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How to Clean a Hairbrush

How To Clean Professional Hairbrushes – A Complete Guide
Brush maintenance and cleanliness is essential but in a busy salon or barbers, with customers coming and going quickly, cleaning your brushes can be easily overlooked.
This complete guide to cleaning hairbrushes takes you through the step-by-step process to keep your brushes sanitised and helps you understand why using clean implements is an essential part of hairdressing.

Why you should clean your brush
Hairbrushes can act similarly to a sponge, soaking up and trapping all manner of residue in their bristles. Oil, dust, dirt and hair products all collect between the bristles, particularly at the base, and congeal, making it even easier for the residue to stick to your brush and get transferred to hair each time you run it through a client’s hair.
Regular cleaning keeps your clients safe and healthy, provides you with a clean work environment and helps your brushes last longer.

How often should you clean your brush?
In a professional haircare setting, brushes should be cleaned between clients. While this can be time-consuming, it is an essential part of any professional hair care environment to prevent the transfer of products, such as conditioners and oils, from one client to another.

What items do you need to clean your brush?
The good news is that you don’t need to break the bank each time you clean your hairbrushes with most items being readily available in a salon or cheap to buy, such as:

  • Scissors / Tweezers
  • Bowl
  • Towel
  • Warm water
  • Shampoo
  • Baking soda
  • Toothbrush
  • Pintail comb
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Disinfecting spray such as Saloncide Solutions

Cleaning hairbrushes with synthetic bristles and handles
The following steps should be followed for all brushes that have synthetic bristles and handles, including paddle and cushioned brushes.

  • Gently remove the hair from your brush
    The first step is to remove trapped hair from the bristles and base of your brush by using scissors, tweezers or your fingers.
  • Wash and soak
    Fill a large bowl or sink with warm water and add a generous squeeze of shampoo. Combine the shampoo and water to create some suds before immersing the brush in the water for about ten minutes. This should be long enough for the grimy residue to soften.
    Use an old toothbrush to scrub between the bristles to dislodge the softened residue.
  • Scrub with baking soda
    Where there is an excessive build-up of hair products, use some dry baking soda and continue to scrub with a damp toothbrush. Baking soda is an excellent option as a gentle abrasive to remove the gunk from between the bristles.
  • Don’t forget to clean the handle
    Although it doesn’t come into contact with hair, ensure the brush handle is thoroughly cleaned in the shampoo solution to remove any germs.
  • Rinse with clean water
    Thoroughly rinse the brush with clean warm water and shake out any excess droplets.
  • Dry the brush on the towel
    Use a clean towel to gently dry the brush. If you have a client waiting for you, you can place the brush bristles down on the towel to air dry before returning to it later.
  • Sanitise your brush
    Make sure your brush is completely sanitised using a professional product, such as Saloncide solutions, disinfecting spray or a solution of isopropyl alcohol and water. Dip the brush into the solution and place it bristles down on the towel to air dry.

Cleaning natural-bristle hairbrushes
Natural-bristle brushes are a more expensive option for hairdressers but promise to leave hair smoother and shinier with their naturally sourced bristles. The best quality bristles are thought to be made of boar, although any naturally sourced bristles are excellent.
Cleaning them is a slightly more delicate operation than synthetic brushes due to them being slightly more delicate.

  • Remove the hair
    Remove as much of the trapped hair from the base and bristles of the brush as you can using your fingers, scissors, tweezers, or the pointy end of a pintail comb.
  • Wash the bristles and the handle
    Use a shallow bowl wide enough to fully submerge the bristles, but not the handle, mix warm water with a gentle shampoo, using a little bit less than you need to wash synthetic brushes. Place the hairbrush over the bowl so that the bristles enter the water, but the base and handle don’t. Allow the bristles to soak for about ten minutes.
    Gently wipe the handle with a damp soft cloth using the solution of warm water and shampoo.
  • Use a toothbrush to remove lint
    Once the residue has softened, use an old toothbrush to remove the lint from between the bristles, ensuring you thoroughly scrub the base of the brush.
  • Leave to dry
    Quickly rinse the bristles in warm clean water and then place the brush bristles down on a towel to air dry overnight. Do not expose the bristles to artificial heat and ensure they have fully dried before using them again.
  • Sanitise the brush
    Using harsher sanitising products on natural bristles can be extremely damaging, so avoid submerging them in Barbercide or any isopropyl alcohol solution as these can dry the bristles out. Instead, lightly spray the brush with a disinfecting spray to ensure sanitisation before the brush is re-used.

Four common mistakes that shorten the life of your brushes
It can be easy to overlook some of these steps or take shortcuts in caring for them. Doing so considerably shortens their shelf-life though. Here are four common mistakes that lead to you having to change your brushes more often than you need to:

  1. Skipping regular cleaning
    Every hairbrush you use in the salon should be cleaned regularly. You should only be using sanitised tools with each client, however, making sure your brushes are thoroughly cleaned regularly will prolong their life. This is even more essential when dealing with long hair, clients that use hair products, and clients that have scalp conditions such as dandruff.
  2. Exposing to high temperatures
    Always use warm water when cleaning your brushes. It can be tempting to use scorching hot water to help dislodge the gunky residue that builds up, but this can damage synthetic and natural brushes. Synthetic bristles can melt, while natural bristles can lose their natural oils.
  3. Sanitizing natural bristles with alcohol
    Harsher alcohol-based disinfectant solutions can also strip natural oils from naturally-sourced bristles, leading to irreversible damage.
  4. Ignoring the handle
    Clean the handle as thoroughly as the brush head. Your hands collect germs and bacteria throughout the day which transfers to the handle as you use it throughout the day.

When is the time to change your hairbrush?
Following the steps in this guide could help your hairbrushes last for years. However, even the best-kept brush needs to be retired at some stage. Tell-tale signs to go shopping for new brushes include worn-down bristles and the brush becoming more difficult to clean.
In addition, hairbrush design continues to evolve, so it is well worth keeping abreast of developments in the industry and splashing out every so often as new brushes appear on the market.

Final word
Ensuring your workstation and tools are kept clean and sanitised in your salon or barbershop is an essential part of your service. Your client will feel more comfortable and at home when in the chair if they know that the tools working in their hair have been properly cared for, cleaned and sanitised.
Following these simple steps can ensure your hairbrushes last for years, saving you money and building trust in your service over the long term.
If your old hair brushes are waiting to be replaced, or you’re looking to update your existing toolkit, please visit our hairbrush collection page and pick your new favourite.