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An Expert Guide to Cleaning Your Hair Brushes and Combs

An Expert Guide to Cleaning Your Hair Brushes and Combs


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Confess: When's the last time you cleaned your hair brushes? If you can't remember, we're here to tell you: it's time. While you're stuck in quarantine, the next best thing you can do for your hair, after mastering new techniques, is deep clean your brushes and combs. To understand why cleaning your brushes is so crucial (and what happens when you don't) and how to clean them at home, we went straight to celebrity hairstylist and hair assistant to Jen Atkin, @hairinel. Keep reading for Irinel's complete guide to cleaning, drying, and storing round and flat brushes as well as combs.  

How Often Should I Wash My Brushes?

You’ve got to find a cleaning schedule that works for you but a good rule of thumb is to make sure to clean at least once a month. However, this also depends on what you use in your hair day to day. Anyone that uses heavy, petroleum-based products in their hair needs to clean more often in comparison to someone that uses water-based products. So perhaps weekly or once every two weeks. If your brushes and combs have visible buildup on them, then it’s time to clean! I would also try getting in the habit of just removing the hair on your combs after each use; this way it’s less work when it’s time to wash and clean them. 

What Happens If I Don’t?

When brushes and combs aren’t cleaned regularly, there are a few things that can happen. First, brushes are meant to distribute oils evenly from the scalp to ends, however if your brush is filled with hair and product buildup, you could actually be adding dirt and oils back into your hair if the brush isn't clean. The same applies to combs. Brushes collect dirt, oil, dead hair, and buildup. You want to be sure you’re taking care of your brushes so you’re not defeating it’s purpose. 

DIY Brush Cleanser Recipe

I would recommend using a shampoo or dish washing soap and warm water to clean your combs and brushes. If you’re going to use shampoo, a clarifying one should work perfectly as this helps break down any buildup in the bristles. A mild shampoo works well too. Dish soap works to clean brushes too, like a Mrs. Meyer's, or even Dawn to help remove the gunk.

Another good DIY mix for brush and comb cleaning is:


  • 1 tablespoon of dish soap
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar (the vinegar kills any bacteria on the brushes and combs)


  1. Place ingredients in hot water (make sure it’s not boiling) 
  2. Add brushes and combs then let sit for an hour 
  3. Rub brushes together in soapy water
  4. Rinse each comb and brush under running water to remove buildup 
  5. Shake away excess water and place on a towel to dry 

Cleaning Round Brushes

Use about a tablespoon of shampoo or soap and place inside a large bowl and fill with warm water. The warm water helps break things down even further in comparison to cold water. Using a scissor, run the scissor along the base of the brush, cutting the hair out and removing from the bristles. You could also use a rattail comb and pull all the hair up out of the bristles. Then place the round brush inside the water and swish around for 30 seconds. A good tip is to use another round brush and rub them both against each other with the warm, soapy water. This technique really gets into the bristles and removes product buildup that could be stuck on the bristles. Then rinse with water and place on a towel to dry. 

Cleaning Flat Brushes

Follow the same steps as cleaning a round brush. Instead of cutting the hair out with scissors, use a rattail comb to remove hair from bristles and swish in warm soapy water for 30 seconds. Feel free to use any other flat brush you’re also cleaning to rub up against the wet bristles to remove the gunk and buildup. Rinse with water and let dry. 

Cleaning Combs

Remove all hair from combs using your hands and discard. Place combs in warm, soapy water for a few minutes. Then using an old toothbrush or one you use for your hair, scrub the comb with warm soapy water to remove any dirt or buildup. Rinse with running water and let dry. 

Drying Brushes 

Make sure to place them on a towel in a cool, dry place to prevent the growth of bacteria. Don’t place them to dry in your bathroom, which could be a place bacteria likes to harbor given the warm temperatures. 

Weekly Brush Maintainace

To keep the brush cleaning a little less cumbersome, clean out the hair accumulated in your combs and brushes after each use. This will keep the bristle free of dead hair and be less of a clean up when it comes to washing them. It’s a good habit to keep in mind next you’re brushing or combing your hair.

Storing Brushes and Combs

You could store your comb inside a bathroom drawer in organizers so you can see them laid out perfectly. The Container Store has great options that I love. I also love these glass canisters to store my round and flat brushes, butt-down so I could see them perfectly as well. You could keep your combs in bathroom drawers and brushes in one of your bathroom cabinets. There are also alternatives available on Amazon or you could repurpose small boxes for the same use as well.

Shop OUAI's Wide Tooth Detangling Comb

You get brownie points for reading the blog. Use code BLOG15 for 15% off any purchase.

Follow @hairinel for more tips

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