From Filthy to Fabulous: The Mane Importance of Keeping Your Horse’s Brushes Clean

Photo courtesy of Diana Bezdedeanu.

BY Diana Bezdedeanu

Striking the perfect balance between work, family, friends, and barn time is a constant struggle for nearly every equestrian I know. And I’m willing to bet that sanitizing grooming tools is not a high priority on most of your to-do lists. But, really, how often should we be cleaning our horses’ brushes?

There is no right answer to this, as it is all individual preference. Personally, I strive to clean my brushes at least twice a month, and more frequently throughout mud season, aka Spring here in New England. However, logically, if the goal of grooming is to keep our equine partners in optimal health, then ideally we should be using clean brushes whenever possible to maintain their overall well-being.

Imagine washing your face with a dirty towel every night or brushing your teeth with a toothbrush covered in dirt and manure. That would be unsanitary, right? The same principle applies to our horses. Horses spend their days rolling in mud, manure, and shavings, so when we groom them with dirty brushes, we’re only transferring that dirt deeper into their coats.

These brushes accumulate dirt, dust, loose hair, and natural oils from the horse’s coat during each use. Neglecting to clean them regularly can lead to a buildup of debris, making these grooming tools less effective in maintaining overall cleanliness. Moreover, dirty brushes can inadvertently transfer pathogens from one horse to another, potentially causing skin infections and other health issues.
To clean your horses’ brushes, follow these simple steps below:

  1. Remove Loose Hair and Debris: Use a curry comb or your fingers to remove as much loose hair, dirt, and debris from the brushes as possible.
  2. Soak in Soapy Water: Fill a bucket with warm water and add a few drops of your favorite mild dish or laundry detergent (preferably odorless). Submerge the brushes and let them soak for 10-15 minutes to loosen any stubborn dirt.
  3. Scrub and Rinse: After soaking, scrub the bristles again with a curry comb or your fingers to remove any remaining residue. Rinse the brushes thoroughly under running water until all suds are gone and the water runs clear.
  4. Disinfect (Optional): For additional hygiene, you can disinfect brushes by soaking them in a mixture of water and a few drops of antiseptic solution.
  5. Dry Completely: Shake off any excess water and lay the brushes flat on a clean towel to air dry, preferably out in the sun if weather permits. Ensure they are fully dry before storing them back in your grooming tote to prevent mold or mildew growth.
Photo courtesy of Diana Bezdedeanu.

You should avoid grooming a horse with wet brushes at all times. After cleaning, allow the brushes to air dry completely before placing them back in your grooming tote. Additionally, giving your tote a good rinse will help keep it free from accumulated dirt, horsehair, hay, and shavings.

To ensure the utmost cleanliness, I prefer to use dedicated grooming brushes for each of my horses, as I firmly believe in avoiding sharing brushes. This practice is especially crucial when dealing with bacterial infections such as rain rot, as it helps prevent the spread from one horse to another.

By incorporating regular grooming tool cleaning into your horse care routine, you’ll maintain the quality of your brushes long-term and prioritize the health and well-being of your beloved equine partners. A small effort goes a long way in keeping your horses looking their best and feeling their healthiest, making it a win-win situation for both you and your four-legged friends.