How to Clean your Hair Brushes


Hair Brushes. If you are like me, you have tons. I’m pretty into my hair.

I have used my brushes for years and admittedly have not really thought about cleaning them. Sometimes I get a flash of brilliance and decide to pick the hair out, but that’s about as far as I’ll go.  However, I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from the video viewers and blog readers on this topic, so that prompted me to pull up my socks and learn how to do it.

I feel a slight pinch of shame now that I’ve done the research and know how thoroughly disgusting my hairbrushes are. Hairbrushes are similar to sponges or carpets. They harbour a whole bunch of unwanted stuff.  They trap hair (of course), dust, dirt, oils, old product and can even trap dust mites.

This is what really got me:  each time you brush with an unclean hairbrush, you actually re-deposit grease, product, dust and dead skin cells back into your hair.  Need a barf bag? Further, your brush smells and loses efficacy when it’s clogged up (no surprise there).  If that is not motivation enough to clean your brushes, I don’t know what is!

I did a video a while back about how to clean your hair tools and we’ve received a lot of requests from those viewers on how to clean hairbrushes.  Sure, it’s a natural progression!

Pro Speak

It is recommended to clean brushes out weekly, but if that seems too much for you, even once a month would be better than nothing.  I learned this with makeup brushes (which I also never thought to clean until I did the video on it a while back).  Of course, once they are clean their performance skyrockets so I can imaging the same will be true for hairbrushes.  I am now a religious makeup brush cleaner and I can’t stand working with dirty brushes so fingers crossed I have the same conversion with hairbrushes.

The pros also have this nifty little hair rake that you can use.   I think that makes sense for a salon that uses brushes on multiple manes.  For you at home, what we discuss below is perfectly fine.

This is not a one-size-fits-all solution since different brushes require different treatments.  So, I’ve got below how to clean a plastic or metal paddle and round brush, how to clean a plastic or metal comb and how to clean a wooden brush with natural bristles (or a mix of nylon and natural).  Boom!  See, I’m thorough.

So, here’s what you need:

  • A pen, pick or edge of a rat tail comb,
  • a pair of scissors,
  • a garbage bag,
  • a cleaning toothrbush,
  • a teaspoon of baking soda, and
  • a teaspoon of shampoo or vegetable soap.

You may need another thing or two but we’ll cover that below.

Plastic & Metal Paddle (and Round) Brushes & Combs

Step 1

Start by using the end of the rat tail comb (or pen or pick) and start loosening the hair from the bottom of the brush, working your way up to the top. Really get under everything, go right up against the pad of the brush to dig out all the hair and dust.  You can use the comb teeth to lift out any extra hair if necessary.  Just be careful not to pop off the little plastic balls at the tip of the bristles.  I used the teeth to raise the hair up right under the ends of the bristles and then use the rat tail end of the comb to pop the hair balls (and dust, eww) out.

Step 2

Once you’ve loosened hair, take the scissors and snip down the centre. This is going to make pulling the hair out a lot easier.  Now, grab the clumps of hair and start tossing them away!  However, you can skip the snipping if you have the patience to pull it all out.  Dispose of the hair ball! And quick reminder, the hair should go in the garbage and not down the sink.  Unless you have a crush on your plumber.  In that case, clog your sink with hairballs.

*Now for a round brush,  do this on one half of the brush, then rotate it 180 degrees and repeat the technique on the other side.  I couldn’t get a few trapped hairs out of the edge of my round brush.  I decided to let it go, I can live with the 6 trapped hairs.

Step 3

Now we need to wash the brushes! I don’t recommend soaking the brushes – they were not designed for that.

Create a cleansing solution using a cup of water, 1 teaspoon shampoo and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Swish this together and apply to the bristles and bristle base (or pad), brushing gently but thoroughly. Make sure to clean the outer edge of the brush as well as each bristle, starting at the bottom and brushing in an upward motion.  I got a few extra hairs out with the toothbrush.

Step 4

Finally, give your brush a quick rinse lay flat, bristles down, to dry.  This is fine for plastic and metal paddle brushes, round brushes and combs.

