How to Clean a Hair Brush

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I’m not going to beat around the bush; I’m pretty into my hair. And I have a lot of it. And I have a lot of hair brushes. And my daughter Riley has a few hair brushes too. And my husband Chad has a couple of hair brushes. So knowing how to clean a hair brush is very important in my household, and I’m guessing it’s important in yours too. 

In the past, I would use hair brushes for years and not really think about cleaning them. Sometimes I would get a flash of brilliance and decide to pick the hair out, but that’s about as far as I’ll go.  

However, I got a lot of questions from all of you on my YouTube videos, Instagram page, and blogs, so I decided to learn how to really clean a hair brush, and I never looked back. 

Honestly, I feel a slight pinch of shame now that I’ve done the research and know how thoroughly disgusting dirty hair brushes are. Hair brushes are similar to sponges or carpets. They harbor a whole bunch of unwanted stuff. They trap hair (of course), dust, dirt, oils, and old hair products. And worst of all, they can even trap dust mites! 

But the fact that really got me was this: each time you brush with an unclean hair brush, 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). So if that isn’t motivation enough to clean your hair brush, I don’t know what is!

So let’s give your hair a break from grease, grime, oils, and all kinds of other nasty stuff, and clean your hair brush!

Melissa Maker in her kitchen

Hair Brush Cleaning 101

It is recommended to clean hair brushes out, but if that seems unrealistic, once a month is still way better than nothing. And once your hair brush is clean, you’ll realize how much better it feels and how much better your hair feels too. 

How to clean your hair brush will depend on if your hair brush is made of plastic, metal, or wood and if the bristles are natural or nylon. So today, I’m discussing 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, I’ve got you covered!  

Tools You Need to Clean A Hair Brush

Before you get started cleaning your hair brush, you’ll need a few tools. 

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

What you need depends on what time of hair brush you have, so keep reading to learn about the tools and techniques that will work for your hair brush. 

Plastic & Metal Paddle (and Round) Brushes & Combs

Here’s everything you need to know to clean plastic and metal brushes (round and rectangular) and combs. 

Step 1: Start by using the end of the rat tail comb (or pen or pick) and 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 use 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 out (and can I just say, EW!).

Step 2: Once you’ve loosened the hair, take the scissors and snip down the center. This is going to make pulling the hair out a lot easier. Now, grab the clumps of hair and throw them away (duh!). And a quick reminder, unless you have a crush on your plumber, the hair should go in the garbage and not down the sink. 

If you have a round brush, use this same technique on one half of the brush, then rotate it 180 degrees and repeat the technique on the other side. This is a little more difficult than with a rectangular-shaped brush.

Step 3: Now, it’s time to wash the brushes. I don’t recommend soaking the brushes because they’re not made to be submerged in water. Instead, create a cleaning solution using a cup of water, one teaspoon of shampoo, and one teaspoon of baking soda.  

Mix your solution together and apply it 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. Use your cleaning toothbrush to tackle any remaining hairs.  

Step 4: Finally, give your brush a quick rinse and lay it flat, bristles down, to dry.

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 because you have to keep them pretty dry. 

Step 1 & 2: Complete steps 1 and 2 as outlined in the previous section. 

Step 3: Make a cleaning solution with one cup of water and five drops of tea tree oil. Mix that up and then follow step 3.  

Step 4: Lightly mist water onto the brush base and bristles to rinse the tea tree oil off. Wipe well with a microfiber cloth and lay flat, bristles down, to dry.

How to Clean a Hair Brush

Now you have no excuse not to clean your hair brush (sorry, but it’s true). But trust me, once you start cleaning your hair brush, you’ll never want to use a dirty brush again. 

And speaking of hair, if your pet has a lot of hair, be sure to read Best Pet Hair Remover: 5 Simple Tips. OK, OK, it’s a bad segue, but it’s a great article!

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases on amazon.com.

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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.

63 COMMENTS

  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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