Your hairbrush is full of bacteria and germs—here's how to clean it

If your brush isn’t clean, neither is your hair.

Credit: Getty Images / macniak
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What You Need:

  • Your hairbrush
  • A rat tail comb
  • A clean sink or basin
  • A pair of scissors
  • Hot water
  • A toothbrush that you use only for cleaning hairbrushes
  • Shampoo (We use baby shampoo)
  • Baking soda
  • Tea tree oil (Optional)
  • Dry towels

Time Needed

15 minutes

Difficulty

Easy

Caring for your brush

Most people we know spend a lot of time on their hair, washing, conditioning, blow drying, ironing, and curling it, probably on a daily basis. But although their hair is clean, their hairbrush—well, that’s a different story.

Think about it. All the product you put in your hair builds up on your brush, along with oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and lint. It’s an open invitation for dust mites, bacteria, and yeast. Brushing your hair with that mess will deposit all the nasty stuff back on your head.

When was the last time you washed your hairbrush? If you can’t remember, it’s due for a cleaning. Here's how to do it:

How-to-clean-your-hairbrush
Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

You probably have everything you need to clean a hairbrush already. Find a rat tail comb, shampoo, baking soda, and an old toothbrush, and get started.

Step-by-Step (by brush type)

Depending on the type of brush you have, you'll need to clean it differently.

Flat plastic hairbrushes

Plastic-hairbrushes
Credit: Getty Images / tenkende

The more hairbrushes you have, the more you have to keep clean. Flat plastic hairbrushes are the easiest to clean—just pull out the hair with a comb, soak them in a solution of shampoo, baking soda, and water, and give them a good rinse.

  1. Use a comb to lift and remove the hair from the brush.
  2. Add a tablespoon of shampoo and a tablespoon of baking soda to the sink or basin, fill it with about a quart of water, and swish it around to build up suds.
  3. Soak the brush for about 15 minutes.
  4. Use the toothbrush to scrub out the dirt at the base of the bristles.
  5. Rinse the brush under clean running water.
  6. Shake out the water and place the brush face down on a towel to dry. You can help this type of brush dry by briefly aiming a stream of hot air at it with your blow dryer on low.

Round plastic hairbrushes

Round-airbrush
Credit: Getty Images / Wicki58

You use your round brush every day for styling, so it's probably full of hair. Before you wash it, clip the hair in a couple of places with a small pair of scissors. That will make it easier to remove.

  1. Use a comb to lift the hair.
  2. Snip the hair on each side of the brush with the scissors.
  3. Pull the hair out using the comb and your fingers.
  4. Dissolve a tablespoon of shampoo and a tablespoon of baking soda in a quart of water, and swish it around the sink or basin to create suds.
  5. Soak the brush for about 15 minutes.
  6. Use the toothbrush to scrub out the dirt at the base of the bristles.
  7. Rinse the brush under clean running water.
  8. Shake out the water and place the brush on a towel to dry, turning it a few times while it's drying to expose each side to air.

Wooden and natural bristle brushes

Wooden-hairbrush
Credit: Getty Images / chokja

A wooden hairbrush takes some extra care when it comes time to clean it. Never soak it—you'll ruin the handle.

  1. As with any other brush, start by removing hair with a comb.
  2. Make up the solution of water, baking soda, and shampoo in the sink or basin. Alternatively, you can add five or six drops of tea tree oil to water and mix it in.
  3. Do not submerge the brush! Instead, dip it into the water only as far as the base of the bristles and swish it around for a moment.
  4. Remove from the water and scrub out the dirt gently with a toothbrush.
  5. Refill the basin or sink with clean water, quickly dip and swish the brush, but only up to the bottom of the bristles.
  6. Shake out the water and place the brush face down on a towel to dry.

Are there other ways to clean hairbrushes?

Once you've pulled out the hair, Popular Science says that you can wash a plastic hairbrush by placing it on the top rack of your dishwasher and running a regular cycle. Never try this with a wooden hairbrush or one with a fabric pad.

How often should you clean your hairbrush?

Remove hair from the brush every day and do a full cleaning at least once a month, once a week if you can spare the time. Your hairbrush will look better and so will your hair when you stop reapplying the dirt, grime, dandruff (eww), and old product every time you brush.

Clean-hairbrushes
Credit: Getty Images / CatherineL-Prod

Once your brushes are clean, they're a lot kinder to your hair.

When should you replace your hairbrush?

We know some people who prefer to throw away a hairbrush rather than clean it. If the handle or base of the bristles is cracked, and bristles are separated, missing, or melted, go ahead and toss it right now. Otherwise, you can replace your hairbrush every six months to a year. And once you get a beautiful new brush, promise yourself that you'll keep it clean.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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