How To Clean Brushes of Any Kind

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Knowing how to clean brushes helps them last longer and continue to work like new. We use a lot of different types of them around the home: hair brushes, scrub brushes, toilet brushes, toothbrushes, even paint brushes. Keeping them in good shape helps save money and, in many cases, prevents the spread of bacteria.

How To Clean Brushes

Toilet Bowl Brush

Toilet Bowl Brushes

Some people swear by keeping their toilet brush holder filled with disinfectant. After use, they pop the brush into its holder and figure the disinfectant will kill any germs.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, the disinfectant is likely to cause rust and erode the materials of your toilet brush. Second, if the holder gets knocked over or bumped, you’re left with a nasty mess on your floor which can damage it. Plus, if you have young children or pets, you don’t want them confusing the liquid for something drinkable.

Safely and effectively cleaning toilet brushes isn’t hard.

  1. After scrubbing and cleaning the toilet, add disinfecting cleaner to the bowl again. (Here’s a homemade one.)
  2. Let the brush sit in the bowl for 10 minutes then flush to rinse both the bowl and brush.
  3. Prop the brush between the toilet seat and the rim of the bowl for 30 minutes to let it dry, then put it back in the holder.
Scrub brush with wood handle

Scrub Brushes

Scrub brushes are essential cleaning tools. They make cleaning grout and getting rid of carpet stains much easier. Those tasks put them in contact with some nasty stuff that shouldn’t just be left to dry, so clean scrub brushes after each use.

  1. Wash them after use in warm, soapy water with a small amount of baking soda added. Rinse well then shake to remove excess water. Once the first layer of grime is gone, you’re ready to disinfect them.
  2. To disinfect, combine 1 tbsp. each Borax and washing soda, 1 cup white vinegar, and 2 cups very hot water in a bowl. Immerse the brush for 5 minutes then remove and allow it to drip dry on a rack.
  3. Once dry, use an old comb to remove hairs and fibers trapped in the brush bristles.
A close up of a tool

Bottle and Dish Brushes

A bottle brush makes cleaning thermoses, carafes, and baby bottles a breeze. Dish brushes are great at scouring away food messes without scratching plates or nonstick cookware. But both tend to accumulate grimy food residue and should be washed after each use.

  1. If swirling in a glass of water and rinsing them under the faucet doesn’t dislodge food particles, running an old hair comb through the bristles should do the trick. (Wash the comb afterward, obviously.)
  2. Pop the brush into the dishwasher to finish cleaning it, or wash it in a sink of hot, soapy water.
  3. To disinfect, plunge it into a glass of white vinegar for 1 hour then rinse with clear water and let it air dry.
A close up of a tool

Makeup Brushes

Dirty makeup brushes lead to muddled colors. Worse yet, they can cause acne and even MRSA. Clean them weekly, even if you only wear makeup once or twice a week, to kill bacteria.

  1. Rinse dirty makeup brushes under warm, running water to remove loose powder.
  2. In a glass, combine 1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 cup of warm water, and 2-3 drops of a mild liquid dish detergent or castile soap.
  3. Swirl the brushes in this solution for a minute or two, then let them sit for 5 minutes. Remove them from the glass, shake off excess liquid, then rinse them under cool, running water.
  4. Place the clean brushes flat on a towel or washcloth to air dry. Put another clean, dry towel on top of the brushes and gently press to blot away excess water. Remove the top towel and let the brushes air dry. (If you’re in a hurry, you can blast them with a hair-dryer on the coolest, lowest setting.)
A close up of a brush

Hair Brushes

Hair brushes accumulate scalp oil as well as stray hairs, so if you skip regular cleaning, you’re just adding grime to your freshly-washed ‘do. Clean them every two weeks at a minimum — weekly if you use a lot of product or have oily hair.

  1. Gently run the teeth of a comb through the bristles and tug away any loose hairs that come up. Use cuticle scissors to snip away any tangles.
  2. Fill a bowl with 2 cups very warm water, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap. (The baking soda helps loosen product residue.)
  3. Swirl the brush in this mixture and, using a toothbrush, scrub the brush barrel to loosen any product or body oil buildup.
  4. Swirl again then rinse under warm running water. Shake and let the brush air dry before use.
How to Clean Toothbrushes

Tooth Brushes

Toothbrushes accumulate a lot of bacteria every time we use them. If you’ve been sick with a cold or flu, it makes sense to replace your toothbrush once you’re feeling better — they’re inexpensive, after all. The rest of the time, you should clean your toothbrush every few days to keep it fresh.

  • Fill a glass with equal parts of hot water and either white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Soak your toothbrush head in this mixture overnight then rinse it well under clear water before use.
  • Electric toothbrush handles should be rinsed well after each use and cleaned weekly with a homemade disinfecting wipe or a washcloth dipped in 50-50 vinegar water.
Paint brush for walls

Paint Brushes

Cleaning your paintbrush well after each use keeps it in good shape for all of your home decorating projects. Even if you skipped a proper cleaning and there’s hardened paint on the brush, you can still get it clean.

  1. After use, wipe the brush on a rag or towel to remove as much wet paint as possible.
  2. Swirl the brush in a bucket of warm, soapy water. Using your fingers, gently work the suds through the brush bristles to remove paint.
  3. Rinse under warm water until the water runs clear. Tap the handle of the brush against the edge of the pail or sink to shake off excess water, then carefully blot the bristles, shaping them as you work.
  4. Lay the brush on a clean, dry towel in a sunny location to air dry.

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  1. Do you clean and dry your scrub brushes in the kitchen? I use a scrub brush on my cat’s litter box and am not sure where exactly to wash it; I’m hesitant to do it in the kitchen or bathroom sinks.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’d recommend using the bathroom sink or a bathtub–just be sure clean and then disinfect it immediately afterward. Another option is using a plastic box as a makeshift sink for this, then flush the dirty water down the toilet when you’re done. You’d still want to clean and disinfect the box after use, but you can dump that mess down the toilet, too.

  2. Patricia Trottier says:

    How do you disinfect the vegetable brush with a wood handle

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Patricia,
      After washing with hot, soapy water, I’d either use a disinfecting wipe on the handle or spray it with hydrogen peroxide.

  3. Kathy N. Noon says:

    I have been told by my dentist. the best way to clean your toothbrush. is in the dish washer run it through the hottest cycle and longest cycle in the silverware holder. Is this true!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Kathy!
      Absolutely, a dishwasher will get your toothbrush clean IF you’re referring to a manual toothbrush. Remember to replace them every 3 months, too.

  4. How to get hair out of scrub brushes?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Use a comb to lift it out.

    2. Christina Nelson says:

      Comb as she mentioned above. I was looking for the same thing just now and discovered that so wanted to pass it along.

  5. I run my kitchen scrub brush through the dishwasher on the top rack. It makes me feel better about scrubbing my dishes with it afterwards. 🙂

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Excellent idea!