How to Wash Hair Brushes and Combs

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, March 8, 1913:  It was kind of dull here today. Nothing much of anything doing.

In Front of the Mirror by Georg Friedrich Kersting (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In Front of the Mirror by Georg Friedrich Kersting (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm—What boring chores did Grandma need to do on a dull Saturday in March? ’

When I was a child, a weekly Saturday chore was to wash all the hair brushes and combs. I wonder if Grandma also did this when she was young,

I think that the reason we washed the brushes and combs was to have clean ones after we washed our hair. (We only washed our hair once a week back then.)

Here’s how to wash brushes and combs:

Add two or three tablespoons of baking soda to a small pan filled very hot water. (I use very hot tap water.) Swish the brushes and combs through the water—and “comb” the brushes with the combs. This cleans both the brush bristles and the comb teeth. Rinse with cool water. Lay on counter to air dry.

My sense is that people brushed their hair a lot more in the old days—and that brushing was one way to distribute, or remove, the oil and dirt between washings.

I can remember those old luxurious boar hair brushes that we used to have. Can you still buy them?

22 Responses

  1. I have a very very old brush with super soft bristles. I know it’s probably real hair but I don’t know what kind. OMG my hair would look terrible after a week. HA….I guess that’s why hairspray was a top seller….remember ‘Final Net’? Rock solid for any kind of weather.

  2. Once a week?? Hmmm. Glad that tradition has gone by the wayside!

  3. I love how you fill out those short entries with detail and reflections of your own! What a neat way to preserve history.

    • Thanks for taking a moment to write the nice note. i have fun doing these posts, and it’s always wonderful to hear when someone especially enjoys them.

  4. One of the problems with washing your hair more often “back in the day” was what you did with the wet hair without a blow dryer and flat iron or curling iron ;).

  5. I left a comment, but where did it go??? Well, maybe it’ll show up later – but in case it doesn’t, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. Pretty cool how you’ve taken such short entries and filled them in with your own memories.

  6. I think you can still buy those brushes, they are just more expensive. I like the idea of washing these items. I think I will put that on my list of too do’s. I rince them when I see hairspray build up, but soak might be a better method! I love that picture too, so pretty. What a great era!

  7. Thanks for the reminder. We always washed our brushes too. I never see anyone taking care of a brush now – even though most are plastic. I missed my old brush when the plastics came in. I have an ivory brush and I have no clue what the bristles are (they are yellow and made of something natural) but they won’t go through my hair. Boar bristle brushes are still for sale – $30 in Vermont Country Store catalog but I have seen them for $85 on-line. Actually, the trend of “no-poo” is coming back to allow the natural oils distribute through the hair. Now that we wash daily, we strip the oils and therefore, our hair requires us to wash it more frequently (never mind the variety of shampoos we use now). The only time I could get away with the no washing would be on a weekend if I wasn’t going out of the house – ugh, the habits we have formed…..

    • Whew, boar hair brushes are expensive–though maybe $30 sounds reasonable when compared to $85. My daughter also told me that “no-poo” was trendy with some young people. Interesting. . .

    • I only wash my hair every other day, and my two youngest siblings do it even less; it’s healthier for your hair. When I was little and would get compliments for how nice my hair was, I never knew why…now I do! :-D

  8. I remember washing combs and brushes, too. Having curly hair, not too long ago I learned it shouldn’t be brushed, that only causes it to frizz. And all those years of “100 strokes.”

  9. The woman in the painting has very long hair! Do you know if your grandma had long hair? In some ways we’ve made hair care these days very complicated!

  10. My father used to tell me, “A woman’s hair is her crowning glory.” :)

    • I can also remember people telling me that hair was a woman’s crowing glory when I was young. I’d forgotten all about that term until you mentioned it.

  11. I still wash my comb and brush but not as often as I should. And I use dish washing liquid instead of baking soda. My mother put of washing our hair as long as possible.

  12. I love the lady in the picture! Wish my hair was that long, though it’d be a pain! I’m trying to get mine down to my waist, then I donate it at the end of the year. Anyone else do something like that?

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