Saturday, February 25, 2017

Brush Care: Rinsing, Storing, Rotating

Four Questions of Brush Care

The main questions of brush care are the following:

  • Should you rinse your brush after shaving, or not?
  • Should you store your brush bristles up or down?
  • Should you shake out and dry your brushes as much as possible
  • Should you rotate brushes?

In my opinion, the answer to all these questions is, it depends. Let's look further into these questions, shall we?

Brush-Construction Issues

Shaving brushes are either of natural or synthetic bristle. Both fibers are going to be relatively tough and resilient with respect to water. Yet natural bristle, deprived of the oils provided by their host in their natural state, may suffer over time, possibly becoming brittle -- although they may be more likely to develop split ends, which might actually improve the brush, as is the case with boar-bristle brushes as they are broken in during the first few weeks of use.

Then there is the issue of the adhesive that binds the knot (the collection of bristles) together and holds the knot in the handle. Sometimes these adhesives tend to weaken with prolonged exposure to water.

Also the handle material may be less than ideal such as with wooden handles. Wood, when repeatedly subjected to cycles of wetting and drying can develop dry rot. Plastic, of course, will be pretty much invincible in the face of most threats.

Store Up or Down?

Hanging a brush to dry with bristles down is a no-brainer optimal choice. However, is that required?

Not necessarily. If your post-shave brush care includes rinsing well, shaking as much water from the brush as possible, and perhaps even swiping the damp brush on a dry towel to remove as much water as possible, then setting the brush on its handle bottom and letting it dry bristles up poses little threat to the longevity of the brush life.

Of course, if you store the brush standing on its bristles, then they are likely to take on a "set," a shape that deviates from the original fan shape of a brush in good condition.

In my opinion, which is based on experience, there is little risk to hanging a brush to dry irrespective of whether you rinse and remove moisture or not. If you dry bristles up, then more fastidious rinsing and drying may certainly have long-term benefits.

To Rinse or Not to Rinse: That Is the Question

For many months I have not rinsed my humble Tweezerman badger brush (the same brush, apparently, as the economy Escali brand). I have noticed no degradation of the brush at all. In fact, for this low-end badger brush in particular, the accumulated soap near the handle has given it more backbone, which has improved it a bit.

However, there is a case to be made for rinsing. The reasons might be several.

First of all, it's a conservative approach. Take care of your tools is the general maxim. You would never store a paint brush without first cleaning it, though a soapy shave brush isn't quite the same thing as an unwashed paint brush, is it? Okay, maybe that is NOT the most air-tight argument for rinsing a brush, but there are other reasons to do so. 

As suggested above in the preceding section, how you store your brush should influence post-shave brush care. Specifically, if you store the brush with bristles skyward, then thorough rinsing and drying as much as is reasonable is probably the way to go. This will help to preserve the adhesive in the brush as well as any non-plastic materials in the handle.

Turning to sensory factors, if you use different shave soaps or creams, you might not want to commingle the fragrances from shave to shave. So if you tend to use the same brush every day, but use it with shave lubricants of diverging aromas, then, clearly, rinsing of the brush would be a logical behavior.

Rotating Brushes

If you have more than one brush and enjoy experiencing the subtle difference of one to another, then there's no reason not to rotate brush use.

Another reason for multiple-brush use brings us back to using soaps and creams of varying bouquets. If you fall into the don't-need-to-rinse-my-brush-after-shaving camp, but do like to vary shave soaps, then you might then dedicate one brush to each of the soaps/creams in your rotation. If you do this, then it also might be a good idea to have a hanging stand for each brush for drying, or at least dry each brush bristles down (hanging) over night on your solitary stand before storing the brush bristles up or lying on its side.

My Personal Choice

For a long time now, I've neither rinsed nor dried my brush, and simply let it hang dry from one shave to the next. I've had no problem with the brush, no indication of any potential developing problems either. However, I've recently begun to acquire shave soaps of widely varying olfactory characteristics. So to fully enjoy the unique bouquet of each, I have just started going back to a daily rinse and dry of my brush.

Garage Sale Continues -- Make Me an Offer

Keep in mind that there is about $4 of packaging and mailing costs embedded in the prices of my garage-sale razors, and there really isn't a lemon in the bunch and the best value is probably the Merkur 37C slant, which I've only priced at a give-away price because of its history, not its current condition or its shave quality.

But if you think my prices are out of line, send me an email, make me an offer! Let's see if we can find a point of win-win.

Happy shaving!

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