Cleaning your brushes

11 December 2009
We all know that buying disposable products adds not only many dollars to our grocery bill but also to our carbon emissions.  Luckily, disposing of disposables is quite easy once you set your mind to it.  Many of us here cut up old towels, sheets etc for rags and dishcloths.  Many of us knit dishcloths.  We can use newspaper to wipe out frying pans, then wash the pan, instead of using paper towels.  The beauty of using rags for cleaning is that you can compost them if you wipe up something really horrible.  We are still buying tissues and toilet paper but maybe there will come a day when we don't.

Yesterday I cleaned some of my brushes, which is part of my non-disposables home routine.  I try to keep my makeup brushes, hair brushes, toothbrushes and cleaning brushes going for as long as possible.  So far, I've had my hair brush for over 30 years.

To clean a hairbrush like mine, which is plastic/resin, pull out the hairs in the brush, rub the brush on a bar of soap and rub the brush over the palm of your hand.  This cleans through the bristles without bending them too much or breaking them.  Run the brush under the tap to remove the soap, then soak it in a bowl of warm water with a tablespoon of peroxide added.  If you don't have peroxide, use level tablespoon of your oxy-bleach power, like Napisan or OxiClean.  I soak mine overnight, then rinse it in clean water and allow to dry naturally.

There is a recommendation to replace toothbrushes when they're frayed or every three to four months.  Like most brushes, toothbrushes can hold a lot of germs.  So in between replacements, soak your toothbrushes in a small bowl of water with half a tablespoon of peroxide.  Peroxide is available at some supermarkets or at the chemist/drugstore.  You'll notice there may be a bit of foaming around the bristle, that just means the peroxide is cleaning them.  After an hour, rinse in clean water and place back in the rack, making sure they don't touch each other.  ADA toothbrush care recommendations.

Makeup brushes need to be cleaned regularly.  You use these brushes on your eyes and skin so they must be kept clean.  Be gentle with these brushes as often they're made of sable or other animal hair and they can be damaged with rough treatment.  I wet the brush, rub it over my homemade soap and rub it around the palm of my hand to get into the bristles.   You may need to do this a few times, depending on how dirty the brush is.  Rinse the brush in clean water, shake out as much water as possible, then lay it on a clean towel to dry.

My cleaning and scrubbing brushes are mostly wooden. I soak them for half and hour in a bucket with a tablespoon of liquid bleach added to half a bucket of water.  Rinse when the half hour is up, then dry in the sun, or outside in the shade until dry.  Don't leave wooden brushes to soak or stay in the sun too long.  It's not good for them.

Cleaning your brushes is one of those tasks that requires you to exercise your common sense.  If you have a pure bristle brush you can use the above treatment for hair brushes but don't let the brush soak or you'll damage the bristles.  Make sure you shake it well to remove as much of the water as you can, then lay it on its back - not on the bristle - to dry naturally.  Don't dry it with the hair dryer.  If you have antique or very old brushes, treat them as you would your pure bristle brushes.  They can and should be cleaned, but be very gentle with them.

Looking after your brushes and cleaning them regularly will extend the life of most brushes.  Part of this simple style of living is to use as little as possible and to look after what you already own.  The humble brush is a part of your household armoury, look after them and they serve you long and well.

Thank you for your visits and comments this week.  I appreciate your comments, they assure me that others are with us in this swim against the tide.  I hope you enjoy your weekend.  Don't forget there will be kitchen sink photos on Saturday and Sunday.  Take care.


  1. Patricia in DenverDecember 11, 2009 7:25 am

    Rhonda, I had forgotten that greasy rags can be composted, thanks for the reminder. My husband and I try not to create much trash, we have a small bag to give the garbage men every other week, the rest goes in the recycle bin. I also make crafts using trash items and sell them in my city (no web site yet). People are amazed at what can be done with throw away stuff, many times they can't tell what the used item is. Thank you for being an inspiration to those of us who want to do more for ourselves, others and this earth.

  2. Thanks for the tips on the rags. I am going to use your method for cleaning the brushes. Thanks for sharing. How often should they be cleaned?

  3. Thanks for this reminder.I will admit I clean my various brushes.......when I think of it!!
    I DO need to make it part of a routine and not something I just haphazardly do.That is why I come here,you talk about things that make me think.I just didn't think about how important it is to clean brushes regularly. Time to go and clean those brushes!! LOL

  4. What an great post. I really like all the good common sense reminders that you give us. It has been some time since I cleaned my brushes, so, off to the sink! I didn't even realize you could compost rags - do they have to be 100% cotton, or does it matter what the fabric is?

  5. Good morning Patricia, Fruitful, Darlene and Barb.

    Fruitful, I do mine about every 4-6 weeks or straight away if they're really dirty.

    Barb, pure cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, soy and all the natural fibres can be composted. Nylon or acrylic can't be. Blended cotton with acrylic don't compost well either. You'll end up with strings of acrylic in your compost.

  6. Hi Rhonda,
    We have hairbrushes for about four to five years, but we have two people in this home with long hair that needs lots of brushing.

    I keep ours scrupulously clean, though, too.

