You Can Stop Sending Your (Gross) Hairbrushes to Landfills Now

Researchers Have Designed a Sustainable, Easy-to-Clean Hairbrush

If there’s one beauty product that needs an extreme makeover, it’s the hairbrush—the only item that makes cleaning a whisk feel like a breeze. There are oodles of tutorials online that teach you the fastest and easiest ways to clean a hairbrush, but many of us find the process so frustrating that we just toss it and buy a new one. (Sorry planet.)

Finally, someone has stood up and said, “Hairbrushes are a total pain in the ass. Let’s do something about it.” (At least, I’m assuming that’s what they said.) That person is Scott Shim, associate professor of design at Ohio State, who is working to make everyday objects easier to maintain so they last longer and don’t end up in a landfill.

Image: Scott Shim, The Ohio State University

brush design

“We don’t want people to have to throw away a perfectly good hairbrush just because it needs to be cleaned,” Shim said in a statement. His research revealed that the average lifespan of a hairbrush is only six months to one year (“lifespan” referring to how long we’re willing to put up with a dirty brush before buying a new one.)

Shim was inspired to take on the project when he saw his wife cleaning her hairbrush. “I couldn’t understand why she had to do that,” he said. “Then I did some market research, and found out how often hairbrushes get thrown out—not because they’re worn out, but because they’re disgusting and people didn’t maintain them well.”

Called “the MAZE hairbrush,” the design resembles the curving paths of a maze, and the rows pull apart for easy cleaning.

“Our goal was for the user to easily remove hair from the bristles,” he explained. “We latched onto this idea that brushes usually have a solid surface that gets in the way of cleaning. We decided that the best solution would be to create a brush with an open surface, where the user could actually open it and just grab the hair.”

The design also makes manufacturing simpler. Hairbrushes are typically manufactured in several parts, whereas the MAZE hairbrush can be created in one piece on a 3-D printer before the bristles are added. Shim, along with former grad student Morris Koo, are currently on the lookout for strong and flexible plastics that would suit mass production. Currently, the printer limits their material choice, and they’re having to create prototypes using a brittle plastic that sometimes snaps when they insert the bristles.

The brush has already won two awards: It placed first in the Beauty, Personal Care and Cosmetic Products Design Category of the A Design Awards in Italy, and won a Green Product Award from White Lobster, a German agency for sustainable innovation.

Now, if they could also invent an easy-to-clean whisk, I’d totally become the president of their fan club.

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Hairbrush image via Shutterstock