How to Clean Your Hairbrush (and How Often to Do It)

Hair shedding on hair brush

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When it comes to hair care, you may think you have everything figured out. You cleanse and condition your tresses on a regular basis, you have a regimen that works for you, and your hair is flourishing. But is your hair really clean? Well, that depends. If you neglect to wash the tools that come into contact with your hair nearly every day, chances are you're just putting dirt back onto your hair.

The key to ensuring your freshly cleansed hair doesn't get weighed down with dirty residue is to wash the tools you use daily. To get the details on how often we should be cleaning our combs and brushes (and how often we should be replacing them), we talked with two hair care experts. Keep reading to find out if your tools are overdue for a good scrub.

Meet the Expert

How Often Should You Clean Your Combs and Brushes?

You may have heard that cleansing your tools once-a-month is a pretty good baseline, but our experts had different suggestions for how often tools should be cleaned. They both recommended cleaning your brushes and combs more than once a month. "We all know that it is best to clean our makeup brushes, so why do we not think our hairbrushes require the same care," says Kerry E. Yates, trichologist and founder of Colour Collective. She has a point. "The reality is this. Dirty brushes can cause lots of hair challenges." 

"The collection of excess hair and product grime can accumulate on the brush, [and] become the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast," Yates explains. She tells us this can cause irritation, swelling, certain types of dandruff, and even clog hair follicles. We imagine it doesn't help if you're using a lot of heavy, oil-based products. So be mindful of the products you're using and take time daily to remove any hairs out of the brush (or comb) when you're finished styling your hair.

What Should You Use to Clean Your Hair Tools?

You don't have to buy any special cleanser for your combs and brushes. It's perfectly fine to use your regular soap, but shampoo is a better bet. If you have a clarifying shampoo, that's the best choice since these cleansers are designed to cut through oily residue and buildup. If you want to try a DIY method that will bust buildup, Gina Rivera, founder of Phenix Salon Suites, recommends adding baking soda to the mix. But before you start cleaning, use a comb or a rat tail comb to remove the hair on both the brush and the bristles. 

"Next, fill a small tub with hot water and add a tablespoon of shampoo and baking soda," says Rivera. "Submerge the brushes in the solution and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes. Finish by rinsing and patting dry." This step-by-step process can be used for combs as well. 

The more natural products you use, the less likely you'll experience that gunky buildup that's sometimes impossible to remove completely. If comb and brush cleaning is one of your least favorite tasks, then consider your product selection. Yates recommends cleaning your brushes at minimum once a week no matter your product choices, but she offers a happy medium for those who can't commit to a once a week cleanse. "If you find that you cannot give them a proper clean, then at least clean out the excess hair. [This] can easily be achieved by taking a comb through the bristles to loosen up the hair."

When Is It Time to Replace Your Hairbrush?

If you come to a point where you find that it's nearly impossible to remove the buildup in a brush's bristles, you might want to invest in a new brush. Keep in mind that our experts say a good brush can last for years. "I have found that with more quality brushes like those from Mason Pearson or Raincry your brush can last for years." Be sure to take care of your brushes and combs like you would any of your other beloved beloved tools as you style your hair throughout each week. Both experts recommend paying close attention to your brush's bristles as that will let you know when it's time to replace it. 

"A good gage to use when considering replacement is the appearance of the bristles," says Rivera. "Typically, brushes need replacement when the bristles start to look melted and separated. For combs, look for a melted chalky look as a signal that it's time to replace them."

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