Newsflash: You Should Be Changing Your Hairbrush—Here’s How Often

Written by Ashley Mishler

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Back when I was a full-time stylist behind the chair, cleaning hairbrushes was a standard part of everyday life, and replacing them was a regular necessity. But more often than not, when I asked my clients about their hair-brushing habits at home, a staggering amount admitted to rarely cleaning theirs, much less replacing them.

Believe it or not, stylists are not the only ones who need to clean their hairbrushes—you do, too. Regardless of your hair type, you need to regularly clean your brush. Whether your go-to is a detangling anti-static brush, paddle brush, ceramic round brush, or Tangle Teezer, all brushes are created in that they need to be cleaned and replaced, regularly. So washing and replacing your hairbrush should be a regular part of your hair care routine. Here’s the lowdown on how often you should be scrubbing your brush.

How Often Should You Replace Your Hairbrush?

The hairbrush replacement equation is different for everyone. Of course, it all depends on the quality of your brush itself, but for starters, you should be cleaning it at least once a month, and replacing it every six months to a year. But why? Experts like myself see the wear and tear every day—think about it. You use your brush to detangle, blow dry, style, brush your significant other’s hair, let your kid play with it, and maybe even use it to scratch a hard-to-reach spot when you get out of the shower. This means dirt, shedded hair, dead skin cells, bacteria, product residue, and more are all filtering through your hairbrush, getting stuck in the bristles to the point of no return. Not to mention the daily dust collection your brush gathers between uses as it sits on the shelf. Now, you can clean and clear your dirty brush, but only to a point. Eventually, you’ll need to pick up a replacement, but how do you know when it’s time?

Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Brush

Missing Bristles

One of the most obvious signs it’s hairbrush replacement time is broken, melted, or missing bristles. Bristles can fall out due to regular daily use, as well as the result of heat styling and blow-drying. You may think that a broken or bent bristle or two is no big deal, but this actually causes the hairbrush to not perform as it should, and it could snag or snarl your hair, leading to breakage.

Too Dirty to Get Clean

Another one of the more obvious replacement signs is when your hairbrush is too dirty to get clean. If you’re standing there trying to remove tangled hair and lint from the base of the bristles, even after soaking it in soapy water, it’s time to throw it out. After a certain point, no amount of cleaning will remove the dirt, dust, and hair product buildup from the base of your brush.

Cracks in the Pad or Coating

This particular sign of replacement isn’t always so cut and dry as to why, but when you start seeing cracks in the bristle pad or chipping and flaking on the coating of the brush, it means it is time to replace it. Why? Cracks in the bristle pad mean that bacteria and dirt are getting stuck inside the brush and cannot come out. If you struggle with dandruff or other scalp conditions, the brush will literally collect that bacteria internally and redistribute it across your head with each use. Cracks in the pad can also cause snagging and breakage. Flaking or cracks in the brush coating is also a sign it’s time to replace because this means the brush may no longer be as heat-safe as it once was, or it may lose its anti-static qualities.

How Often Should You Clean Your Hairbrush?

Earlier, I touched on a once-a-month hairbrush cleaning, here’s why. Similarly to the reasons why you need to replace your hairbrush, you need to clean it, too. You can usually prolong the need to replace your brush if you are cleaning it regularly, ideally once a month (at least). This is especially true for those who have invested in a higher quality hairbrush (like a Mason Pearson) because you want your investment to run for as long as physically possible.

But how? Cleaning a hairbrush is pretty straightforward. If you want, you can invest in something fancy like the bright blue barbicide stylists use in the salon, but a simple solution of clarifying shampoo and warm water will help get yours clean. Here are a few good signs it’s time to clean your hairbrush. Follow these to help get you on a healthy cleaning schedule.

Signs It’s Time to Clean Your Hairbrush

Hair Buildup

Arguably the most obvious cleaning sign is hair buildup. In fact, it’s hard to ignore when your hairbrush looks like a shag rug. To avoid excessive buildup like this, simply remove shedded hair from your brush after each use. I like to use a wide-toothed comb to get pesky strands that won’t seem to come out or even a skinny teasing brush. Gliding this gently over the bristles will help pick up all those shedded hairs.

Greasy Hair

Another sign it’s time for a cleaning is if you’ve noticed your mane getting greasier quicker. The buildup of dirt, hair, and scalp oils, as well as product, can leave your strands more oily than before you washed them. If this has been a consistent problem despite cleaning with a shampoo/warm water solution or barbicide, then it’s probably time for a new brush altogether.

Product Buildup

Product buildup on your brush is another visually obvious reason to clean. Product buildup can occur from daily use, but also after a blow-dry if you’ve used a lot of mousse or balms. Hairspray is also a common culprit of product buildup on a hairbrush, but usually due to brushing it out after you’re home for the night. If product buildup is giving you a tough time, try soaking the brush in a bowl of warm water for up to 20 minutes to loosen the buildup. However, only do this with plastic or rubber brushes, wooden brushes should never be submerged in water. Once you’ve completed your soak, follow through with a good scrubbing and shake it dry. Voilà, you can now enjoy your clean hairbrush.

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