Hair-Care Tips

Uh, What is This Gross Dust Covering My Hairbrush, and How Do I Get It Off?

Photo: Stocksy / Cicy
You know that dusty, lint-like thing you find in your hairbrush? It’s mostly dead skin cells shed when your scalp rejuvenates. Our bodies are constantly shedding dead skin cells — almost 500 million a day, to be exact. While the shedding process is the same for our face and body, we tend not to see our bodies' dead skin cells, as they wash away in the shower. But for our scalps, it’s a little different. When we brush or comb our hair, the dead skin cells can peel off and get stuck in the hairbrush.

Gross. Is it really all dead skin in there?

While the majority is a buildup of dead skin, the unsightly grub also consists of a mix of sebum, strands of hair, and styling products.

Can the buildup affect the hair and scalp?

Yes, it can. The purpose of a hairbrush is to maintain your mane, so when the tool is dirty, it’s only doing your hair a disservice. A dirty brush can lead to more hair breakage, and the gunk can get attached to your  clean locks, causing your scalp to feel itchier and be more dandruff-prone. And while it’s not great to use a dirty brush as it can assist with distributing sebum and bacteria, you shouldn’t be too concerned, says Beverly Hills hairstylist Jael. “It can impact us," says Jael, adding that it's nothing to stress out about.

Still, if you're wondering: The average hairbrush is said to house around 3,400 bacteria colonies per square inch, according to a University of Arizona study. The scientists tested 30 hairbrushes owned by women between the ages of 16 to 24, all of whom regularly used various styling products. In comparison, the average bathroom sink had 2,733 sets, and pet food bowls had 2,110 bacteria colonies per square inch.

Okay, so how do we get it off?

Now that you know that this dust is not good for you, you're probably wondering, "How do I clean my hairbrush?" A recent TikTok video by Maddie5pr revealed how Elmer’s Glue can remove the debris. Yes, the same glue you used in arts and crafts in school.

In the video, they poured the water-soluble glue all over the brush and left it to dry. Once set, it just peels right off, along with the hair and gunk. While many users were fascinated and impressed by the unique technique, others noted that the brush should be sanitized afterward to ensure full safety.

But if you’d rather keep your glue for your next art project, your pantry has everything you need. Hair expert Jonathan Monroe revealed how mixing 1 Tbsp baking soda and 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar in warm water does the trick. After using a rat tail comb to remove the hair, he created the “stripping wash.” With the brush in the liquid mix, he used a toothbrush to scrub each column and row before leaving it on a clean towel to dry.

Hair expert Michele Pritchard made it even easier, using shampoo on a toothbrush to cleanse the tool, following the same initial rat-tail comb step. But don’t use silicone-based or creamy shampoo, notes celebrity hairstylist Philip B. On Mane Addicts, he explained that creamy shampoos “contain fats and lipids that prevent the breakdown of oils on the brush.” And wouldn't that defeat the purpose of cleaning your brush in the first place?

Is dandruff making your brush super dusty? Here's how to address it:

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