How to Clean a Cat Brush

How to Clean a Cat Brush

Cats are excellent self-groomers, but most still need a little help from their human friends to keep their coats shiny and healthy.

Whether you brush daily or weekly, your brush will still get a lot of use. Clean brushes will give you the best results, so it’s important to take a few minutes after each brushing to give the brush a good cleaning. Here’s the good news: Most cat brushes can be cleaned the same way.

A Primer on Brushes

There are several different types of cat brushes to choose from, and they each have a unique purpose.

Slicker Brushes

Slicker brushes can be used on both short- and long-haired cats. These brushes have rectangular, curved heads with long wire bristles.

The bristles, which are slightly bent, catch loose hair in the coat, and easily untangle knots and mats.

Although wiry, the bristles on slicker brushes are still gentle and won’t irritate the skin. Most bristles are made with stainless steel, which is resistant to corrosion.

De-shedding Tools

De-shedding tools are available for both short- and long-haired cats. These brushes are designed for cats with undercoats. The fine teeth of the comb reach down into the undercoat to remove lose and dead fur with a simple stroke.

These tools are great for cats that shed a lot and require consistent grooming.

Pin Brushes

Pin brushes are great for finishing up a long-haired coat, but they can also be used to groom short-haired coats.

As the name suggests, these brushes have pin-like bristles with rounded ends. They’re stiff, but gentle enough to prevent pain or discomfort.

Bristle Brushes

Great for all coat types, bristle brushes are soft and gentle on the skin. These are the ideal brush choice for short-haired cats, and the bristles help distribute the cat’s natural oils for a shiny, healthy coat.


Rakes are another great tool for cats with undercoats and are highly efficient at removing tangles.

The rake side of the comb features long, thick metal bristles that make quick work of tangles.

De-matting Tools

If matting is a problem, a de-matting tool can save you a lot of grief and frustration. Designed for long-haired breeds, these tools split mats into sections. The splitting action makes it easier to work out the mat and remove serious knots.

How to Clean a Cat Brush

Many of these grooming tools are similar in nature, so the cleaning process will generally be the same.

Bristle-style brushes are cleaned one way, while slicker brushes and combs are cleaned another way.

Cleaning Bristle-Style Brushes

Bristle-style brushes include stiff-bristle brushes and pin brushes. These brushes can be a little frustrating to clean, depending on your pet’s coat, because fine hairs may get stuck deep down between the bristles. Those fine hairs can be hard to remove.

  • Start by removing as much hair as possible from the brush head. Don’t worry about removing every last strand of hair. Just remove as much as you can. The following steps will help remove the rest.
  • Prepare a solution of water and shampoo or vinegar. For vinegar solutions, use equal parts water and vinegar. For shampoo solutions, add just a few squirts to the water.
  • Submerge your brush into the cleaning solution and soak for five to thirty minutes. If your brush has a fabric pad, avoid submerging the entire head. Otherwise, the excess moisture can cause mold.
  • Rinse the brush under cold running water to remove any last little bits of hair and dirt.
  • Finish up by spraying the brush with a disinfectant. This will remove bacteria and germs from the brush. Alternatively, you can use a UV light to kill bacteria on your grooming tools.
  • Allow the brush to air dry before using it again.

Cleaning Slicker and Comb Brushes

Slicker brushes and combs are actually a little more challenging to clean. But some slicker brushes do have a self-cleaning feature, which retracts the bristles to make hair removal a breeze. Retracting the bristles leaves a flat surface, so you can use your finger to wipe away the hair.

If you don’t have a retractable, or self-cleaning, brush, the process can be a little more challenging.

Slicker brushes and combs can be cleaned the same way, but with a comb, you don’t have to spend as much time cleaning out hair.

  • Remove as much hair as possible from the brush. Depending on the bristles, you may be able to remove the hair with your fingers. Some people prefer to use a fine wire comb to remove the hairs from in between the wire bristles.
  • Prepare a solution of hot water and vinegar or an animal-friendly cleaner.
  • Submerge the brush in the cleaning solution, and allow it to soak for up to an hour.
  • Rinse the brush under cold water.
  • Allow the brush to air dry before using it again. Alternatively, you can blast the brush with an HV dryer to accelerate the process.

De-shedding, rake and de-matting tools can be cleaned with a mild warm water and soap solution. The soap will help dissolve the dander that dulls the edges of these tools. Make sure that you dry these tools thoroughly before you use them again.

How Often Should You Clean Your Tools?

Pet grooming tools should – ideally – be cleaned after every use. If you brush your cat daily, you can get away with cleaning every few days. If you only brush once a week, get into the habit of cleaning the brush after each grooming session.

Regular cleaning of your cat brushes will extend the lifespan of the tool and also help prevent irritation or infection. Over time, dirt, dander and bacteria from your cat’s coat can build up in the brush’s bristles if you don’t clean them. Dander and dirt can also make de-shedding and de-matting tools less effective.

Follow the steps above to gently and effectively clean your cat’s grooming tools. Remember to use gentle cleaners and disinfectants that are pet-friendly. You can find pet-friendly cleaners in pet stores and most grocery stores.

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