Wooden Brushes With Natural or Combination Bristles

If you have a wooden base brush, you’ll have to take a bit of a different route.  They cannot get too wet!  Complete steps 1 and 2 as outlined above.  For step 3, substitute the cleansing solution with a cup of water and 5 drops of tea tree oil.  Mix that up and then follow step 3.  For step 4, lightly mist water onto the brush base and bristles instead of soaking it to rinse the tea tree oil off and wipe dry using a cloth.  Lay flat, bristles down, to dry.

Well, that’s it!  I was seriously disgusted when I ventured into this blog and video, and then extremely overjoyed once the brushes were cleaned and can vouch for the better hair brushing experience post-cleaning.

So now you know how to clean your hairbrushes, come on, there are no more excuses!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


  1. I didn’t have some expectations regarding that name, but then the more I was astonished.

    The author did a wonderful job. I spent a few
    minutes reading and checking the facts. Everything is clear and understandable.

  2. My mom taught me to soak combs and brushes in Calgon water softener. The hair just slides out as you run your hands thru it. After pulling the hair out, I let them soak overnight and then rinse under hot running water. I used to work for a dentist who said they used to soak dentures in Calgon to dissolve tartar and stains when he was in dental school back in the 1960s.

  3. Has anyone found a glue, epoxy, or anything else to replace/repair a brush when the little protective tips on the end of plastic bristle brushes get damaged and fall or break off?

  4. This was the BEST advice I’ve had! I don’t even want to know what that black inky crap coming out of my brush was, but it’s gone now, thanks to me following your instructions step by step. THANK YOU for (1) easy to follow instructions (2) natural and environmentally friendly cleaning product recommendations (3) saving my scalp and hair from all sorts of nastiness because of the crap living in my brush.

  5. The amount of black gunk that ended up all over my bathroom basin was disgusting but my brushes look new again. Thank you! There was a lot of hard to remove dust on my paddle brush. I plucked them away using tweezers. Good as new. 🙂

    • That’s easy. Use the hair brush to clean the toothbrush so you can then clean the hair brush with the toothbrush so the hair brush will be clean enough to clean the tooth brush for proper hair brush cleaning. My question… How to clean a toilet brush???

  6. I use a small hair brush cleaner. It is basically a handle with many little metal hooks. I use it every time I brush my hair, and a few times a month, I use the toothbrush like you did. I also store my hairbrush bristles side down so that it doesn’t gather dust.

  7. The handle of my brush has gotten sticky and I have no idea how. I have scrubbed, soaked it in Goo Gone and scrubbed again…. nothing. Any recommendations on how to clean that? I want to try to save them since they are nice brushes. Any help is appreciated.

      • I used flushable wet wipes on my brush, and with a little elbow grease (rubbing) going in one direction (instead of back & forth) it removed all that residue (from makeup, hair products, etc.) on handle & back of brush!

  8. I have had a hard time trying to figure out how to clean my hair brushes. At one point, by word of mouth, I heard you were supposed to stick it in boiling water (DO NOT DO THIS ) & I completely melted the bristles on my plastic brush. My question to you right now is what temperature is the water supposed to be, room temp, cold, hot, etc.

  9. I just wanted to note that a rinse with many paddle brushes and round brushes, as in step four, may cause your hair brush to smell more, not less. This is because many (if not all) of the more recent makes have a base with “air padding” by which I mean, the base with flex by letting out air through holes around the bristles, and sometimes another in the base. As a result water can easily get trapped under the base where it can’t dry off! If you have such a brush perhaps the light spray used for a wooden brush in step four may be better than a rinse.

  10. I took my round brush apart to get all the hair that was trapped around the stem. It looks great BUT I now can’t get it all back together again. lol. It’s a favorite brush. Any idea how to get the bristles back through the holes in the round metal frame?

  11. Hi Melissa you’re doing fantastic things thank you for that, it’s really hard to cover it all unfortunately. I ve read most of them and have started to make my cleaning kit and i bought some nail brush because you have used it for something unusual but now i can’t find it what it was used for ( any idea what it was?

