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how to clean hairbrush according to the pro's

A Pro Explains How to Clean Hair Brushes and Combs—the Right Way

Celebrity stylist Sam Villa dishes out everything you’ve been wondering about how to clean hair brushes and combs.

Our chore lists seemingly grow longer by the day as we take on new tasks that help our daily routines run as robustly as possible. Rotate your tires? Check. Finally schedule that cavity filling? Done. Clean your hair brush? Wait, what?

Listen, if you’re not already cleaning your hair brushes and combs, you’re doing a disservice to the strands you’ve worked so hard to keep healthy with trims and deep conditioning treatments.

“Cleaning hair tools is not an option but a true necessity for healthy-looking and feeling hair,” says Sam Villa, Redken global artistic ambassador and creator of Sam Villa Styling Tools.

The stylist gave us the low-down on why it’s such a crucial aspect of hair care, along with tips on how to clean hair brushes at home like a pro. Plus, if you’re searching for a new brush to add to your arsenal, you can snag a free brush and brush bag with a $70+ purchase from February 26-March 4 using the code BRUSH. Now, let’s get into it!

What happens if you don’t clean your hair brush?

A clean hair brush makes all the difference in how your mane looks and feels. You wouldn't put sweaty workout clothes back on after showering, so why would you want to "reinfect" strands with residue that your hair brush has already removed? Yet, that’s exactly what the unwashed styling tool does with each pass over your strands.

“Hair brushes and combs can be a breeding ground for dust, bacteria, and product buildup. [Therefore], an unwashed brush can re-contaminate the scalp and hair,” says Villa.

This residue recycling spreads oils, yeast, and bacteria throughout the scalp, dulling hair and triggering conditions like dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and folliculitis (inflammation that can lead to hair loss). Clogged bristles and pins can eventually snap off, preventing the brush from properly gliding through hair and causing mechanical breakage and shedding—if you ask us, this seems like an awful lot of preventable trouble!

What do you soak hair brushes in to clean them?

Some people swear by soaking their brushes, but Villa actually recommends against it.

“It’s not necessary to soak the brush in water, especially as water can affect wooden handle brushes,” he explains. Since wood is a porous material, any lingering dampness can make the brush a breeding ground for bacteria. Plus, water overexposure can soften wood to the point where it begins to split—and what good is a clean hair brush if it’s damaged beyond repair?

In addition, if your brush has cushion padding, water can also get trapped inside and allow mold and mildew to grow. Needless to say, that’s the last thing we want in our hair.

How do you remove buildup from hair brushes?

“Instead of waiting for all the hair to build up, make it a habit to pluck the loose hair strands every time hair is brushed,” says Villa.

Daily removal will make the deep cleaning process that much easier when the time comes. Here’s Villa’s advice on how to clean a hair brush in four easy steps.

Remove excess hair.

First, remove excess hair the brush holds with a tail comb or a Sam Villa Brush Cleaner.

“Synthetic and boar bristles can capture a lot of hair buildup,” says Villa. “If this happens, cut the hair buildup to loosen the hair strands, trim the matted hair from the sides and be careful not to cut the bristles. If the bristles align, cut the inside, being [cautious] of the bristles.”

Pro tip: Remember to detangle hair before using a boar bristle brush to ensure loose hair strands do not get stuck between the bristles.

Scrub, rinse, repeat.

Next, add a small amount of Redken Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo onto a clean toothbrush dipped in water. Gently scrub the mixture all over the bristles and the base of the brush until you see debris visibly loosening up. Rinse the hair brush under water, then use the clean toothbrush to scrub the brush again until no more shampoo remains.

Pro tip: Villa loves adding a small drop of Redken Oil for All Multi-Benefit Hair Oil Heat Protectant Spray onto boar bristle brushes after giving them their final rinse. The formula gives the brush more slip, which can be especially helpful for textured hair.

Let dry.

Towel dry the brush or lay the clean hair brush down on a washcloth and let the tool air dry.

“Prop up the brush at an angle, so the water does not soak into the brush base-cushion or handle,” advises Villa. “Your brushes will last longer.”

Good hair day by @mr_alexandrycosta

How do you clean a comb?

Now that you know how to clean a hair brush, you may wonder whether the same technique applies to combs. Villa says it varies slightly, but the biggest difference is that combs can benefit from a good soak. Read on for his three-pronged approach below.


Fill a bowl or sink with warm water (avoid boiling water, which can alter the teeth and the shape of the comb) and the same Redken clarifying shampoo as above. Submerge the comb in the water and let it soak for at least half an hour to help loosen oily buildup and residue.

Scrub gently.

Use a clean toothbrush to scrub away any greasy residue sticking to the base of the comb’s teeth. If you need extra cleaning action, add more shampoo onto the toothbrush bristles while you buff it onto your comb.


After you clean your comb, Villa suggests letting it soak in a clarifier like alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. While cleaning a comb with shampoo and water physically removes germs from its surface, these disinfectant solutions will actually kill any pathogens that remain.

How often should you clean hair brushes?

Now that you know how to clean hair brushes, you’re probably wondering how often you should do so. Is it every day? Weekly? Monthly? The short answer is that the frequency of your brush cleaning regimen is contingent upon your styling routine.

“How often [you clean your brushes] depends on the type of product you use, yet I suggest paying more attention to how often you use them,” says Villa. “If you regularly use creams, gels, or sprays, a good rule is to clean your brushes once a week. Remember, like many other hygiene items, at-home care requires careful and constant [upkeep] at least once a week.”

If you’re still on the fence about whether you want to add cleaning your hair brushes to the top of your to-do list, we’ll leave you with some parting words from our salon pro: “Cleaning brushes and tools on a regular basis is a must. It’s a NO-BRAINER!”

We rest our case.

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