How to Clean Combs and Brushes: Tutorial

01
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Getting Ready/What You'll Need

Cleaning combs and brushes: What you need
© 2013 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com

Is this a chore you dread, which is why your combs and brushes are full of buildup and gunky residue? It doesn't have to be. Not only are you getting your tools clean, you're doing your hair and scalp a big favor the next time you comb and brush your hair. There's no use in taking the time to shampoo and condition your hair regularly if you put dirty tools back on it, is there? Styling your hair with dirty combs and brushes isn't exactly a healthy hair practice.

This simple step-by-step walks you through the process of cleaning these daily styling tools. Once you do it, you'll see that it doesn't take long -- the majority of the time is spent soaking and drying, two processes that don't require your involvement or attention!

What You'll Need:

  • Combs and/or brushes that need cleaning
  • Shampoo
  • Old toothbrush
  • Baking soda (optional)

02
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Pull Loose Hairs Out of Brush

Pulling loose hairs out of brush
© 2013 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com

Begin by pulling any loose hairs out of your brush by hand. Ideally, this is something you do after each time you brush your hair. If you don't do it on a daily basis, this may take some time, but don't worry about getting each and every hair out of the bristles. Just try and dislodge as many loose ones as you can before moving on. The fewer hairs you have stuck to the brush, the easier it will be to clean it once you put it into water.

03
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Use Comb to Pull Out Hairs

Using comb to pull hairs out of brush
© 2013 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com

Now you can use your comb to remove additional hairs, the ones that weren't loose enough to easily remove with your fingers. Simply start at the base of the brush and move the comb upwards, pulling away hairs as you go. Throw all of the hair away as you go through the process. If you're cleaning various combs, use one with the finest teeth for this step; the closely-spaced teeth will remove more hair than a wide-tooth one.

04
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Dunk Combs and Brushes in Water

Soaking comb and brush
© 2013 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com

Fill a clean sink with hot, soapy water. A clarifying shampoo is a good choice since these cleansers are designed to remove oily buildup and residue from the hair, but if you don't have a clarifier, a general shampoo is fine to use. Completely submerge your hair tools in the water and let them soak for about half an hour. Adding a tablespoon of baking soda isn't a bad idea for additional oil cutting, so feel free to toss in a little of this inexpensive household staple if you want.

Avoid boiling your tools or using bleach. The high temperatures of boiling water can break down your tools, cutting their length of usefulness by a significant amount. Bleach can be difficult to completely wash out of bristles, leaving you at risk of getting bleach on your hair the next time you brush it.

05
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Use an Old Toothbrush to Clean Comb

Cleaning comb with an old toothbrush
© 2013 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com

If your comb has greasy residue sticking to the base of the teeth, use an old toothbrush to remove it. Add a dab of shampoo to the toothbrush and scrub the buildup away. This is a good way to reuse an unwanted item, but you may want to store this old toothbrush in a separate place from the one you use on your teeth every day -- you don't want to mistakenly grab this one the next time you brush your teeth!

06
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Scrub Brush With Your Fingers

Scrub hair brush to clean it
© 2013 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com

After soaking your brush for a while, use your fingers for additional scrubbing. Add more shampoo if needed to work up a light lather. Just move your fingers through your brush the same way you would use a nail brush to clean your fingernails. If your brush bristles are made of nylon, do this step slowly and gently -- nylon bristles tend to be harder than natural boar bristles, and you don't want to cut yourself during this step. This is one reason boar bristle brushes are recommended for black hair; nylon tends to be too rough on our delicate strands.

07
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Allow to Air Dry

Air drying brush and comb
© 2013 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com

Place your combs and brushes on a towel, washcloth or paper towel and let them air dry. Combs dry relatively quickly, but it may take a day or more for your brush to completely dry. Store it with the bristles down in order to let as much of the water drain as possible. This is why it's a good idea to have more than one brush in your collection -- while one dries, you still have another available if needed. Once dry, your clean tools are now ready to use!

For more information on keeping your combs and brushes in the best condition, read my FAQ on how often to clean them.