How to clean a hairbrush – and why it could actually improve your hair in the process

23rd March 2024 | Author: Jenny Tai

It’s worth knowing how to clean a hairbrush because it doesn’t just help your hair in the short term, it can improve its health and length in the long term

We cleanse our faces with balms and foams, we clean our bodies with shower gel, we wash our hair with shampoo yet can you tell us the last time you cleaned your hairbrush? Or even wondered how to clean a hairbrush?

The fact that you’ve clicked on this link suggests it’s either been a while, or you’ve never done it. Beyond just good hygiene, cleaning a hairbrush can make a big difference to the condition and look of your hair.

According to a study from the University of Arizona, the average hairbrush harbours almost 3,500 colonies of bacteria per square inch.

That is because your daily brushing creates a buildup of dead skin cells transferred from your scalp to the brush. Not only is this a bit gross, but you’re effectively rubbing these cells, dead skin and bacteria through your freshly washed hair. If you have greasy hair naturally, this can make things particularly worse.

“Using a dirty hairbrush allows germs and fungi to infect your scalp, produce head acne, dandruff, scalp folliculitis and other scalp disorders,” according to the hair experts at WeThrift.

So how do you wash a hairbrush? And is it enough to simply remove the hair stuck to the bristles? Here are two methods. If you haven’t cleaned your hairbrush in a while (or ever) we recommend starting with the deep cleanse.

You can also check to see if you’re using the best hairbrush for your hair type in our best hairbrush guide.

FURTHER READING: How to clean makeup brushes and choose a makeup brush cleaner

How to clean a hairbrush properly

“Like all beauty tools, hairbrushes get dirty with repeated use, especially if you’re regularly using styling and heat products on your hair,” said the hair experts at WeThrift. “Cleaning your hairbrush more frequently will get rid of dirt, product buildup and oils from the scalp that sit on the brush bristles over time.

“Skipping regular cleaning also leads to germs and bacteria being passed onto your hair and scalp from the residue on the brush. This can leave your hair looking not only greasy but makes detangling that much harder too. After all, the last thing you want is all that dirt and deposits back onto your freshly washed hair.”

To clean your hairbrush you’ll need:

You can substitute the baby shampoo for apple cider vinegar. It’s a great cleanser and is one of the key ingredients in Hairstory New Wash – our absolute favourite SLS-free shampoo.

In place of Dettol, you can use baking soda. It’s not quite as effective but is natural and less harsh.

Things to note:

  • Avoid soaking paddle brushes. Instead swirl just the bristles in the warm water and shampoo mixture.
  • To clean electric, straightening, or roller brushes, remove the loose hair, use a damp cloth to wipe down the tool, ensuring it’s cooled and switched off beforehand.

FURTHER READING: Hairstory New Wash review

How to clean hairbrush: Step-by-step

  1. Remove loose hair from the hairbrush using your hand
  2. Run the sharp edge of the rat tail comb along the base of the bristles to lift up any hair that remains
  3. Using the scissors, cut this raised hair in half to make it easier to remove
  4. Mix the mild shampoo and warm water in the bowl
  5. Put the hairbrush(es) in this mixture and, using the toothbrush, clean in between the bristles
  6. Drain the sink and place the hairbrush bristle side down on a clean towel to dry

If you also want to disinfect your brushes, fill up the sink or bowl with hot water again and this time put in two capfuls of Dettol or similar.

Leave to soak for an hour and then rinse the brushes and leave to dry again.

“You can use diluted alcohol or vinegar to clean your brush, it will kill any bacteria or germs. Just add it to your water and shampoo mixture and leave to soak,” added WeThrift.

FURTHER READING: How to clean beauty blenders

How to clean your hairbrush: Quick clean method

Once you’ve deep cleaned your hairbrush, you can get away with the quick clean method to keep the brush in great condition.

Either way, you should be looking to wash your hair brush with warm water and mild shampoo weekly, where possible. If you’ve got long hair, we recommend you do this more often.

You’ll need:

  • Mild Shampoo – such as Johnson’s Baby Shampoo
  • A bowl large enough to submerge your hairbrush(es) – you could also use your sink
  • Warm water
  • An old toothbrush

Hairbrush quick clean: Step-by-step guide

  1. Remove loose hair from the hairbrush
  2. Mix the mild shampoo and warm water in the bowl
  3. Dip your brush in the water, grab the toothbrush and brush along the bristles
  4. Place the hairbrush bristle side down on a clean towel and let it air dry

We then recommend spraying your brushes with a sanitiser spray. We use the Pro Hygiene Collection (£16) spray and it works for both our makeup brushes and our hairbrushes.

If you have natural hair, which tends to be thicker and curlier, it may take a little more effort to get rid of the hair and products from your brushes and we recommend that you try to wash your combs and brushes as much as you can.

The video below talks through the same processes as above but from a natural hair perspective.

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