Real Simple May 23, 2023

Real Simple


How to Clean a Hairbrush or Comb


A properly cleaned and maintained hairbrush will keep your hair shiny and healthy.

If cleaning your hairbrush isn't necessarily at the top of your to-do list, we don't blame you. But here's the thing: It really is a beauty chore worth doing. After all, a great hairbrush can only stay that way if you take proper care of it. "Cleaning your hairbrush regularly will get rid of dirt, product residue, and oils from the scalp that build up on the bristles over time," explains Alex Brown, a Chicago-based celebrity hairstylist. After all, the last thing you want is for that gunk and grime to end up back on your clean hair, she adds.

Plus, spending a little time cleaning your brush will also help ensure it works better. The hair that gets stuck in the bristles can get in the way of allowing the brush to perform at its highest level and serve its intended purpose, notes Shelly Aguirre, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. The good news? Cleaning your hairbrush or comb, no matter what kind it is, doesn't have to be a complicated or time-consuming process. Here's how to clean a hairbrush (or a comb) quickly and efficiently.

How Often to Clean a Hairbrush or Comb

A thorough monthly cleaning is sufficient for most hairbrushes and combs. If you have very long hair or use lots of styling products, you may need to clean the tools every two weeks. It's a good idea to remove the tangled hair around the bristles regularly, even if you don't do a thorough cleaning.

If you have dandruff, clean your hairbrush weekly to help prevent skin flakes from redepositing into your hair.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pintail Comb
  • Tweezers
  • Toothbrush
  • Sink or Bowl
  • Towel
  • Cotton Swab


  • Gentle Shampoo (Without Conditioners)
  • Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol)
  • Disinfecting Spray
  • Baking Soda


The steps for cleaning a hairbrush or comb depend on what type of brush you are cleaning. Brushes with synthetic (plastic) bristles and handles are the easiest to clean, while natural-bristle or wooden-handled brushes require more careful attention.


Do not use excessively hot water or heat when cleaning and drying a hairbrush. Synthetic bristles can become misshapen or melt, and high heat destroys the oils in natural bristles.

How to Clean Hairbrushes With Synthetic Bristles and Handles

These steps work well with all types of synthetic bristles and handles, including cushioned and paddle brushes.

Remove the hair.

Begin by removing as much hair as possible from the bristles using the end of a pintail comb, your fingers, or tweezers.

Wash the brush.

Fill the bathroom sink or a large bowl with warm water. Add a generous squeeze (about two teaspoons) of shampoo and swish the brush in the solution to create some suds.

Let it soak.

You can let the brush soak for 10 minutes or tackle the grime right away. Use a clean toothbrush to scrub between the rows of bristles and around the handle.

Scrub with baking soda.

If there is an excess buildup of hair products, dip the damp toothbrush in some dry baking soda and continue scrubbing. The baking soda will act as a gentle abrasive to remove the gunk.

Rinse thoroughly.

Rinse the brush well with warm water and shake out the excess water. Place it on a towel with the bristles down to dry.

Sanitize the hairbrush.

Mix equal parts isopropyl alcohol and water. Dip the brush in the solution and place it on a towel, bristles facing down, to air-dry.

How to Clean Natural Bristle Hairbrushes

Natural-bristle hairbrushes are more expensive and promise to leave hair smoother and shinier than synthetic bristles. Boar bristles are generally considered the best quality, and are usually mounted on a wooden handle.

Remove the hair.

Begin by removing as much hair as possible from the bristles using the end of a pintail comb, your fingers, or tweezers.

Wash the bristles.

In a shallow bowl that is wide enough to submerge the bristles but not the handle, mix warm water and about one teaspoon of gentle shampoo. Place the hairbrush over the bowl so that only the bristles are submerged. Allow the bristles to soak for 10 minutes. Remove the brush and use your hands to work the sudsy mixture between the rows of bristles, making sure you get down to the base.


Wooden-handled hairbrushes should never be allowed to soak in water, as that can cause the brush to deteriorate and the bristles to loosen.

Clean the wooden brush handle.

If the handle has excessive hair product buildup, dip a toothbrush in soapy water and lightly scrub to remove any residue. Wipe the handle with a clean towel and place it on a towel with the bristles down to air-dry.

Rinse the brush.

Quickly rinse the brush under warm running water and place the brush bristles-down on a towel to dry overnight.

Sanitize the brush. (Optional)

If you feel the brush needs to be sanitized, lightly spray with a disinfecting spray like Lysol to kill bacteria. Do not use isopropyl alcohol, because it can dry out the natural bristles.

How to Clean a Synthetic Comb

When you're cleaning your hairbrush, don't forget your combs. Your synthetic combs are pretty easy to clean.

Let the comb soak.

To clean combs made from synthetic materials, fill the sink with warm water and a squirt of shampoo. Add the combs and let them soak for at least 10 minutes.

Scrub your comb.

Use a toothbrush to scrub away any residue caught between the teeth. For tough stains or stuck-on debris, dip the toothbrush in some dry baking soda and scrub away.

Rinse thoroughly.

Rinse the combs well in warm water and place on a towel to air-dry.

Sanitize your comb.

Dip a cloth or cotton swab in 70-percent isopropyl alcohol, then wipe the surface of the comb. Do not rinse; allow to air-dry.

How to Clean a Wooden Comb

Scrub between the teeth.

Dip a toothbrush in a warm, soapy water solution and gently scrub between the teeth.

Wipe it dry.

Wipe the comb with a clean towel and allow it to dry.

Sanitize, if needed.

To sanitize a wooden comb, spray lightly with a disinfecting spray.

How to Remove Lint from a Hairbrush

After you remove the tangled hair from the bristles, you may notice lots of lint or dust stuck to the base of the brush. This can be more difficult to remove than the hair because it is mixed with scalp oils and hair product residue. Here's how to do it:

Follow the cleaning instructions for your brush type

After giving your brush a thorough clean, inspect it for remaining gray residue.

Use a toothbrush.

Sweep a clean, dry toothbrush between the brush bristles to remove remaining lint. Sweep both horizontally and vertically through the bristles to get as much lint out as you can.

Give the brush another rinse.

Rinse out the brush to remove the remaining residue, and air-dry with the bristles down.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is there gray fuzz in my hairbrush?

Get ready to be grossed-out (or stop reading here if you have a queasy stomach!). The gray fuzz you see a mixture of dead skin cells, sebum (AKA hair oil), and old hair product—along with a little bit of dust and dirt, of course,

2. Why are there so many hairs in my hairbrush?

People lose hair every day, and some of that will collect in your hairbrush as you're styling your hair. It's normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, and inevitably, some of that will end up in your brush. With regular cleaning, though, it won't build up to become a big mess.

3. How often should you replace your hairbrush?

It depends on both the type of brush you have, and the quality. Drugstore-type hairbrushes made of plastic or rubber can probably last you six to 12 months, while natural boar bristle brushes can last about six months. If you spring for a high-quality brush like Oribe or Mason Pearson, it can last for a few years.

4. What are the signs I need a new hairbrush?

Missing or damaged bristles are a big giveaway that it's time to replace your hairbrush. And if the hairbrush still seems dirty after you've followed our cleaning steps, it may be time to bid your brush goodbye.