How to clean your hairbrush and why you should be cleaning it

Hairbrush with matted hair in the bristles against a pink background
If you owned the same brush since before the pandemic, chuck it out, wear a hazmat suit. Just get rid of it. Photo credit: Getty Images

To the hairstyling heroes among us, the following may seem like a no-brainer - but for the uninitiated, let's take a look at your hairbrush.

You may see some mysterious buildup of residue, whether it be from styling products, bodily oils, or the skin that flakes off of your scalp (aren't humans delightful?) You'll also probably see snarled strands of hair coating the bristles like a carpet. 

While some of us may simply accept that our brushes are meant to look this way, that's not quite the case. Like anything that you use on your body regularly, whether it be a loofah, a razor or a toothbrush, these products will pass their prime and need replacing.

Speaking to Yahoo, hairstyling expert Elizabeth Hickman recommended replacing your hairbrush every six months to a year, depending on how much product you use on a daily basis. This was backed by fellow hairstylist Aleasha Rivers, who told the outlet that a hairbrush should be swapped out every six to eight months, depending on the quality and how often it's cleaned.

Basically, those bristles are a breeding ground for bacteria - every time you run a brush through your hair, you're coating the teeth with oil, dead skin cells, product residue and germs. Humans really are disgusting. 

This buildup can of course affect the appearance of your mane day-to-day. A dirty brush can even make clean hair look heavy, lank and greasy. If you suffer from dandruff, an unwashed brush will also comb those pesky flakes back amongst your strands. 

So, what do you do? If you purchased your hairbrush prior to the pandemic, chuck it out. Immediately. Wear a hazmat suit. If it's been about a year, replacing it is also the best bet. 

But if it's a relatively new addition to your hairstyling arsenal, or it's a good quality brush that would be pricey to replace, a thorough clean should do the trick. There are a few different ways you can clean your brush, but experts generally advise against soaking them in water to protect the brush and minimise the risk of mould growing inside the cushion.

Regardless of which method you opt for, the brush should be bone dry before you reach for it - give it a good shake to remove the excess moisture and leave it to dry ideally overnight or for 24 hours.

If you own a hard-toothed brush, the team behind Tangle Teezer have a step-by-step guide to deep-cleaning your detangler - here's how.

Firstly, remove any matted hair from the teeth, using either your fingers or a comb. You can either rake the teeth of the comb through the bristles to lift out the stray hairs, or run the pointed handle of the comb through the columns to dislodge those strands. Unless you want to save the hair for some sort of ritual, discard it.

Next, fill a bowl with warm water and add a few squirts of shampoo or antibacterial dish soap. To prevent the brush from filling with water, don't submerge it in the bowl. Instead, take a toothbrush (preferably not the one you put in your mouth) and dip it into the solution. Brush between and around the rows of teeth until any buildup is removed from the bristles and the base of the brush. 

If there's a lot of gunk goin' on, repeat the process until the brush is sparkling clean. Rinse with water to remove any soapy residue and leave the brush to air-dry naturally on a clean towel with the bristles facing downwards. You can give the back of the brush and the handle a wipe as well to have it looking as good as new. 

Alternatively, hairstylists Alex Brown and Shelly Aguirre told RealSimple that you can apply your soap or shampoo directly to the bristles, add some water, and lather the brush before rinsing it thoroughly until there are no more suds and the water runs clear. 

Experts agree that you really should be washing your brush at least once a month, although you can wash it more frequently if you are so inclined. However, doing your due diligence doesn't eliminate the need to replace it, so if it's been longer than a year, your best bet is still to swap it out rather than scrub it down.

If you frequent TikTok, you'll also find a number of tutorials on how to clean your hairbrushes - simply type 'hairbrush cleaning' in the search bar. Some popular tutorials recommend adding baking soda to the soapy solution to maximise the cleaning process, or scrubbing the brush with a toothbrush in a mixture of warm water, baking soda and apple cider vinegar.