For many new wet shavers, there comes a time when your new badger brush just isn’t performing like when it was fresh from the box. The bristles stick together, it doesn’t lather like it used to, it might have mildew smell to it, and it doesn’t retain water and heat like it used to.
Don’t worry, your brush isn’t falling apart and it’s not defective: it’s just needs a quick cleaning.
As you go through the dozens of shaves with your shave brush, the soap, dead skin particles, minerals from the water, and oils from your skin build up in the base (or “knot”), and hinder the performance of the brush. This is also true for all other types of brushes, including boar, horse, and synthetic. All brushes require maintenance for maximum performance.
Watch the video here or scroll down for step-by-step instructions!
What you need
- Your shave brush
- A small container: something that is large enough to fit your brush with its bristles spread out, but small enough so that your brush can stay submerged
- Vinegar: white vinegar or apple cider vinegar work fine
- Dish soap
1. Warming up the brush
Use warm water if available, but the term “warm” means saturating the brush in water to prepare the brush for the cleaning.
Warm the brush for about 10 to 15 minutes in a small container, and the bristles should look something like this:
This is the indicator that the brush is warm and saturated with water.
Note: If you have particularly heavy water, you might want to use distilled water for maximum effect on the cleaning. Not a rule, but a consideration.
2. Soak the brush in dish soap
Once warmed, gently squeeze the water out of the brush and flick the remaining water out (Don’t spot up your bathroom mirror).
Pour the water out of the container and add a dime-size amount of dish soap (I prefer Dawn but any liquid dish soap will do). Fill the container with water, trying to dissolve the soap as you fill, and place the brush in the soapy water. Swirl the brush around to ensure the soap can soak deep into the knot.
Let the brush sit for 15 minutes. Stir the brush back and forth every 5 minutes to ensure the soap scum and hard water is pulled out of the brush.
3. Rinse the brush
Remove the brush and discard the soapy water. Rinse the soap out of the container and the brush separately. To rinse the brush thoroughly, run tap water straight into the knot and then squeeze the water out. After doing this five times, there will still have residual soap, but that will be resolved in the next step.
4. Zeroing out the brush
This step is crucial for bringing your brush back to life. We just washed soap with soap, so the soap scum in the brush is still present. If we stopped now, the brush still wouldn’t perform to standard.
Fill the container with one-part white vinegar (any vinegar is fine, I use apple cider vinegar) and two parts water. Place the brush back in the container, move it back and forth in the container to ensure the vinegar is deep in the knot, and let sit for 15 minutes. Stir the brush back forth every 5 minutes to ensure the broken-down soap scum is being removed from the brush.
Note: The vinegar removes all of the remaining soap scum and dish soap particles, plus any remaining mold or biological particles still present in the brush. This is called :zero out the brush” because it makes the bristles brand new and resets the absorbency and softness the bristles once had. Don’t get lazy when washing your brush by going straight to vinegar! The soap and oils cannot be broken down by vinegar. Dish soaps breaks down the soap scum and oil, while the vinegar removes it.
5. Rinse the brush and hydrate
Remove the brush from the vinegar water and thoroughly rinse again by running tap water into the knot and squeezing it out a few times.
I usually stop at this point; however, I’ve used regular hair conditioning to further soften the bristles.
Take a dime sized amount of hair conditioner (any brand can be used), work it into the brush with the palm of your hand for about a minute and thoroughly rinse again with tap water and squeeze it out.
6. Enjoy your brush
You will see that the performance of your brush will instantly be rejuvenated with this easy cleaning regiment!
Shave Brush Care Tips
- If your brush is thoroughly mildewed, it smells like mold that stings the nostrils. Yes, I’ve had brushes that get like this from weeks of field work in the winter. I recommend you repeat above steps or go through two rounds of dish soap soaking.
- If your brush loses its performance after only two weeks of use, try using a brush stand that inverts the brush. This will help pull the moisture out of the brush during the day.
- Never store your brush in a medicine cabinet or a bather drawer. Your brush needs air to dry.
- If your brush starts to fall apart from neglect, let it thoroughly dry in the open. Once dry, work the brush in your hand back and forth to pull all lose bristles out. Then go through the above steps and store properly.