  12. How to do you clean black stuff behind the glass door of the bathroom? Because it’s too grose to see when I am having a shower. It’s a stand up shower door I am talking about.

    • The best thing for cleaning any mildew or mould in your bathroom (one of which I’m guessing said ‘black stuff’ is) Is to use an old toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste. You don’t need great toothpaste. The cheapest stuff you can find will do, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly and easily you should be a bee to scrub this off the back of the glass door, from between the tiles, anywhere!

  13. I have a Conair brush with a flexible base that plastic bristles are imbedded in it. It feels as if one is having a scalp massage. However it puffs air out when pressed &’obviously it takes in air when released. I Have visions of water trapped inside. How do I clean it? I just bought it a week ago and want to clean it now.

  14. Hi! I actually have a question about the hairbrush. when the little plastic balls on the bristles fall off, should you get rid of the hairbrush? will it damage the hair to brush with out those protective balls?

  15. Cleaning my hairbrush was an afterthought. I’ve never done it before. A quick search and I found your page. I followed the instructions and I swear my brush looks like new! Simple but effective! Thank you.

  16. Hi Melissa, as I said on YouTube, I really appreciated your video. I’d like to spend a few words about our little company Annameryca, and I thought here it could be the right place. We build a machine that cleans hairbrushes in 1 minute and it does that in a super easy way. I know it’s a kind of “commercial” and maybe it’s not aloud so I’ll understand if you will delete this comment…… if not… thanks in advance for your great support.
    Attilio (Italy)

  17. I fitted my vacuum with a home made fine point nozzle to clean inside my computer. I eventually realized it could be used to clean other hard to get at muck like that found on hairbrushes and inside pockets etc. Only takes half a minute if that. Great for cleaning around car instrument panel as well. I’m surprised no manufacturer has yet to make such a handy tool (as far as I know).

  18. My problem is that I can never get the balls of hair that settle around the actual bristles. They get stuck on the plastic balls when I try to remove them. :/

        • Soak the brush in Dawn and baking soda and warm water. Then with using another brush and a shampoo on both brushes..give it a good workout. Rinse lots. Let dry on a cloth face down overnight so the water runs out. I usually do this in the shower at the end of a day as part of my daily routine. Nothing is worse than washing your hair and rubbing the dirt and goo back in…

    • I get those stubborn last hairs off with a tweezers, but I pull them sideways, not over the little plastic ball, because they can come right off…I speak from experience. Sometimes it takes a tweezers and a fine point scissors, like one you cut hair with.

    • So, I have kind of an odd method of truly cleaning my favorite detangler of the hairs that refuse to leave. I hold it sideways so as to get the bristles only and hold a lighter to it briefly. Since hair is so flammable, a small radius just turns immediately to charcoal and ash, which is simple to then scrub clean. Obviously this would not work with plastic or natural fibers.

      In reality it is a dog brush, but it is fantastic — an elliptical rubber handle for comfortable grip, metal bristles, and solid end balls that do NOT come off. The only problem is that its rubbery bristle bed is not solid, but rather hollow and held in the rim of the plastic base by tension, so when I tug too hard in the wrong direction, it has a tendency to come off. I think other versions do not have this issue. Also because it is hollow, after years of use, the bristles (flat ends on the inside) have poked through their containment fabric and get shorter over time, but I just have to pop the bed off and shove them back through (or pull them through individually).

  19. It may sound radical but it works—–remove all the hair then pop them in the silverware holders in the dishwasher and run it! It cleans everything like new.

  20. I cannot believe that I didn’t do this sooner. Years ago I used to soak my hairbrushes in a bleach/water solution because that is how my mom told me to do it. It didn’t do a great job so I stopped cleaning them. I would only take the hair buildup out. I have a Chi turbo round brush and it really got some gross build up inside. Just taking the hair out was not enough. I used your solution and cleaned it with a toothbrush and it came out great!!! I will be cleaning my brushes weekly from now on. Thank you

  21. I clean my combs and hair brushes by first taking off any loose hair and then dropping a denture tablet in an old glass vase with hot water. leave sit over night and then clean and rinse.


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