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Can these grungy basting brushes be saved?

Does anyone have a method for removing the stubborn traces of olive oil, melted butter, chicken drippings etc. from natural bristle basting brushes? I'm tempted to try the silicon version, but the "bristles" seem so wimpy and hard to direct, and it's hard to believe that the silicon surfaces would clean up thoroughly.

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  1. Since silicone isn't porous it cleans up much better than natural bristles. Of course the same properties that make it clean up so well also make it kinda crappy as a brush since it doesn't really hold the liquid that you are brushing on.

    I have a "normal" silicone pastry brush and it doesn't perform that well. I have a "grill" brush that has less bristles but they have balls at the end of them that are intended to help hold the liquid, and this one works pretty well.

    I think you have to look at the bristle brushes as a "consumable" item that simply needs to be replaced every so often

    1. To be honest... I go to the hardware store and by the ceap 37 cent natural brushes use them for aawhile then chuck them. We have bought a silicone one that has a flat section in the middle that has holes in it to hold what your basting with and it works quite well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Eric in NJ

        "We have bought a silicone one that has a flat section in the middle that has holes in it..."

        Like this?: http://www.oxo.com/OA_HTML/xxoxo_ibeC...

        I have one, and I can heartily recommend it...

        1. re: Joe Blowe

          How clever--OXO does it again.
          Thanks for the link.

      2. I hated the natural bristle brushes... bristles coming out, can't be cleaned well. I LOVE THE SILICONE! I have tried a couple, and the ones with the finer bristles work quite well, IMHO. I have a big round head unit for BBQ that is supposed to work like a traditional mop, and it is great. They clean fabulously with soap and hot water. Remember: get a unit with the finest possible bristles.

        1. I think natural brushes need to be replaced like sponges do (of course less often since you dont use them daily). Whatever you are basting with gets wicked up the fibers where it can't be cleaned properly. Once I had the metal band which holds the bristles together and binds them to the handle come off. What was under there was absolutely disgusting.
          I have silicone and don't like them as much. I just make sure I chuck the natural brushes and get new ones. I look for them at discount stores.


          1. I've got a couple of $.50 hardware store brushes. I clean them in the dishwasher. When they wear out, which happens every couple of years, I go get another from the hardware store.

            If you can't clean them any other way, and the only other option is to not use them, and you have a dishwasher, the path seems clear ...

            1. I was taught to clean my pastry/basting brushes like fine paintbrushes: dribble a few drops of dishwasher detergent on the bristles near the metal band, then trickle some warm water (a few drops) over that, and massage the detergent into the bristles toward the bristle ends. Rinse in tepid water; repeat until the brush is clean. Dry by wrapping in a paper towel and pressing on the bristles until the water is gone; then air dry. It works!

              2 Replies
              1. re: mnosyne

                second this method. did not think anyone else massaged their brishes. When they start to look bad, jfood throws them out and buy a couple more at the hardware store for a buck-a-piece.

                1. re: mnosyne

                  I do the same mnosyne, and precisely because of my training in keeping expensive paintbrushes in good order! But I also add a periodic boiling water dip ( yeah, I know - how Howard Hughes of me...). After the cleaning, a dump of boiling teakettle water and a final swish makes me feel like I've cleaned the brushes well. My bristle brushes last a long time, but I do succumb to the lure and buy a few fifty-centers as it makes me feel rich...and they're lot's cheaper than sable paintbrushes!

                2. Get silicon. They're dishwasher safe. Remember: it's all about surface area. Whether the manufacturer accomplishes this with bumps on the bristles, holes, more bristles, etc. the name of the game is surface area. The more "real estate" (as the Almighty Alton Brown puts it), the better, because that means more material to hold on to the liquid.

                  1. I've owned both types of brushes, silicon and "natural" fiber. As one poster commented, the silicon brushes can fall flat when holding liquid, which is what a basting brush is made to do.

                    However, I think the usefulness of silicon depends on the application. Any sauce that sticks reasonably well to itself, usually a thick sauce, like BBQ or egg, takes pretty well to silicon. Anything closer to a juice will be held about as well as a sieve, though some silicon brushes handle this better than others. I believe that higher bristle count + closer bristle bunching = better liquid retention.

                    The great thing about this though, is that the liquidy stuff is generally easier to clean off a natural brush than the thick stuff. So, I actually have two brushes. One silicon for the thick, hard to clean stuff and one natural for things that just won't hold in a silicon.

                    Anyway, with the prices of brushes being what they are, you'll lose more money wasting time fretting over it than just picking up both and making a choice yourself.