How to Clean Dirty Hair Brushes

Preparing to clean a hairbrush

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $1 to 5

Many people don't realize that their hairbrush can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other unwanted organisms. This is because our scalps are full of natural oils and sweat, which can transfer to our hairbrush—and then onto our hair. In addition, old hair can build up on the bristles of the brush, making it more challenging to clean and causing it to smell bad. For these reasons, it's important to clean your hairbrush regularly.

Cleaning your hairbrush is relatively easy and requires minimal cleaning supplies. By taking the time to clean your hairbrush, you'll help keep your hair healthy and free of buildup.

How Often Should You Clean Your Hairbrush?

Just like your toothbrush, your hairbrush can harness bacteria if it isn't cleaned on a regular basis. Depending on how often you use it and what type of hairbrush it is, you may need to clean it anywhere from once a week to once a month.

If you have a natural bristle brush, be sure to wash it at least every few weeks. For synthetic bristles, you can give the brush a quick rinse after every use to be extra clean. If you use your brush daily, you may want to give it a deep cleaning once a week by soaking it in vinegar for 30 minutes. By keeping your hairbrush clean, you can help prevent scalp infections and keep your strands looking their best.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Cleaning Tools

  • 1 sink or large bucket


Cleaning Supplies

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 bottle mild dish soap or shampoo


Materials needed to clean a hairbrush

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean a Dirty Hairbrush

  1. Remove All Hair From the Brush

    Start by cleaning out any hair or debris from the brush. If you've never cleaned your hairbrush before, this might take a little effort. Remove all the hair from the brush, then you'll be ready to soak.

    Removing extra hair from the brush

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Get Your Sink or Bucket Ready

    Fill a stopped sink or large clean bucket with hot water and a few drops of mild soap or shampoo. You don't need to add a ton of product, but you do want some suds to rise.

    Making a cleaning solution for your hairbrush

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Soak Your Brush

    Submerge your brush in the water and allow it to soak, though do not soak a brush with a wooden handle, as it will split.

    Depending on how frequently you clean your brush, the soak time will vary. If you clean your brush regularly, you can soak it for 5-10 minutes. For a deeper clean, soak your brush for 30 minutes.


    You might notice the water turning a different color or some leftover product from the brush dispersing into the water—that means it's working.

    Soaking a hairbrush in a cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Check Your Work

    After soaking, swish your brush around in the water and check your work. Do the bristles look clean? If so, you're ready to remove the brush and move on to the final step.

    Doing a second wash of the hairbrush

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Let the Brush Air Dry

    Once you've finished soaking your hairbrush, lay it face up on a towel to dry. Make sure the air bristles are able to fully ventilate and breathe. This will allow any excess moisture from settling on the brush and creating mildew.

    Letting the hairbrushes air dry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  6. Brush Still Dirty? Try a Vinegar Deep Clean

    Deep cleaning your hairbrush on a regular basis is the best way to keep it in good condition, but sometimes soap and water can't break down the grime that's accumulated in the bristles. Fortunately, vinegar is a natural disinfectant that works wonders in removing stubborn build-up from brushes.

    Simply soak the bristles in a cup of vinegar for thirty minutes, then rinse thoroughly with warm water. For particularly stubborn build-up, you may need to repeat this process a few times.

    Repeating the steps to cleaning a hairbrush

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Tips for Keeping Your Hairbrush Clean Longer

  • As with cleaning anything, regular maintenance is key. The more you clean your hairbrush the less often you'll need to deep clean it—and the better your hair will look!
  • Consider investing in a hairbrush cleaning spray or soap. You can find these at most drug stores.
  • Avoid using your hairbrush when your hair is particularly dirty, oily, or filled with hair product.
  • Use a clarifying shampoo before you brush your hair to remove excess oil that might get caught in your brush bristles.