When it comes to one’s beauty routine, curating the perfect skin care regime, playing with the prettiest powdered pigments, and even drawing a luxurious, rose-scented bath is often at the forefront. The less glamorous yet still incredibly important tasks — arduous activities like deep-cleaning every single makeup brush in your stash or keeping an eye on all of your products’ expiration dates — can often fall to the wayside...especially when it comes to properly cleaning your hairbrush.
Admittedly, I’ve seldom taken the time to properly clean my hairbrushes, instead just opting for a replacement brush for my tresses once my brushes start to appear past the point of no return. Though all the way on TikTok’s hair care corner of the buzzy app, there has been a significant rise in interest in the topic. With countless videos and tips on deep-cleaning your hair tools, there’s a collective 50 million views on relevant hashtags like #CleanHairBrushes and #HowToCleanHairBrush.
But what’s the exact risk if you, like me, haven’t gotten around to incorporating proper hairbrush hygiene into your beauty routine thus far? Bustle tapped Todd Faulk, a senior cosmetology educator at the Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute in Dallas, for his expert insight on how to clean a hairbrush the right way. Honestly, I doubt I’ll ever look at my hairbrushes the same way ever again.
Why Is It So Important To Clean Your Hairbrushes?
When it comes down to it, there is one major reason why a clean hairbrush is so essential: it protects both your overall hair and scalp health, as well as the tool itself that you’ve invested your hard-earned money into.
According to Faulk, a hairbrush that goes unwashed for an extended period can house a whole lot bacteria, dust, and even a buildup of mold. The reason? Regularly brushing through damp, wet, dirty, and otherwise hair product-drenched hair has a tendency to transfer grime from your head to the brush in question, then back to your head once more, and so on.
In the same vein, a dirty hairbrush can result in experiencing greasy hair at the roots even faster than usual, which is never the goal. And considering the it-girls of the now are so invested in their scalp health above all else — this vital, yet often overlooked step, can actually prevent you from depositing all of that nasty stuff back onto your scalp and strands.
Neglecting to clean your tools can also have impact on their longevity. “If you don’t properly clean your hairbrush, you can eventually damage the structure of the brush depending on what products you use on your hair and the material of the brush,” Faulk shares.
How To Properly Clean A Hairbrush
“First, make sure to remove all hair and debris from the bristles,” Faulk explains. If you’re already in the groove of cleaning your brushes, you may be able to do this with your hands. Alternatively, he notes that a rake comb or rat-tail comb are helpful tools to use for removing shed strands — especially for those brushes with super dense bristles.
For non-porous tools — like brushes with stainless steel or wet-hair detangling bristles — Faulk says that you can use warm, soapy water to clean them, allowing the tools to soak anywhere up to an hour. As for the ideal soap for the job? The overall sentiment on BeautyTok is that your favorite shampoo works best, with an emphasis that gently scrubbing every bit of your brush with your fingertips (or even a dedicated toothbrush) does the trick.
On the other hand, for more porous tools that run the risk of soaking up that soapy water and damaging the tool over time — like a luxurious brush with boar bristles or even tools with a high-end wooden handle — Faulk says that these can be cleaned with rubbing alcohol.
How Often Should You Clean Your Hairbrushes?
While the process of cleansing your hair care tools doesn’t sound like too much of a time-consuming process, Faulk sets the record straight on how often one should really be breaking out the soapy water and rubbing alcohol.
“You should clean your hair tools and hairbrushes at least once a month to prevent bacteria and mold buildup,” he explains.
As for the much-needed maintenance in between washing your collection of brushes? Faulk says that it’s important to make sure to clean any hair that has tangled in the bristles after every use, as the daily practice will help maintain the integrity of your brushes.
Though even with a stellar hairbrush cleansing regime, sometimes, it’s best to cut your losses and just start fresh with some brand new tools. So when exactly is it best to call it quits? “When it looks old and tired and completely worn out — that is when it is time to say goodbye and invest in a new hairbrush,” Faulk advised.
Which Cleaning Agents Are Safe To Use On Hairbrushes?
While a generous squeeze of your current shampoo or a bit of rubbing alcohol is a surefire way to properly cleanse your hair care tools, there are quite a few other cleaning agents that TikTok has claimed as efficacious.
Some beauty lovers prefer a mix of warm water, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda instead of simply using a shampoo. Others specifically opt for a clarifying shampoo (which often features ingredients like detoxifying charcoal or the more trendy volcanic ash) for a thorough clean that eliminates buildup and impurities.
Though no matter your personal preference, Faulk makes sure to warn against certain cleaning agents that you should never use on your hairbrush. “Don’t clean your brushes and tools with harsh chemicals, such as bleach. This will deteriorate your equipment and may end up on your scalp or hair, which is definitely something that you do not want to happen.”