Hairbrush and unflushed toilet: a mix made in hell.
May 21, 2017 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I dropped my beloved hairbrush with natural bristles in my yet unflushed toilet: is it possible to make it sanitary and safe to use again, and if so, how? Should i just part ways with it?

To my utmost horror, I dropped my natural wooden brush (with boar bristles) in my toilet. Bad enough as it is, it gets worse, as, just my luck, this happens on a day where some plumbing work was being done in my condo, meaning I had no way to flush the toilet for the previous six hours. The upside is that said toilet was only used by me and only filled with urine, although not fresh one. What do I do with it? It's my favourite brush and I've loved it for many years, plus it seems as though they don't make this specific model anymore -I've checked.

Additional info:
-It stayed in the toilet for 2/3 minutes, surely less than five; the time to get over the shock/gross factor and find my rubber gloves to fish it out.
-I rinsed it throughly with hot water and let it sink in a disposable plastic bowl with warm water and soap overnight (no damage thus far; it's now drying just fine)

Things I've considered:
-vinegar (both regular and apple cider, I have both and actually use it on my hair too)
-a disinfecting household cleaner which claims to kill 99.9% bacteria, though I'm hesitant to use it on something which goes on my scalp. (Commercial name would likely be of little use, as I live outside the US; it's usually used for tiles, floors, toilets etc.)
-96% alcohol (no rubbing alcohol available where I live, so it's a solution of ethanol and distilled water)
-boiling it

Letting aside the absolute grossness of it all, would it be unsanitary to keep using this brush in any way shape or form, even after using one of the methods above? If so, which one {or other ones} would you suggest? Is it salvageable or am I going to get some gross scalp infection out of it regardless? Please help.
posted by opalshards to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it were me, I'd be getting a new hairbrush, especially because it's wooden and therefore absorbent. I don't think you would be likely to get a scalp infection unless you had open wounds on your scalp, it's just the EWW! factor and the fear of never getting poo residue out of the wood and boar bristles.

If you're totally attached to the brush and/or can't afford to replace it, the disinfecting cleaner might be your best bet, and then put the brush in the sun to dry afterwards; sunlight is a disinfectant.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:26 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea of the actual risk of infection. But I have a 25 year old natural boars head brush that I love; and if it were me, and this were likewise just a quick soak in my own bowl of pee, I'd definitely just wash it with soap and water and decide it was good for my immune system. (But then, I'm more afraid of the health risks of Lysol than of pee germs.)
posted by flourpot at 11:35 AM on May 21, 2017 [11 favorites]

GI microorganisms are different from skin microorganisms, and I'd imagine both populations are somewhat different from growing-in-your-room-temperature-toilet-bowl flora. I'd personally rinse that brush well, then use it with a clear conscience ever after.
posted by Bardolph at 11:42 AM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Don't boil it, but put it in some kind of steamer and steam it bristles up for ~20 minutes in a pot with a tight fitting lid.

I've done this every few months with mine for years with no apparent deterioration.
posted by jamjam at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Um I'd wash it with shampoo and let it sit out in the sun for a day or two and use it again. I don't see how urine is such a health hazard. I mean, have you ever potty trained a kid or pet? Urine is not a big deal if you clean it up soon. But that's just me.

If you're still disgusted, aside from rational considerations...just throw it out. I mean you'll probably be reminded of the Dreadful Toilet Incident everytime you brush your hair and you sound like you're already super traumatized...not worth it IMHO.
posted by The Toad at 11:50 AM on May 21, 2017 [9 favorites]

Yo, just rinse it off, or use some soapy water, or buy a new one if you're really worried. But, if you keep your toothbrush and/or hairbrush out in the open in the bathroom, I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you...
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:51 AM on May 21, 2017 [24 favorites]

It seems to me that a three minute soak in stale urine is not going to turn your brush into a biological weapon. I'm sure between your rinsing, soaking, and the steaming jamjam suggests, the brush will be as clean as it ever was.