    Your blog is such a blessing to so many people. Thank you. :D

    Have a great weekend,

  7. Great post! I also clean my combs- just soak and then clean with baking soda and an old toothbrush :o) I have had a detangler comb for 9 years! Dee

  8. Lol Rhonda, as we have an art shop "cleaning your brushes" means something quite different to me. :) Good tips thank you and the new photo is great. Enjoy your weekend.

  9. Thanks for sharing all your great tips. I love checking in to see what you have posted next! One of my goals for the new year is to make soap- you have inpired me!

  10. I've got you beat on the hairbrush age. I've had mine for over 40 years. In fact, it might be older than I am (48) because I can remember my mother using it from the time I was very, very young. I'm glad to see your recommendation for cleaning brushes, I think they get thrown out too often when they can usually be cleaned and used longer.

  11. What a great posting. I never heard of anyone having there hair brush for 30 years.
    I guess we take them for grant it. I got one for less then $2.00. Because I just picked one up to add to my winter box.

    Coffee is on.

  12. Thanks for the hints on cleaning brushes, especially the makeup brushes - I do makeup for costuming, so it's really important to keep those brushes clean. =)

  13. Thank You for the reminder, as I also clean my brushes just not on a regular bases as they should be.
    Off to gather the brushes and combs!
    Then write in my home journal to clean ALL brushes and combs on a regular bases.

  14. Keep swimming just keep swimming
    A line in that movie "finding Nemo"
    makes me smile

  15. Thanks for the idea on wiping out the frying pan Rhonda! I would have never thought of it but I will definitely be doing it now. :)


  16. What a great post today Rhonda and very helpful info. Have a relaxing weekend.
    blessings Gail

  17. Hi Rhonda, first of all, love your now photo!

    Thanks for the tips, which reminds me to go and clean my brushes, so I will do that today. A question; what is that funny looking hairy white brush on your sink for??

  18. I didn't realize you could compost rags- this is great to know!
    Good post today- not only is cleaning brushes instead of buying new ones not wasteful, it's cheaper! (Which is always a huge plus.) Looking forward to more kitchen sink photos- I love seeing everyone's homes! It gives me ideas...and it's so nice to look at pictures of ordinary, beautiful kitchens instead of the "stylish, up to date" kind in the magazines. Hope you have a lovely weekend as well.
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  19. Thanks for the great reminder, I've also been thinking of cleaning my brush I've been needing to for a while, and my make up brushes (which I've never done). I will do that today. Thanks again.

    Oh, and why the bleach and not peroxide for the kitchen brushes?


  20. I have to admit my guilt here...I clean my brushes with just some Marseillais soap and a scrub! And not even all. But I am a good girl when it comes to using rags...

  21. shandora, that is a dish mop for cleaning inside glasses, jugs and jars.

    shan, peroxide is more expensive than bleach but I prefer to use it on the brushes uses for personal care. The cleaning brushes - the brushes I scrub with, have often been dipped into water containing bleach when they're being used, so bleach is fine for them.

  22. It never occured to me that brushes were disposable! Mum always cleaned our hair brushes by soaking them in Detol, so I've always done the same.

  23. Cleaning the brushes and combs was one of my jobs as a kid. Mind you we use to use an ammonia and water solution (Nana's way). Handy Andy if I remember correctly, boy did it stinck, but it did a great job.

    Love the toothbrush sanitizing tip.
    Great post as usual Rhonda

    PS. lovely new photo as well


  24. I agree, I love the toothbrush sanitizing tip!

  25. And I thought I was the only one who had a decades-old hairbrush! I've had mine nearly 20 years.

  26. A tip on cleaning toothbrushes is to use a denture cleaning tablet in a cup of water.

    My father was a barber and he used to soak all of his combs in alcohol to disinfect them between uses - another way to clean things =)

    EnKore is a pro makeup artist who also does videos on YouTube. He has a few on cleaning makeup brushes. This is showing how to make your own makeup brush cleaner. And here is his video on cleaning brushes which is VERY detailed! And here is one he has on deep cleaning brushes (I personally have not got to watch this one)

    just some more to add to your already GREAT post =)

  27. I clean my brushes and combs at the same time by placing about a teaspoon of baking soda (bicarb) in a tall glass, placing the brushes and combs in it and running hot water over them until they're covered with water. I will dunk one of the brushes up and down a bit to mix the baking soda into the water. I will then let them sit for about 5 mins. Take them out, rinse them off - presto chango, clean brushes and combs without scrubbing them. This gets the dirtiest of brushes and combs (those living in the bottom of your purse) clean.

  28. I see a duboa hairbrush.

    I had mine for almost 20 yrs, it got a little ratty and I had to buy a new one.
    I have psorisis so it get a flake build up if I am not careful, to combat this I rinse it under the shower while I am waiting for the water to warm up and use shampoo once a week to clean it.
    These brushes last forever if you look after them and at around $30 are one of the best investments you will ever make.
    I have quiet long hair and I love it.

    1. Recently bought a Duboa hair brush but almost regretting it -- it gets lint trapped around each cluster of bristles and I cant figure out how to clean it! Does this happen with yours? How do you manage to clean it?


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