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So Your Dish-Doing Brush Has Gone Funky

Illustration for article titled So Your Dish-Doing Brush Has Gone Funky
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

The other day a friend texted to gossip (priorities) and to ask a cleaning question:

So my question involves a photo. That black stuff appeared on the top of my beloved OXO bottle cleaning brush. Is it mold? Do I need a new one? Should I bleach it? Vinegar?

The shorthand answers to her questions are: Yes. No. You could do that! Or you could do that. (But not both!)

Illustration for article titled So Your Dish-Doing Brush Has Gone Funky
Photo: Jolie Kerr

But let’s do a deeper dive here and first explain why mold and mildew will occur on a bottle brush (this is also true of sponge caddies, particularly plastic ones). So mold and mildew, like most of us, need some things to thrive, namely food and water. The water part is pretty obvious, right? The thing hangs around in your sink getting wet all the livelong day. But the food part is a little weird: Sure, literal food particles can build up on the brush but also soap, yup good old dish soap, is food for mold and mildew. Weird but true!


Given that, it’s a good idea to rinse a dish brush off very well after use, and then give it a few thwacks in the sink to shake off excess water before storing. You may also want to get a sponge caddy designed to hold a brush — it will dry faster and be less prone to developing mold and mildew if it’s stored upright when not in use.

Even with proper dish brush care, it’s likely that it will go a bit funky over time. Do not fret! It is very easy to clean a funky dish brush. If you have a dishwasher, go ahead and put the brush in the top rack (the heating element of most dishwashers is in the bottom of the unit, so use the top rack to avoid melting the handle). The combination of the dishwasher detergent and the heat from the cleaning cycle should nuke any bacterial buildup, no problem.

SPEAKING OF NUKING THINGS! Do not microwave a bottle brush. Thank you for your attention.

If the dishwasher doesn’t do it, or you just don’t have one, not to worry! Fill a tall glass or vase with hot water and a 1/4 teaspoon of bleach OR a tablespoon or so of white vinegar BUT NOT BOTH. Please do not mix bleach and vinegar, it creates a dangerous chemical reaction.


So that’s really all there is to it. Now, you could, of course, always throw it away and get a new one but 1. It’s cheaper and faster to clean the one you’ve already got; 2. It’s so much less wasteful to do it this way; and 3. This is a cleaning column not a landfill enthusiasts forum.


Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person

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