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How To Clean a Shaving Brush

how to clean shaving brush

If there’s one thing that’s intimidating to newcomers to traditional wet-shaving, it’s the wide range of tools and equipment they need to figure out before they can get going. If you remember your own first experiences, you may recall your confusion about what stuff you’d need and where you’d get it.

And if there’s one part of an old-school dopp kit that looks most exotic to modern eyes, it’s the shaving brush. Even if it’s been years since you first picked one up, your trusty brush probably still earns a few raised eyebrows when visitors find it in your bathroom cabinet.

But as all experienced traditional shavers know, the shaving brush is more than just decorative – it’s a key part of your morning routine. And taking care of your brush is the only way to make sure you continue to get the best results shave after shave.

Take care of your shaving brush, and it’ll take care of your face. Read on to learn why brush cleaning is such an important part of your routine.

rinse shaving brush
Rinsing your brush regularly will ensure it lasts a lifetime

Why it’s essential to clean a shaving brush

Most men would scoff at the idea that their shaving brush needs any more attention than a quick rinse under the tap after each shave is done. And it’s true that running warm water over the brush afterwards removes most of the soap and hair that accumulate while you’re shaving.

But if you want to get the best performance from your brush and make sure that it lasts as long as possible, you’ll want to take a little more care of it from time to time. A few extra minutes every few months can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting the best performance from your brush over it’s lifetime.

A step-by-step guide to cleaning your shaving brush

Although most men don’t bother with much shaving brush maintenance, keeping yours clean and ready for action is a simple process that will give you good results long into the future:

  1. Rinse

    First things first: the best time to rinse your shaving brush is immediately after your shave. You may be eager to get on with your day, but by leaving soap and debris on your brush you’re going to risk damaging the bristles and make it much more challenging to remove the build-up after it’s caked in.

    So run the brush-head under warm water while you roll the handle between your thumb and forefinger. This will expose as much of the brush as possible to the water and encourage the lather, hair, and other debris to be rinsed away.

    If your brush hasn’t been cleaned in a while, you may need a little more time to dislodge the scum that’s accumulated over a longer period. But resist the temptation to massage the brush with your fingers because this is likely to damage the bristles. And make sure your water is only lukewarm; any hotter and you may weaken the glue that holds the bristles in place.

  2. Soak

    Thoroughly rinsing your brush after each shave should reduce the build-up of soap and debris. But if you want to take proper care of your brush, you’ll need to do a deep clean every now and then.

    How often you do so will depend upon how often you use the brush, what kind of soap you’re using, and even the composition of the water in your locality. Many experienced shavers like to do a deep clean at least every 1-3 months.

    For your deep clean, you’ll want to use a cleaning solution that gently removes the dried soap and debris from your brush. There are some commercially-produced solutions, but they’re not much better than homemade preparations using things you’ll already have available in your home.

    An everyday dishwashing liquid is a good place to start. You can make up a cleaning solution by filling a glass or small bowl with warm water and then adding a few drops of the liquid soap. Drop your brush into the bowl and gently rotate a finger inside the brush head to fan out the bristles. Now leave your brush to soak for 10-15 minutes.

    Another option is to use a cleaning solution made from distilled white vinegar. Mix up a bowl of your solution with a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 8 or even 16 parts water (the more concentrated the mixture, the more aggressive it will be in removing debris). Now submerge your brush for 5-15 minutes; you’ll need a longer soak for thicker accumulations of soap and debris.

  3. Scrub

    While your brush is lying submerged in the glass or bowl, the cleaning solution will gradually dissolve and dislodge the caked soap. If this is the first time that you’re doing a deep clean, or if it’s been a long while since you’ve done one, it’s worth swirling the brush under the solution to encourage the cleaning process.

    After 10-15 minutes have passed, scoop the brush from your solution and see how it looks. If you’re lucky, this short soaking will spruce up your brush to nearly-new condition. But if you’ve allowed a thick layer of soap to build up at the base of the hairs, this may not have been enough to get you squeaky clean.

    To check, gently part the bristles so you’ve got a clear view of the base (where the hairs are glued into the brush handle). If you can still see dried soap, you’ll need to spend a little more time dislodging it. Find a used toothbrush (preferably with soft bristles) and using gentle circular motions softly scrub away at the base. You can also run the toothbrush from the base to the end of the brush hairs.

  4. Rinse (again)

    Hopefully, by now you’ll have returned your trusty shaving brush to something resembling its former glory. At this point, you can run your tap with some warm water (again not too hot) and rinse the brush under it. If you’ve been using vinegar as a cleaning solution, you can expect some of the odor to remain but this should lessen after another thorough rinsing.

    Once you’ve finished the rinse, you’ll want to remove as much water as possible before leaving the brush to dry. Although it’s a common reflex for many men, avoid the tendency to flick the brush to shake off the water. You’re likely to weaken the glue that fixes the bristles to the base.

    Instead, gently squeeze the brush head between your fingers or lightly press the bristles against a clean towel or tissue paper. This will remove much of the moisture; the remainder will evaporate over the following hours.

  5. Hang your brush to dry

    A shaving brush stand is ideal for storage and takes care of your brush while the last traces of moisture evaporate from the bristles. It will safely store your brush upside-down, allowing water to drip from the tips of the hairs and offer a maximum surface area over which air can circulate.

    Depending upon environmental factors like room temperature and humidity levels, it can take as long as 48 hours for your brush to completely dry out. For this reason, committed traditional shavers may keep two brushes available so a dry brush is always ready each morning.

    It’s a good idea to place your shaving stand in an area with good air circulation. This isn’t the case if you’re in the habit of leaving it in a bathroom cabinet. Consider leaving the stand beside an open window so you’ll get maximum airflow. If a shaving stand isn’t available and your only option is to leave the brush lying flat, then at least rotate the brush every few hours so it dries evenly.

Essential Tips for Cleaning Your shaving brush

Choose the right cleansing solution

These days there is a wide range of specialty cleansing solutions to explore, but many experienced traditional shavers have found that homemade solutions are perfectly good. If you’re interested in experimenting with options beyond dishwashing liquid and vinegar, consider trying a baby or pet shampoo, but remember to be gentle with the bristles and rinse thoroughly with warm water after you’re done.

Clean Your shaving brush regularly

Many of the challenges that traditional shavers face with keeping their brushes clean are the result of the lack of routine maintenance. You’ll avoid many of these problems by rinsing your brush thoroughly with warm water after every shave and adding a deep clean to your routine at least once every three months.

Store Your shaving brush properly

Aside from looking handsome in your bathroom cabinet, a shaving stand is the best way to store your brush. By hanging upside down, the brush naturally drips off excess water and the standing position allows air to circulate freely around the bristles. This expedites drying and means that your brush is more likely to be ready to use the next morning.

Care for your brush, care for your face!

Your shaving brush is a premium part of your dopp kit. Care for it well and you can expect good service for as long as ten years or more. By taking a few simple precautions and adding brush care to your maintenance routine, you’ll be doing both your brush and your face a favor.