting to just use your hands here, but aggressive pulling at the bristles can damage your brush. Instead, use the handle end of your comb to pull the hair out of the bristles.

This works on both flat and round brushes, though the latter may need a little more attention.

2. Wash Your Brush With Warm Water

This is the good part. Fill your bowl with warm water and add a few drops of gentle shampoo.

Our Balancing Shampoo should do the trick, both in cleansing your bristles and in making your bathroom smell heavenly. Win-win. Whirl the bowl around a little with your fingers, so you start to see some suds.

Next, you should dip your brush into the water. Depending on what kind of brush you have, the instructions vary a little:

  • Brushes with all plastic or metal materials: Place the brush in the warm water and let soak for at least three minutes.

  • Brushes with soft fabric at their base: Focus only on submerging the bristles. Don’t let the fabric base touch the water. Dip and shake several times.

  • Brushes with wooden handles: You should also do the dip and shake method to maintain the integrity of the wood finish.

  • Brushes with natural bristles: If the handle is plastic, you can fully submerge it. If it’s wooden, follow the dip and shake method. Unless your brush comes with specific instructions, most natural bristles are effectively cleaned this way.

3. Get Meticulous With a Toothbrush

If you have a little time and elbow grease to spare, getting into the nooks and crannies of the bristles can go a long way.

Dip a toothbrush you don’t intend to use in your mouth into the warm water and get some suds onto the bristles. Run the toothbrush along with your hair brushes' bristles, scrubbing away buildup.

This step might seem a little extra, but it’s a worthy step in ensuring your brush is sparkling clean. While you’re at it, you can always scrub away hard-to-clean grime between your bathroom tiles.

4. Rinse and Fully Dry

The last step is to make sure the hairbrush fully dries before putting it away or running it through your hair. Hairbrushes, especially those with fabric bases, can hold mildew if they’re put away before thoroughly dried.

That would be very counterproductive for the scalp.

Most brushes can simply be laid out on a towel overnight. For fabric-based brushes or incredibly dense natural bristles, a hairdryer can help you remove all moisture. Use it on the cool setting to avoid melting any plastic.

Does Your Hairbrush Need a Spa Day?

There’s nothing to be ashamed about if it’s been a minute since you last cleaned your hairbrush.

We all lead busy lives, and between all the other things that need to get washed, it’s easy to let the hairbrush slip down to the bottom of the list. But because we’re hair and scalp-health obsessed, we have to advocate for bumping it up a few notches.

Our hairbrushes are intimately acquainted with the surface of our scalp, an already sensitive and delicate ecosystem. Every time we introduce new products, new hair care routines, or leftover dirt via our hairbrushes, the scalp reacts.

To minimize irritation and keep your hair looking and feeling healthy, regularly cleaning your hairbrush can go a long way.

Scalp Brush
Scalp Brush

Our exfoliating scalp brush helps remove build-up from flaking, styling products, or other impurities. Gently dry brush the scalp in circular motions before washing, or in the shower while you lather your shampoo with gentle front-to-back strokes. Added bonus: a cleaner scalp means thicker and healthier looking hair. It just so happens to feel really really good, too.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about the information contained herein, as well as the risks or benefits of any treatment.