A hairbrush can smooth strands and detangle hair. It can also get dirty pretty quickly by soaking up the oil, dirt, dust, and products in your hair.

When you use an unclean hairbrush or comb, all that dirt, oil, and gunk can get back into your hair. If you want your hairbrush to do its job well without adding unwanted residue, it’s important to give it a good cleaning.

Here’s a look at some best practices for cleaning your hairbrush.

No matter how often you use your hairbrush, it has the ability to act like a sponge. This means it can trap all sorts of residue in its bristles, both from your hair and from the environment.

Hair care products like leave-in conditioners, gels, or hairsprays can build up on your hair and stick to the bristles of your brush. Your brush also contains dead skin cells which can transfer back to your hair every time you use your brush.

Also, hair sheds every day. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s normal to shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. A lot of this hair can accumulate at the base of the brush.

Particles in the environment like soot, dust, and other grime can also settle on your hairbrush and build up over time. If the bristles are already coated in oil or sticky hair products, it can make it even easier for these particles to stick to your hairbrush.

Without regular cleaning, all this residue can get deposited in your hair each time you use your hairbrush. As a result, a dirty hairbrush may have a much harder time doing its job and helping your hair look its best.

There are no hard or fast rules regarding how often to clean a hairbrush. It really depends on the types of products you use on your hair and how often you use them.

  • If you regularly use styling creams, gels, or hairspray, a good rule of thumb is to clean your hairbrush once a week.
  • If you don’t use much product in your hair, try to make a habit of cleaning your brush every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • To make cleaning easier, try to remove hair that’s accumulated in the bristles every couple of days.

Cleaning a hairbrush doesn’t take much time. Once you know how to do it, it will be easier the next time.

You only need a few items to get started:

  • bowl of warm water, or you can use the bathroom sink
  • gentle shampoo
  • baking soda (optional)
  • scissors
  • old toothbrush
  • rat tail comb (optional)

Whether your brush is made from wood or plastic, the cleaning method will follow similar steps, with just a few variations.

1. Remove hair

  • Use the end of a rat tail comb (a type of comb that has a long pointed end) to remove hair from the base of the brush. If you don’t have a rat tail comb, any pointed object will work, like a pen, pencil, or ice pick.
  • You can also use scissors to cut away any hair that’s tangled in the bristles.

2. Dip and shake

  • Fill a bowl or sink with warm water. Add a few drops of gentle shampoo to the water and swish it around to create suds. For extra cleaning power, you can add 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Stir the water well.
  • For a plastic brush, submerge the entire brush in water. Let it soak for 3 to 5 minutes. If the brush has a soft padding at the base where the bristles attach to the brush, dip the brush bristles into the soapy water, making sure to keep the padding dry.
  • Don’t entirely submerge a wooden brush. This could damage the wood and finish. Just submerge the bristles, as described above for a brush with a padded base.
  • Dip and shake the brush several times. This will help loosen and remove oils, dead skin cells, and product buildup. If your brush isn’t too dirty, this should remove most of the buildup.

3. Use a toothbrush for extra cleaning

  • If you have a very dirty brush, you might need to use an old toothbrush to clean the base and bristles.
  • Dip the toothbrush into the soapy water and make sure to scrub each bristle. Start at the base of the bristle and work upward. Scrub the other edge of the brush to remove any buildup.

4. Rinse and dry

  • Once you’ve finished cleaning your hairbrush, rinse it under a stream of cool water. Or, you can sprinkle a little water on the base of the brush and wipe it dry with a cloth.
  • Leave the brush to dry, bristles facing down, on top of a clean cloth or towel.

If you’ve had to deal with head lice, you may wonder if there is a special way to clean the comb that’s used to remove these nits.

To clean a lice comb:

  1. Use a paper towel to wipe the nits or lice from the comb after each swipe through the hair. Once you’re done, place the paper towel in a sealed plastic bag and throw it away.
  2. Next, place the comb in a pot of hot water (it should be at least 130°F/54.4°C) to kill any remaining nits or lice.
  3. Let the comb soak for 10 minutes.
  4. Dry the comb thoroughly and then pour rubbing alcohol over it.
  5. Let the comb air dry.

It can be easy to neglect a hairbrush or comb. But, if you want your hair to look its best, without any unwanted oils, dirt, or product residue, it’s a good idea to give your hairbrush a thorough cleaning on a regular basis.