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

    Jez
    March 10, 2018

    Hello JPT. I’ve been using a BBB for many years. BUT, I had to try several before I finally found one that actually penetrated to my scalp. Most of them just brushed the surface of my hair…and I have short hair! Problem is the brush I like is round (Conair 100% Boar), and I think part of it’s functionality is because it’s round. The brush head is made of wood which is shiny and looks like it has been coated with some kind of resin or protection. My question is if I submerge my brush in soapy water, do you think it will be damaged? Maybe I will get online and see if Conair has any cleaning recommendations. Still curious to know what you think.

  2. Leave a Reply

    Sunshine16
    June 15, 2018

    Thanks for this great site! I have a question. If I was using products that had silicone and all kinds of other chemicals and want to cold turkey do WO, do I need to use a sulfate shampoo to get the chemicals off first or will it come off with a different method? Thanks! I just washed WO and coconut oil on my ends (I have long hair) and my scalp is saying thank you.

    • Leave a Reply

      Just Primal Things
      October 8, 2018

      Hi Sunshine16, Yes, you will need to remove the silicones from your hair with a sulfate-shampoo before starting any sulfate-free routine.

  3. Leave a Reply

    Sophie
    June 28, 2018

    Love these tips, but curious as to how to clean a round, wooden-handled BBB? Submerging each sections of bristles around the brush would seem like it would work, it would just be quite time consuming to ensure no water got on the wood. Any tips? Thank you!

  4. Leave a Reply

    Ida
    August 13, 2018

    Hey!

    My BBB is the round kind (360 degrees bristle action, to put it like that) with wooden handle,no cushion.. any tips on how to clean that?

  5. Leave a Reply

    Joanna
    November 22, 2018

    What else could I use to clean my BBB with apart from honey? I mean I’ve tried honey and it’s great but so expensive. Could I clean it with nettle tea for example?

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>