How Often Should You Clean Your Hair Tools?

Don't overlook washing frequently used brushes and appliances.

Young woman sitting on chair styling
Photo: Getty / iprogressman

We all know that cleaning our makeup brushes is imperative for healthy skin. But these aren't the only beauty tools that benefit from regular cleaning: Your hair tools need some love, too. "When keeping a clean home environment, often overlooked are our hair styling tools," says Glamsquad regional hair expert Marcus Hoey. "Bacteria and viruses can live and grow on surfaces for days at a time, and one thing they live on are our personal [hair] tools."

Whether you're using brushes and combs to detangle clean or third-day hair, or else using hot tools to style a blowout, there's a good chance that germs, dead hair and skin cells, and product residue are building up on their surfaces. It's a must, then, to put as much effort into scrubbing your hair essentials as would your makeup sponges and brushes. Ahead, we share exactly how—and how often—to do so.

Styling Brushes and Combs

Like makeup brushes, hairbrushes and combs should be maintained daily and deep cleaned biweekly or monthly to keep them looking and working their best. The goal is to prevent them from re-depositing dead skin cells onto your head as you run them through your hair. As for daily maintenance, Sachajuan artistic director of education Trey Gillen says to remove all strands stuck in the teeth of the comb or bristles of the brush. On a monthly basis, soak them in a hot shampoo bath. "Fill your sink with hot water, add a few pumps of shampoo or dish soap, rub your brushes together under the water to loosen any product buildup, and use the comb to rake off any loose hair stuck in the bristles," he instructs, noting to soak your brushes and combs for at least three to five minutes before rinsing them off and setting them down to air dry.

Styling brushes aren't the only ones you need to worry about. Gillen says that detangling iterations (the ones most of us pick up as soon as we hop out of the shower) are the dirtiest. "These catch all the loose hair from the shower and most people let it build up like a little bird's nest in the bristles," he says.

Boar Bristle Brushes

If washing your brushes daily, biweekly, or monthly seems like too much of a hassle, Oribe educator Adam Livermore says to think of it like this: You need to wash your brushes—especially those with boar bristles—so that built-up hair and product won't impede their ability to work properly. "For example, when a boar bristle round brush gets full of shed hair, that hair fills up the bristles and the brush won't work anymore," he says. "For boar bristles, I'd use a comb to rake the hair out of them once a week and give them a good scrub with shampoo about once a month. However, these are kind of like a cast iron pot: They are best when they're a bit seasoned, so don't over-cleanse them."


While these tools might seem like all they do is heat or cool hair from a distance until it's dry, they can actually accumulate product build-up—especially if they feature a diffuser or are a brush dryer, like the Revlon Salon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer ($57, "If you use a lot of product, take the nozzle off the front and wash it really well, as product can build up on the tip where it touches your hair while blow-drying," Gillen says. "You may need to soak it in hot water to loosen it up before you can remove it, depending on how strong your styling products are."

Additionally, the air filter can become clogged over time. "The air filter is usually easy to unscrew so you can scrape the build-up off the vent and rinse well with water," he adds, noting that an old toothbrush works wonders for this job. "You should do this every two to three months."

Curling and Flat Irons, Plus Wands

As you might imagine, hot styling tools that actually touch your hair are the trickiest to clean. "If they are new, the best thing is to prevent buildup on the hot part of the tool," Gillen says. To do so, unplug your hot tool after each use and let it cool down; just before it reaches room temperature, take a damp cloth and wipe down the barrel or plate. "This will take any product off it before it has time to bake on," he explains. Another tip to prevent build-up? Don't spray product onto your hair while using the iron or wand, he adds. "You can spray before or after, but while the hot tool is in the hair, do not use product," he emphasizes.

If your tools already have product build-up, that's a different story. First and foremost, Livermore says it's a sign you need to turn the heat down. "You want the iron to make the product set into your hair, not cook onto the iron," he says. "If this happens, you can use a little oil and a scouring pad to clean it off. Be careful to not scratch the iron because those scratches will damage your hair." Like with your brushes, cleansing your hot tools will only maximize their efficacy and increase their longevity: "The gunk won't disrupt heat flow, and the tools will last longer and look better," Gillen says.

Hot Rollers

Hot rollers are the unsung heroes of bouncy, voluminous curls ("They're fun for the summer and best of all, they are so easy to use," says Gillen). If you fire up yours regularly, it's important to keep them clean. Take a one-by-one approach, says Gillen: Plug in the set, and, once everything is hot, take a toothbrush and soapy water to each individual roller.

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