How to clean a Boar Bristle Brush – like new!

BEFORE: This is 1 week of brushing “water-only” hair. Note the sebum buildup.

AFTER: I gave my brush a quick bath, and it’s like new! Follow the steps below to get the same results.

 
 
 


One of the most essential ways to keep your hair healthy is to invest in a boar bristle hair brush, preferably one with 100% boar bristles. You can also use a boar bristle/nylon bristle blend, just note that the higher concentration of boar bristles, the better. You can find affordable brushes for $10 – $30 at Shoppers, Sally’s or other beauty supply stores. Click here for links to brush/comb recommendations from one of our commenters.

What it does: A boar bristle brush (BBB) distributes your hair’s natural oils away from your roots and down to the ends of your hair. It allows you to coat the length of your hair with hydrating & protective oils created naturally by our scalps. We can’t reap the benefits of these naturally-produced oils when we strip them from our hair by washing daily with sulfates and detergents found in most commercial shampoos. A major key to healthy hair is to wash it less often (or eliminate harsh sulfates/detergents all together), and use a BBB between washes/rinses to pull the oils away from the roots & distribute them down to the ends. This process keeps your roots from looking oily, and it adds hydration to the ends of your hair which can otherwise be susceptible to dryness.

If you suffer from an oily scalp, dry ends, and/or frizzy hair, a BBB can be a complete game changer. One of the first times I used one, I had just started no poo and went seven days without washing or rinsing my hair. It was a greasy mess, but I used a BBB to pull the oils down to my ends, put it up in a high bun, and went to bed. When I woke up, I promptly rinsed out my hair, and it was incredibly soft, hydrated, bouncy, and frizz was no where to be found. It’s like using a hair mask, except it’s free and works better than any hair mask I’ve ever used.

Anyway, if you use a BBB, especially if you are “no poo” (no shampoo) or use the water-only rinse method like me, you know your BBB can get pretty gross, pretty fast. After a week of using mine, there is a lot of sebum buildup (which is the oil naturally produced by our scalps), which looks grey and dusty when it builds up on a hair brush (pictured below), and also hair that needs to be removed. If you want your hair to look less oily-looking (especially during the oily transitional phase that occurs when you start no poo), cleaning your boar-bristle brush between uses is essential. Otherwise, your brush isn’t soaking up oils from your head, it’s just moving around last week’s oils (or whenever the the last time you washed it was) around on your head with this week’s oils.

sebum gross

I give my brush a quick bath every week, and it cleans it like new every time. There are a few important steps I recommend you follow that make it so easy, and help you get the longest lifespan out of your brush.


What you’ll need to clean your boar bristle brush:

what you'll need

  • your boar-bristle brush
  • a regular-toothed comb
  • Liquid shampoo/soap (whatever you use to wash your hair), but a sulfate-free shampoo or natural hair cleanser is preferred — I used liquid body wash in this tutorial, but I switched to using a spoonful of raw honey because it’s natural, gentle, anti-bacterial, smells good, and works just as well as soap!
  • very warm water, and cold water
  • any kind of container that will properly fit your brush***

*** (Pictured Right): If your BBB has a wooden handle and/or a cushion-y padding that the bristles come out of, it’s important that these don’t get submerged in water. This will avoid weakening the brush handle over time and allow it to dry quicker. Use a container that fits the brush so water touches only the bristles and just barely touches the cushion-y part of the brush.


Let’s get started!!

STEP 1: First things first, comb the hair and excess sebum off the brush.

remove hair2

Starting at the edges, insert your comb at the roots of the bristles and pull the comb away from the brush to loosen up the hair. Do this around all of the edges of the brush. Then drag the comb through the brush (pictured right) to pull the hair off the brush. Keep doing this until you get all or most of the hair and excess sebum off the brush.

These pictures show what my brush looks like after I’ve pulled the comb through it a few times. I spared you some grossness. :) It’s already looking better, but there’s still a lot of dusty sebum buildup in there. (You can click any of these images to enlarge them / zoom in.)