Here's a personal anecdote: I once dropped my glasses into a commuter train toilet as I was urinating into it. Gross, right? I rinsed them off immediately and later ran them through a dishwasher. I used those glasses for months after, and never developed any kind of face or eye infections. (I also never told anyone about this until now.)
posted by ejs at 11:52 AM on May 21, 2017 [13 favorites]

Personally I would call it clean enough already, but setting it out in strong sunlight could provide some extra security if you are especially worried. On the grossness spectrum, pee is definitely there, but it is a long way from the serious biohazard end of things, and a good soapy rinse in warm water is going to make that brush cleaner than it has been since it was new.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:59 AM on May 21, 2017

Well, my infant son once managed to urinate into his own eye, and I was reminded by a nurse friend that urine is considered sterile, so there's that.

I suppose in this case I'd be more worried about whatever germs may have been growing in the toilet bowl than about the pee itself. I'd also be more worried about the wood than the bristles. I think we can safely assume that boars are not sterile animals, and that the bristles were boiled at some point prior to the construction of the brush.

So how does the wood look? Fairly intact? Or was it already showing cracks and wear prior to its unfortunate swim? I'd start there and then determine if it were worth it to boil / steam / leave in the sun.
posted by vignettist at 12:02 PM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Rinse , dry , apply a drop/dab of your favorite moisturizer to polish the wood .
posted by hortense at 12:05 PM on May 21, 2017

There are definitely a few things I wouldn't use after dropping them into a pee-toilet. A sandwich, for instance. I agree with the Just Clean It With Shampoo And Get On With Your Life crowd as far as a hairbrush goes.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:11 PM on May 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thanks everyone for your comments!

About the wood- the brush fell down on the bristles side- I'm not positive the wood part came in contact with anything at all. If it did, it was just one side of the wood, seeing as it fell at an angle.

Prior to the incident, the wood looked fine. No cracks or anything. Rather shiny.
posted by opalshards at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2017

The urine of healthy people contains a decent amount of harmless bacteria. I would dry the hairbrush off and never think about this again.

Lewis DA, Brown R, Williams J, et al. The human urinary microbiome; bacterial DNA in voided urine of asymptomatic adults. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. 2013;3:41. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2013.00041.
posted by jessamyn at 12:19 PM on May 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

I would throw it in a dishwasher or washing machine. Probably not the best for the brush, but for me that would be enough to cure the ick factor.
posted by aniola at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2017

Would wash off, dry in the sun, and not think twice of it.
posted by Marinara at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think everyone here is right that it's no big deal and easy to salvage. On the other hand, I'd personally toss it. Otherwise, I'd just have intrusive "pee brush" thoughts every time I use it.
posted by whitewall at 2:16 PM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just your own pee? Wash, and use happily.

If it fell in poop, I'd say get rid of it, but your own pee is nothing.

I mean-- those natural bristles came off a pig. You're probably better off never thinking about what that pig rolled around in. Don't sweat it, it's fine!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:05 PM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am pretty anxious about contamination and I would not even sweat this. Hot water and soap, maybe leave out in the sun for a day, done.

[Honestly, even with poop... most fecal bacteria are pretty sensitive to oxygen, the things that could survive a solid cleaning are probably hanging out elsewhere in your environment anyway, and hairbrushes don't go in your mouth. IANAD, but the only fecally-transmitted things I can think of that are both bad and tough to kill are spore-formers like C. difficile (you'd have to be carrying it to begin with, and it's not typically a risk to healthy people, unless you go on antibiotics and kill off the protective bacteria in their gut), and viruses like noro (which you would absolutely know if you had). And bleach kills both of those. So had it gotten contaminated with poop, you could probably rescue it by just spritzing with a bleach-based cleaner in addition to the above cleaning steps (i.e., after you wash it to get any particulate contamination off), then washing it again after 15 minutes to get the bleach off.]
posted by en forme de poire at 2:12 PM on May 22, 2017

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