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How To Clean a Hairbrush?

By Amalah

Love the column! Obsessively dig through your archives whenever a new question occurs to me, usually on a Saturday night about an hour before I have to walk out the door to my next shindig, leaving not nearly enough time to go buy the recommended product or experiment with the latest featured hair styling technique…will I ever learn?
So anywho, my question is about hair brushes, all kinds of hair brushes, because I have about a million of them and DO NOT NEED TO BUY ANY MORE. How the heck are you supposed to clean them? Is there a right way and a wrong way? Besides just pulling out the shed hair (I know, ick), is there a better way to get it out, especially for the types of brushes that have the little rubber/plastic tips? And how about the little fuzzies that accumulate? And dust and stuff? Difference between cleaning synthetic and natural fibers? Please help, I don’t want to buy new brushes but some of my old ones are, well, looking worse for wear. And also, how often should I be replacing brushes?
Thank you!!!

Okay, this is one of those do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do questions, because my hairbrushes are a damn mess, and I generally use them until my dog chews them up or the handle snaps. (As one of my favorite brushes did recently, ever-so-conveniently in the ladies’ room of a fancy restaurant, sending the head of the brush backwards into a stall, barely missing the toilet, which actually would have been pretty cool, now that I think about it.)
Traditional hair wisdom recommends thoroughly cleaning your hairbrushes and combs about once a week. They’ll last longer that way, be better for your hair and scalp, less oily build-up, blah blah blah whatever. I think that’s a little too high maintenance for me. I yank the extra hair out whenever a decent amount has accumulated, and then wash them out mayyyyyybe once every other month or so.
(I’m a Slacker Comb Owner! A Beta Brusher!)
(If you watched The Today Show this morning you’ll realize why that joke is downright HILARIOUS.)
But you definitely SHOULD wash your brushes occasionally, and the best way to clean pretty much every type of brush is with shampoo. Wet the bristles, dab a little shampoo on there, lather, rinse. An all-plastic brush can also be dunked in water with baking soda to remove build-up.
You do need to be a little more careful with natural-bristled or wooden-handled brushes and the rubber-cushioned kinds, since these shouldn’t get completely immersed in water. One of my college roommates taught me a good trick for these though (in one of her few shining non-psychotic moments)…and since you have a million brushes it should be easy for you to do.
Take two brushes (or two combs or one brush and one comb) and remove as much extra hair from them as you can. Slightly wet the bristles of one with warm water and dab with shampoo. Then rub the two brushes together GENTLY under the running water for a couple minutes (being careful to not let the wooden handles or cushions get too wet) until the suds are gone. This should remove (or make it really easy for you to remove) the rest of the hair and fuzzies from the bristles and remove all the bad-for-your-hair product build-up.
Look! Pitchers!
Step One: Remove excess hair. Briefly ponder checking head for bald spot, because ew.
Step Two: Wet one brush and apply shampoo. Isn’t this thrilling?
Step Four: Remove the rest of the globby gunk from the brushes.
Ta-da! Clean brushes for cleaner hair.
If you’ve never really washed your brushes before, some of them might be too far gone to get rid of all the stubborn crap wrapped around the bristles, and these are the ones you should probably toss. But even occasional washing will make the ones you keep last much, much longer and you won’t have to replace them.
Unless the handle snaps in a crowded restroom and results in a personal injury lawsuit, or something like that. Then it’s probably time for a new brush.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Spring Weaver

Oh man. The Today Show cracks me up nearly every morning. I thought Isabel handled things tactfully while still mildly expressing her disapproval at the idiocy of their ONCE AGAIN trying to pit different mothering techniques against each other.
Well done, Isabel.
Though this probably isn’t the time or place.
Hairbrush care, yeah!

Amy Corbett Storch

(Off topic, but I can’t resist…)
YES. Especially since I don’t believe it’s really a matter of different mothering techniques as it is a matter of different mothering LABELS that the media has decided to latch onto and turn into a Big Thing.
We all want what’s best for our children, while not losing ourselves in the process of raising them.
I’m Team Alpha, obviously. I mean, did you see Isabel’s SHOES? That’s definitely the side I want to be on.
Matching socks and clean hairbrushes for all!


Gosh, I’ve never washed my brushes. I am, however, hopelessly devoted (like the 2nd reference to Grease?) to Widu ( brushes. I bought my first one 15 years ago, and after I sadly lost it 3 or so years ago, I bought another oval brush (first was the brush with the removable head). I love them. They have wood handles, and the two I’ve had had the wood bristles. The wood bristles really help to keep the static down in the winter and feel really good on my scalp. I’m cheap, and while I balk at first at paying $35… Read more »


I was given a Mason Pearson brush for my birthday about five or six years ago. It is ridiculously expensive but fabulous. And, it comes with it’s own brush to clean it. Seriously. And the method they describe is exactly what you recommend Amalah. But I don’t think they used the phrase “brush on brush action.” Too bad for them!