STEP 2: Prepare the brush bath.

brush bath

Squirt a dollop of the liquid soap or shampoo in the container and fill it up with very warm water. We’re basically giving our brush a bath. Make sure the water is very warm as it will do a better job of cleaning oils off the brush than cold water.

STEP 3: Soak the brush.

swishing brush

Swish the brush around in the warm, soapy water. Be careful to keep the water just on the bristles and avoid submerging the brush, especially if it has a squishy bristle padding or a wooden handle. It’s important to keep the brush bristle-side down while it’s wet for the duration of this process, so the water doesn’t seep into the cushion-y part.

STEP 4: Let the brush soak for about 10 minutes!

set

After some good swishing, wipe off any water that got on the handle (if it’s wooden), and set it nicely on the container so only the bristles stay submerged in the water.

Now leave it alone for about 10 mins. Seriously! Don’t touch it. :)

STEP 5: Rinse with clean water.

rinse

After 10 mins, take the brush out of the bath, keeping it bristle side down. Rinse out the container and fill it back up with clean, cold water. Swish the brush around in the cold water, still avoiding submerging the brush or getting the wooden handle wet.

STEP 6: Let it dry!

dry

Take the brush out of the cold water rinse, and keeping it bristle-side down, run your finger across the bristles a few times to flick away any excess water.

Set the brush bristle-side down on a clean towel. Wipe any excess water off the wooden handle and let it dry completely. It might take a couple of hours or all day to dry, depending on how much water got inside the cushion-y part of the brush.

NOTE: Many people have said their new boar bristle brush smells like… well… a boar when it’s wet. If this happens to you, don’t worry, the brush should not smell like anything when it is dry. And the way it smells while it’s wet should go away after a month or two of use and washing. So for the first month or two, just let it dry completely before using it on your hair!

DONE. Enjoy your clean boar bristle brush!

clean

18

Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment if you tried this method, and let me know how it worked out for you! c:

Comments

  1. Leave a Reply

    Matt
    January 5, 2015

    Hey, thanks for the post.

    If you find that that brush is a good quality one, can you let me know where you got it?

    • Leave a Reply

      Just Primal Things Blog
      January 8, 2015

      I got my brush at Sally’s Beauty Supply for ~ $12 CAD a while ago, and it’s my first and only BBB (at the time of this post), so it’s hard for me to compare its quality to others. It is a “porcupine” version with some boar’s hairs and some nylon bristles. I have had a positive experience with it, but it’s a little rough on my hair since it’s not all boar’s bristles.

      • Leave a Reply

        snuzzled
        January 29, 2015

        Usually when you see a brush that says 100% boar bristle, it means the bristles that are boar are 100% boar… which is silly :P If you see any strands that have blunt ends with uniform black color throughought, they are probably nylon. If you pluck that bristle and burn it, it will burn like plastic, not like a real hair. Which if it works for you, great! Every BBB I’ve seen at Sally’s has always been a mix of boar and nylon though.

    • Leave a Reply

      Lauren
      August 24, 2015

      Hey guys :) Brands of BBB are Widu(they also make wooden bristle brushes and combs), Morocco Method, and Mason Pearson(THE MOTHER OF BBB). I hope this helps. I have the same brush that you’re using. ..the brand is by brush strokes. It’s a good brush but not pure boar.

    • Leave a Reply

      hailee r matheny
      March 16, 2016

      I got my BBB on etsy from BrushKing, and it’s wonderful!! Decent price too. $15 after shipping. I think it’s 100% boar bristles and no nylon. It’s soft and has a good pull too it. I totally recommend it!
      Elegant 100 percent pure boar bristles hair brush by BRUSHKING on Etsy http://etsy.me/1MqFBbO

    • Leave a Reply

      Jesse
      September 23, 2016

      I’m very happy with my Denman BBB. While researching the brush before I bought it, I found most people labeling it as second only to Mason Pearson. I’ve never owned a MP, so I can’t say. But, all of the bristles are boar bristles and only a few have fallen out over the past year or so. I think I paid around $40 for it, so it isn’t the cheapest. However, it may well be the cheapest quality BBB you’ll find.

