When it comes cleaning out our beauty bags, by now we're all well aware of the fact that we should be washing our sponges or brushes pretty regularly and replacing our cosmetics when they reach their expiration date (which is often sooner than we may think). But if there's one tool that often gets forgotten it's our hairbrushes.
For most of us, it's something we use every day. But aside from taking out the hair and maybe running it under water (if we're feeling ambitious), most of us rarely even think about giving it a good scrub. That's why, during some recent TikTok scrolls, I was shocked when I came across multiple videos of people not just rinsing it, but actually taking out the bristle pad, soaking it and giving the brush a deep clean.
So we had to know: Is this something that we should be doing regularly? (Spoiler alert: It is!) We consulted a handful of experts to get more details on why it's important to clean the tool and how to do it.
Should you clean your hairbrush?
Short answer: Yes! The bristled beauty tool you store in your bathroom actually plays a pretty important role in determining if you'll have a good hair day — and if it's not clean, it could lead to quite the opposite.
“Hairbrushes keep the outer layer of the hair smooth and help redistribute oil from the scalp, but they don’t work as well when they’re filled with hair," Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells TODAY.
But it’s not simply hair that the brush fills with over time. Just like your skin, your scalp has bacteria, fungi and dead skin cells, says Dr. Julia Tzu, a triple board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "All of this is just mixed together on this one plastic surface for a prolonged period of time — sometimes indefinitely because people don't think about cleansing their brushes — and just like any other object that comes in frequent daily contact with our skin or with our body, I think it is important to clean it on a routine basis."
While Tzu adds that the question of whether or not you should wash your hairbrush (and how to do it) isn't something that's mentioned in dermatology textbooks, she says that using a dirty hairbrush is likely similar to using an unwashed makeup brush. "Potentially, if you're collecting tons of dead skin cells, bacteria and fungus [on the brush], and you're using it over and over on your scalp, it would make sense that this could be a contributing factor to folliculitis [inflamed hair follicles]."
Imagine that each time you use a hair product, it coats each strand. So when you use your brush to polish up your look after work, the brush also picks up residue from the products.
“A clean brush is important because you don’t want scalp and hair residue on your brush to be applied back on top of clean hair,” explains JB Shelton, hairstylist and owner of Detour Salon & Style in Indiana. “Think of the exfoliating power of your brush; that dead skin stays on the bristles and pad of the brush if not removed. Yuck!”
So the questions arises: How often should you clean it?
How often should you clean your hairbrushes?
Dr. Piliang recommends the average person clean their brush every one to two weeks. For those with longer hair, however, she recommends doing this more frequently. And if you use products, a sure sign that it’s time to clean you brush is if you start to see residue form on the bristles.
How to clean a hairbrush
In order to clean a paddle brush, round brush or wet brush, you'll need a few things: A rat tail comb, scissors, a large bowl, mild shampoo and a towel.
To start, use a rat tail comb to pull the hair out of the brush. If you have a round brush, Shelton recommends using scissors to snip the clumps of hair on both sides, for easier removal. Then, fill a large bowl (or your sink) with warm water and mild shampoo and swish the brush around in the water for a deep clean. Finally, place the brush bristle side down on a towel and let it dry.
To make this process easier, Shelton suggests removing loose hair from the brush regularly, at least three to four times per week. She also advises those who use their brush quite often, or even share it with multiple people, use a sanitizing spray. Shelton DIYs this by using one part water and one part barbicide in a spray bottle and spritzing after each of her clients. For someone at home, she suggests using this spray one to two times per week.
When should you replace your hairbrush?
Both Shelton and Piliang agree that once you start to see missing or bent bristles or can’t seem to get it clean, it’s time to say goodbye and send it off to the place where everyday is a good hair day.
Below, we're sharing some products that you can use to give your brush a refresh, plus, some options for when it comes time to replace it.
Products to help you clean your hairbrush
If you don't already have a rat tail comb in your beauty arsenal, you can add this multi-pack to your cabinet for just $6. The pointy end is helpful when pulling out hair and gunk from the brush. Plus, the brand says that the comb itself can be used for teasing, styling, parting and more.
A brush for your hairbrush? Yes, you read that correctly! Reviewers say these easy-to-use tools are great for removing residue and extending the life of their hairbrush. "I don't usually write reviews but this brush cleaner is a game changer!" one reviewer wrote. "I've always had a difficult time getting all the nasty gunk off a brush and usually end up just trashing the whole thing. This tool is easy to use and it really works well. It is a satisfying clean."
This hairbrush cleaner from Kitsch features two sides — a pointy end to picks through those densely-packed bristles and a bristled end to brush up hairs and scrub away the deep-set debris.
What kind of hairbrush should you use?
The experts agree that the type of brush you use is equally as important as how clean it is in terms of your hair health. It's essential to pick the best hairbrush for your hair type.
For wet hair, either a wet brush or a wide-tooth comb will do the trick. Shelton likes wet brushes because the flexible bristles help detangle while Piliang likes a wide-tooth comb, especially when used with conditioner in the shower, as it pulls the hair less.
If you’re using a blow dryer, Piliang recommends finding a brush with a ceramic or ion center as they help the hair dry faster, giving it less exposure to heat.
For everyday use, Shelton is a fan of boar-bristle brushes because they're smoothing, but admits that these pricier varieties aren't an absolute necessity. There is one type of brush you should steer clear of, according to Shelton. Metal bristles "will tear your hair up,” she explained.
Hairbrushes to shop
When it comes to affordable brushes that deliver on quality, Wet Brush is top choice. The brand's bestselling original brush has more than 45,000 five-star ratings on Amazon (and an average 4.8-star rating overall). It's designed to gently remove knots on both wet and dry hair without pulling or snagging.
With a ceramic and ion-infused design, this round brush seems perfect for anyone who regularly blow dries their hair. Because of its small size, the brand says that it can be used to add volume and even curl to your hair.
This brush is another top-rated option among Amazon shoppers. It features a soft-touch grip, cushioned base and ball-tipped bristles, so the brand says that it can brush through thick hair without snagging or pulling.
While it's commonly said that you shouldn't brush your curls, one hair stylist previously told us that this brush is the exception. It has strong bristles, which he said helps cut down on detangling time and helps evenly distribute your curl products.
How often should you brush your hair?
If you're now worried about gunk on your brush, don’t panic. It turns out you actually don’t need to brush your hair that often.
“The Marcia Brady rule that you have to brush 100 times a day is not true,” says Piliang. “Just brush in the morning and before bed. You don’t want to overbrush because that damages the hair.”