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A guide to cleaning different types of hairbrushes

Why Cleaning Your Brushes Might Give You Your Shinest Hair Ever

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We use them every day, relying on them to tame, detangle and generally keep hair on the right side of  socially acceptable, but how much love do we really show our hairbrushes?

If you’re like me, the answer is ‘not much’.

And if you’re like me then your idea of brush maintenance will also involve removing spare hair every couple of uses and perhaps giving it a quick wash with some leftover shampoo once every few months (but only if you’re feeling especially fancy).


Why You Should Clean Your Brushes

But since discovering that product, dirt and oil product in brushes essentially just gets transferred to hair every time you use it, I’ve recently decided to change my formerly lazy maintenance ways.

Because the results on hair are greasier, dull-looking locks- as well as some potentially nasty scalp issues- pretty much the opposite of everything I’m trying to achieve with all those products/salon trips/complex hair mask routines.

Looking after any expensive (and even inexpensive) tools well should also extend their life, hopefully saving some money (to be reinvested in sensible things like that 14th hair serum).

So after some pretty in-depth tool cleaning research I’ve upped my game.

And I thought I’d share how to clean each brush type, as well as how often we should all be doing it.


The Tools

Luckily looking after your hair tools is neither expensive not particularly complicated, and to get started you’ll only need:

  • A large bowl
  • Warm water
  • A sulphate-free shampoo or baking soda
  • Tweezers or nail scissors
  • A toothbrush


Combs and plastic brushes

Great for detangling wet hair- as well as for keeping by the bath for combing hair masks through lengths and ends- fully plastic brushes are pretty much the easiest to clean since they’re also really robust.

First, manually remove any excess hair from plastics, or alternatively cut out with scissors if it’s easier.  Tweezers can also help to remove any stray strands from the bottom of larger combs.

After removing any hair, fully submerge plastic tools in a bowl of warm water mixed with a little sulphate-free shampoo for 15 minutes.

This will help to soften up any gunk (yum!), making it easy to use an old toothbrush to gently remove any dirt etc left behind.

Dry by either leaving on a towel or by using a cloth to remove moisture (like drying the dishes but even less fun).

Do this every month and brushes should remain product buildup and dirt free; the first step to shiny, healthy hair (yay!).


Wood and Natural Bristles

Great for hair health, natural bristle brushes need a slightly gentler approach due to their somewhat more delicate materials.

Remove any excess hair as before, but this time instead of submerging the brush (which could lead to drying issues and problems like mildew- not recommended), dunk the toothbrush in your soapy solution and get to work cleaning between and below bristles.

Dry this type of brush a little more carefully, too, by leaving bristles down on a towel overnight.

Do this every other month for a brush that should go on to look after your strands for some time (which is good news because natural brushes tend to be the most expensive).


Paddle Brushes

Probably the most common type, paddle brushes are great for detangling, smoothing and blow-drying.

Their padded base makes them slightly more delicate when it comes to cleaning though-similar to natural brushes- because moisture can build up causing mildew issues.

So clean these in a similar way to wooden and natural bristle tools- by removing excess hair before using a soapy toothbrush to gently remove gunk.

Dry bristles down as before and again, clean these once a month to avoid product buildup and to keep scalps healthy.


Barrel brushes

A popular ally when it comes to taking the ouch out of blow-drying, barrel brushes are often made of thin nylon bristles.

They’re also a little more prone to hair buildup than other types; meaning you might want to get scissors/tweezers involved to really clear them.

After doing that, fully plastic types can be submerged in your shampoo-water solution for 15 minutes, while any padded types need the toothbrush approach.

Dry on a flat towel overnight and clean every month to keep your blow-drys looking on point.


Metal Bristles

Not all that common anymore (since they’re the kind that tend to stick you in the scalp), any metal bristle brushes should be cleaned with real care, since they’re obviously prone to rusting if they get too wet too often.

Instead, stick to using a slightly dampened toothbrush to clean them; and make sure to dry well.

And generally try not to wash them more often than around every two months.


Dandruff Help

For dandruff sufferers, help care for scalps by using a dandruff-specific or anti-fungal shampoo in place of a sulphate free one when cleaning tools.

This will help prevent the spread of any yeast or bacteria growth that can make dandruff worse.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to up the frequency of cleaning tools to around every two weeks for plastic, nylon or paddle brushes, or every month for natural bristles and metal types.


The Takeaway

As well as helping to avoid product buildup, keeping brushes clean can also potentially help shine and manageability while also avoiding scalp issues.

On top of that, good brush maintenance could also extend the life of your tools (meaning more money for fun things!).

So make time every month or so to get out those brushes (doing them in one go definitely cuts down on the boredom factor of doing them individually), and get cleansing!

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