    • Leave a Reply

      Michelle
      September 28, 2016

      Could you please advise which shampoo/body wash to use when cleaning the boar bristle brush. I purchased raw honey to use but I’m uncertain as to whether it 100% raw honey. On the ingredients it states 100% pure honey but I’m reluctant to use it in case it damages my BBB. Do you know whether that’d be the case? If it’s okay to use the honey, I’ll try that. However, if not, I’m stuck as to which shampoo/body wash to use and I don’t have access to all American products (I live in Asia). Thank you for your help and amazing blog!

      • Leave a Reply

        Just Primal Things
        November 11, 2016

        Raw honey shouldn’t damage the brush. Getting water on the wooden part of the brush could damage it though, depending on the wood and if it was treated to withstand water or not. Raw honey is a gentle cleanser, but if you are having issues with excessively oily hair (and thus have a lot of excess oils on your BBB that you need to get off), I recommend using a stronger cleanser for your BBB. Any sulfate-free shampoo or gentle shampoo should do the trick without ruining the bristles.

  2. Leave a Reply

    Matilda
    February 19, 2015

    I did my first WO-wash today, after about 4 days of brushing with my new BBB! My hair was oily, a mess, really. But it actually worked alright, my hair isn’t 100% clean but feels voluminous and looks shiny (where it’s not still oily).. Guess it takes some getting used to! I’ll absolutely try your technique for washing my BBB, and I won’t do the mistake of forgetting that I washed my brush and trying to use it while it was still wet.. My hair smelled of boar! X)

    • Leave a Reply

      Just Primal Things
      May 24, 2015

      Congrats! I hope it continues to go well for you. The natural bristles of the BBB pick up the oils from your hair and help you distribute them away from your roots to the ends of your hair. But the bristles also hold on to those oils unless you wash them off. So if your scalp is still transitioning (and still producing a lot of oils), you may find that washing your BBB between uses (and using it daily) will help keep your hair from looking overly oily. Otherwise, you’ll just be brushing last week’s hair oils through this week’s already oily hair!

  3. Leave a Reply

    Josephine
    February 23, 2015

    Hi,
    I just purchased a BBB today, its stated 100% Natural Bristles for Fine to Normal Hair. Do you think that is 100% Boar Bristle? And also, do you think the BBB will make the hair fall out more?
    Thank you.

    • Leave a Reply

      Just Primal Things
      November 19, 2015

      A BBB shouldn’t make your hair fall out more. Just be gentle with your brush strokes and detangle with a wider-toothed comb/brush before using the BBB, since BBB’s are not great at detangling, but they work great on detangled hair.

  4. Leave a Reply

    Kelly
    March 4, 2015

    When you say “a boar bristle hair brush, preferably one with 100% boar bristles (no nylon bristles),” I assume you are discouraging the “porcupine” variety that are predominantly boar bristle with some nylon bristles? Why is that? I have the Mason Pearson “popular” brush that is maybe 95% boar bristle + some longer nylon bristles to aid with stimulating the scalp and detangling; when I bought this several years ago, I specifically wanted one with the longer nylon bristles because I’d found that pure boar bristle did not detangle my hair or penetrate all the way to the scalp (even though I do not have especially thick hair). The MP is a fantastic brush – I completely adore it and consider it well worth the cost. However, now I am in the midst of transitioning to water only, and I’m trying to figure out whether I ALSO need a 100% boar bristle brush… Do the nylon bristles do some harm?

    • Leave a Reply

      Alex
      March 20, 2015

      I’m curious about this, too. I have the same brush you do.

      I’ve been doing WO for a little over a month and have seen great results with the BBB with a few nylon bristles. I think the nylon bristles act as an extra stimulant as you said- like a post-scritching scritch.

      Love this post, BTW. This is how I get my brush squeaky-clean. Haven’t tried the honey yet but I plan on picking some raw stuff up soon. I’ve pretty much just been co-washing my brush and it works fine.

