The Best Way To Clean Every Type Of Hairbrush

collage: a variety of styles of hairbrushes and a plastic hair brush over a dish of soapy water.

Say Goodbye To Hairbrush Buildup

Learning how to clean a hairbrush was essential for me, because for some reason my husband likes to spray his hairbrush first and then run in it through his hair. It causes this sticky layer of buildup on the hairbrush, and it is not attractive. Most of the time, though, he cleans his own hairbrush, so I don’t have to deal with that mess.

But even though I don’t usually get any sticky buildup on my hairbrush, I realized the other day that it had been a while since I cleaned my own brush! So I decided to do a little research and find out how I should be cleaning my hairbrushes, and how often. I also found out how to get dust and hair out of a hairbrush before cleaning it, and I’ll be sharing all of that with you today! :-)

I actually have 3 different hairbrush cleaning methods to share with you. Each method is best for a particular type of hairbrush, so make sure to read the descriptions carefully so you can choose the best method for your brush. But before we get to the cleaning methods, I want to begin by explaining a little bit about why it’s so important to keep your hairbrush clean.

Related: 9 Important Things You Should Replace In Your Bathroom

How To Clean Your Hairbrush - each of these hairbrushes is made from different materials, but they all need to be cleaned

Why Clean Your Hairbrush?

Any brush or tool that you use on your skin or hair needs to be cleaned regularly, including your hair brush. Not only does hair build up on your brush over time, but it can also accumulate hair products, dead skin cells, dust mites, lint, dust, and the natural oils from your hair.

Buildup on your hair brush can turn into a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, and that’s definitely not what you want! Cleaning buildup out of your brush regularly ensures you’re not brushing bacteria and other gunk into your hair.

That brings us to the second reason to keep your brush clean: to keep your hair looking fabulous! If you use a hairbrush that’s covered in hair, product, and other gunk, brushing your hair could leave your hair looking less clean than it did before.

The step one of cleaning a hairbrush is to remove any mats of hair - you can use scissors or even a chopstick!

How To Get Hair Out Of A Brush

You should remove the hair trapped in your hairbrush around once a week. To get hair out of a brush, use a pair of scissors, a thin comb, a paper clip, or even a bamboo skewer to lift it out. (You can also buy a special comb cleaning tool online for just a few dollars!)

In addition to weekly hair removal, you should wash your brush thoroughly about once a month. (Unless it’s a delicate or natural brush, in which case you can clean it once every other month.) The best method for washing/deep cleaning your brush depends on what kind of brush it is, so I’ve included instructions for three common brush types below.

How To Clean A Hairbrush

Before and after - a hairbrush that needs to be cleaned, and a clean hairbrush

Method #1 – For Sturdy Plastic Brushes & Combs

This method is great for vented brushes, combs, and any other hair tool made of sturdy plastic. That means no squishy parts, no wood, no natural fibers or materials. Just a good old plastic brush!

You’ll need:

  • A toothbrush
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1 Tbsp shampoo
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • A large bowl

Directions:

Start by mixing the water, shampoo, and baking soda in the bowl. Place your brush(es) in the bowl and allow them to soak for 20 minutes or so.

Then use your toothbrush to scrub the base and bristles for a few minutes to cut through any remaining gunk. Once the brush is clean, rinse it under clean water and let it dry completely on your countertop.

Related: 11 Unexpected Things You Can Clean With Your Old Toothbrush

It's easy to clean a wet hairbrush - this shows a wet hairbrush before cleaning, and the same brush looking brand new.

Method #2 – How To Clean Plastic & Metal Brushes

This method is good for a wide variety of brushes, including paddle brushes, round brushes, and wet brushes. Make sure your brush is made of plastic or metal before following these instructions. (We’ll focus on natural materials next!)

You’ll need:

  • A toothbrush
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp shampoo
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions:

Stir the shampoo and baking soda into the water, and swish it around to mix. Dip your toothbrush into the cleaning solution and apply it to the brush bristles and the base they are attached to. Brush gently, but thoroughly. (If your brush has a squishy base, try not to get it too wet to avoid mildew issues.

When you’re finished cleaning, dip the toothbrush into clean water and go back over any soap areas to “rinse” them clean. Use a towel to dry the brush as much as you can, and allow it to dry on your countertop bristle-side down.

Cleaning a hairbrush with natural bristles isn't hard - this boar bristle hair brush cleaned up beautifully, as you can see from these before and after photos

Method #3 – How To Clean Wooden Brushes & Natural Bristles

This method is the one you want to use if your brush has a wood handle or natural bristles. It’s the gentlest method and will help keep a delicate brush clean without causing damage.

