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My back brush as accumulated a layer of black grime at the base of the bristles. Googling suggests using various concoctions, e.g., vinegar, bleach, clorox, baking soda, hot water, etc. I want to use vinegar. But I want to get serious, and not dilute it 4:1. And I want it soak it overnight. Is this too harsh? I don't think it will harm the wood handle or the bristles, but I don't know whether the bristles are glued to the handle. If it is, I don't know if the glue will become compromised.

Here is a photo of the black grime. enter image description here

  • I'm puzzled by the downvote without a comment to explain. – user2153235 Apr 26 '17 at 12:48
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    Not my downvote, but I'd like to see a picture of the back brush, especially a close-up picture of where the bristles are connected to the handle. It will help people answering the question to see whether the bristles and the handle are plastic or some other materials. That will definitely affect the answers! – BrettFromLA Apr 26 '17 at 18:36
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Natural bristles in a wood brush are generally held with a hot-melting glue (either hide/gelatin glue or modern plastic hot glue, depending where it was made). Neither of those will be compromised by the 5% strength of food grade vinegar. Bleach, on the other hand, will damage the bristle and might compromise the glue as well.

Leaving the brush in the sunshine for a day might do as much good as a vinegar soak...

  • After you soak the brush or leave it in sunshine, I recommend spraying it with water to clean off the black mold. I would use my Waterpik for that, but you could probably get the same effect with a strong stream of water from a faucet, or even better a sprayer faucet attachment. The water from your shower head may do the trick too. – BrettFromLA Apr 27 '17 at 19:48
  • Thank you both. I shall confidently proceed to blast away the grime this weekend. Leaving it in sunshine might be hard as I live in an upper floor of a highrise with no balcony. I can leave it in sunshine streaming through the window, I suppose, but the UV much reduced by window glass. The effectiveness would be reduced....unless it's the heat rather than UV that is doing the work. – user2153235 Apr 28 '17 at 12:34
  • It's the UV -- but even through a window, it's better than nothing. – Zeiss Ikon Apr 28 '17 at 12:41
  • Ironically, the purchase of the vinegar and container for soaking will cost half the value of the brush. Or perhaps all the value, considering the age and the (mysterious) bald spots. But I believe it will be more environmentally friendly to try and treat this brush for more use. – user2153235 Apr 30 '17 at 3:31
  • The results are in. 12 hours immersed in vinegar alone. For the 2nd 12 hours, I squirted in some shampoo & mixed it around. Outcome: Some recession in the grime, but mostly still there, even after blasting it with water. Time to hurt the environment, throw out the brush, and get a new one. Maybe weekly bathing in vinegar will prevent the grime from building up. It probably doesn't help that I don't use soap. Body oils will tend to accumulate (which is probably what the grime is). – user2153235 May 1 '17 at 7:29
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After soaking the wooden brush for weeks, it came out looking like it was in a fire. Still the black grime persists (though probably less). I since bought a plastic brush where the grid of bristle bunches are further apart at the base. So much more drying happens. No problems with the plastic brush so far. So that is the solution. Look for a plastic brush where the grid of of bristle bunches are far apart. Forget this rustic wooden look, with animal hair bristles.

  • I hate to disappoint you, but after throwing away several wooden brushes like yours (except I didn't let them get quite that bad) I bought a nice plastic one. And guess what? Let's just say I am going to follow this thread with interest. – peterG Aug 10 '17 at 22:34
  • I'd be interested in your experience with the conversion to plastic. – user2153235 Aug 12 '17 at 19:46
  • Well, joking apart, I bought a plastic one three years ago and it stayed mould-free a lot longer than the wooden ones. But finally, I do detect some black around the base of the bristles. I guess traces of soap and/or skin etc residue from my back provide a suitable source of nutrient for the mould. I'm not sure whether to try bleach, steam, etc - don't want to be too aggressive and end up with a nice bristle-free spatula . . . – peterG Aug 12 '17 at 20:25
  • Actually, I wasn't joking. But to your point, try spraying it with vinegar about 10 minutes prior to shower time, then vigorously agitate the bristles under the shower. Not sure if it will solve the problem, but it may control the problem. – user2153235 Aug 13 '17 at 20:30
  • Re joking, I meant me, not you; but anyway, my experience with the plastic brush is that it has been better than the wooden ones; but recently it has acquired some orange staining in the roots of the bristles. I didn't know till researching it tonight, but this isn't due to iron in the water supply, but to Serratia marcescens. Yuk. – peterG Aug 13 '17 at 22:18

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