      • Leave a Reply

        dans
        April 8, 2015

        The nylon bristles will do no harm to your hair, so if your brush has some it will be totally fine. They will actually help, as the stronger bristles of nylon will be able to “dig” deeper into your hair strands as you brush. Quite often 100% boar hair is too weak to push through thicker hair, which only means it takes longer to thoroughly brush (not that it can’t be done!) Also remember that the boars hair is what is actually spreading your oils through your hair, as they are absorbant. Nylon is not, so they aren’t helping move the oils down the hair shafts as easily, and most likely not at all to the ends if you have medium to long length hair. My brush right now is mostly nylon, with maybe 25% boars hair, I would like to find one that is maybe 75% boars hair, with 25% nylon. My hair is a little past my shoulders, straight and thick, and a softer brush just takes toooooooo looonnnngggg to get all done. I need those stiffer bristles! Hope this helps!

        • Leave a Reply

          Just Primal Things
          May 24, 2015

          Hi Kelly, I 100% agree with dans’ comment. It’s important to remember that a brush with more boar’s hair bristles than nylon is the ideal brush since the boar’s hairs are the ones that actually absorb your scalp’s oils and help you distribute them through your hair. The nylon bristles don’t do this, but as dans said, some nylon bristles throughout the brush can be helpful to “dig” deeper through your hair. Some BBBs aren’t very sturdy and only brush the surface of a section of hair, and it’s hard to get the bristles to reach deeper to all of the hair underneath. If this happens, you may have to part your hair a lot and work in sections if you have thick hair or a lot of hair. If your current brush works well for you, I don’t see a need to go out and buy a new one. It is good to know though that many brushes in stores are labeled “100% boar bristles” but they are actually full of a lot of nylon bristles and a lot less boar bristles than you’d think. So if you’re having a hard time distributing oils through your hair, a high content of nylon bristles could be causing it without you knowing it.

  5. Leave a Reply

    chasity
    April 11, 2015

    So what if I’m a poor person and I can only afford a nylon brush….. Does the BBB really matter that much??? I’m a single mom and I can’t really afford to spend $10-$15 on a BBB brush…. Will the nylon brush work jus the same or just as well… I wanna switch to no poo but the brush is really the only thing holding me back…..

    • Leave a Reply

      Ms R
      April 15, 2015

      Hi chasity,
      My experience is that a bbb is really important. I got mine for only 7 euro (in Holland, in the shop ‘kruitvat’). If you think the BBB is too expensive, think about the money you will save when you never use shampoo again.
      In my opinion the BBB is a one time investigation, and it is absolutely worth it. On the other hand, i have no experience with a nylon one, do maybe you could try that. Also you can buy a BBB the next time you should go shopping for hair products and buy the BBB in stead and you go only-water from that moment.
      I hope my comment was useful

      X

    • Leave a Reply

      07JClds27
      April 16, 2015

      Amazon has one for about $4 before taxes.

    • Leave a Reply

      caro
      April 19, 2015

      the boar bristle brush is about brushing the oils from your scalp to the ends of your hair. This is not necessary but it helps with the process. The thing is, bbb’s tend to do this very well. but i’m sure that there are other brushes who take the oils to the ends of you hair. So summarized: A bbb is not necesarry, if you can afford it, it can come out handy to buy something that is similar to it. good luck!

    • Leave a Reply

      Christine
      April 21, 2015

      Disclaimer: I am only beginning this process, so my advice is based on budgetary rather than hair experience.

      If you are able to switch to water-only washing you will definitely save enough money not buying hair products to buy a $15 BBB in a fairly short amount of time. If your budget is tight enough that you can’t “front” yourself a BBB now and save the money/pay for it later (no shame in that–I have certainly been there), I should think you would be able to get by with a cheaper brush but expect to need to water wash more often until you can save up the $15. When I was that poor I stayed within my meager budget by using an envelope system. In that scenario I would have started a “BBB $15” envelope and put whatever was still left in my “Toiletries” envelope into it at the beginning of each new pay period until I had saved up enough to go purchase my fancy brush.
      [I apologize if this was way too specific budgeting info–just remembering what I did back in the day.]

      If your single-mom status makes you feel guilty for spending

    • Leave a Reply

      Anonymous
      May 1, 2015

      I found a BBB at Walmart for under 4 dollars. It’s not as wide as the one pictured above, but, hey, under 4 dollars!!!

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