You’ll need:

Directions:

Add the Tea Tree oil to the water and stir. Dip your toothbrush in, and use it to gently brush the bristles and handle.

Don’t use too much of the water mixture, because you want to keep it as dry as possible. Once you’re finished cleaning it, simply wipe the brush down with a clean, dry cloth, then let the brush dry bristle-side down.

These instructions on how to clean a hairbrush work equally well on combs and a variety of brushes.

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

MORE IDEAS FROM

Beauty Tips

  • I discovered a tip recently for getting the hairs out of my brush. II use it occasionally when I’m having a hard time brushing out my hair. I a skewer in a drawer in the bathroom for another purpose. It actually works very well at lifting the hairs out of the brush. I can get a brush through my hair easier – if there’s a lot of trapped hairs.

  • I always put my brushes in dishwasher but don’t let them go through drying cycle. Just remove from dishwasher and lay on counter top to dry.

  • Thank you so much! These all worked better than any other way I’ve tried, especially for my paddle brush. I’ve tried so many things to get that clean but nothing else worked.

  • I don’t use a brush on my hair now since it is very curly (I use a pick or my fingers), but when I used to use brushes, I struggled with cleaning the brushes that had bristles with the little plastic balls on the end (so it doesn’t hurt your scalp). The product buildup, etc. would get caught just under the ball tips and not slide off the bristles. Any suggestions for removing that?

    • After soaking in warm water, it should slide off! You can soak just the bristles, bristle side down in a shallow bowl of warm water. :-)

  • I have always used about a tablespoon of non-sudsy ammonia in a tall, large glass of warm water. Leave it there about 30-60 minutes and then just use whatever you have to get between the rows and they lift out nicely and the brush is so very clean.

  • My mother had us wash our hairbrushes and combs whenever we washed our hair (in those days it was once a week). Remove the hairs from the brush using the comb. Just a little ammonia in about 2 cups of hot water. Let soak for about 10 minutes and all that funk just rinses right off. These days we use more products in our hair but the same method is perfect.

    BTW my grandmother (born in 1889) thought that washing your hair more than once a month would ruin it. But lots of brushing to distribute oil and remove dust from your hair was essential.

  • I just stick mine in the washer, when I have a load of towels to sanitize. Works like a champ! No muss, no fuss and they come out SO clean!

  • I keep a garlic mesh bag on my plastic brisel brush. Makes removing he hair very easy. I keep it in place with a rubber band. Wash the brush after the hair is removed

  • Being a mother with a husband and two sons I learned early about cleaning hair brushes. Easiest way is to throw them in the washer when you wash towels or dark clothes. Easy-Peasy!!!

  • The simply and inexpensive way is sudsy ammonia and hot water. First remove as much hair out of the brush as possible and soak for about 1/2 hour, rinse and air dry. I have been doing this method for over 40 years and all my brushes and combs get sterilized and clean with no effort on my part or damage to my brush or comb.

  • Soak your hair brush in a warm glass of water with a used fabric softener sheet for an hour or so and the hair just slides off! Read it HERE in another blog about reusing fabric softener sheets and it WORKS!

  • I remember my mother soaking combs and brushes in sudsy ammonia water and it did the trick. However, I wonder if it would be too harsh for wooden or natural fiber brushers???

    • I’ve done that for more than 50 years using sudsy ammonia and hot water. One of my brushes is a wood handled natural bristle brush that I got in the mid 60’s and it’s still going strong even though it has lost a few bristles over the years. Once the brushes and combs soak for a while (15 minutes or so), I scrub the combs with the natural bristle brush and scrub the natural bristle brush and the rubber bristle brush together and they clean each other. Finally, I rinse everything well and lay on a towel to dry.

      Very fast and very easy!

  • You mean there are people who don’t clean their brushes?? So you wash your hair and use a dirty, sebum-encrusted brush on clean hair?? I think I’m gonna hurl!

    I wash my brushes, comb, and any hair ties or clips at the same time I’m in the shower. I fill the sink basin up with hot water, and I use whatever cheap, clarifying shampoo I can get at the supermarket (Suave is a good one; you can get in on sale for 99 cents) to get a ton of suds while I use my fingers to clean through the bristles. (Naturally you clean the freaking hair OUT of the brush first, but I do that every day!)

    The shampoo is important, because the harsh chemicals it uses to get the dirt and gunk out of your hair work to get it out of your hair implements. Conversely, if I have a shampoo I really don’t like, I save that for brush cleaning (but only if it’s a shampoo with sulfates. You want that cleaning action to make your brushes, etc. squeaky clean.)

    When I’m out of the shower, I let the stopper out and rinse everything with cool water and dry it off with a towel. Everything I put on my clean hair IS clean, or it makes no sense to even wash your hair at all!

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