If carefully washed, good brushes may be used for quite twenty years; if of poor quality and carelessly washed, they soon become useless. It is not advisable to purchase those that are very long in the bristles, as they break the hair through becoming entangled in it. Thoroughly good brushes can be bought from 4/6 upwards; silver-backed ones from 15/6 upwards, according to the weight of the silver and the quality of the bristles.
Cheap combs are not economical, as the teeth are very apt to split when in use; the result being that they catch in the hair and break it. Those made of tortoiseshell are superior to any other, as, though more expensive in the first place, they outlive many cheap ones.
Xylonite combs are sold from 1/- to 1/4 each. Xylonite is of British manufacture, and is made of cellulose which is soaked in acid, then dissolved in spirit and mixed with any desired colour.
Black vulcanite combs are the same price, but are liable to break if allowed to fall. Vulcanite, or Ebonite, is composed of two-thirds indiarubber and one-third sulphur, kept at a high temperature for several hours, then allowed to cool, when it becomes hard and brittle.
Combs should be washed as rarely as possible, as the teeth are inclined to split. They may be cleaned by pushing a piece of stiff paper, or an old postcard, between each tooth and working it backwards and forwards; or by winding a piece of fine string between the thumb and little finger, and moving it up and down between the teeth.
1. Remove dirt with a hairpin or paper.
2. Scrub with a nail-brush in soapy water and a little ammonia.
3. Rinse in hot, then in cold water.
4. Dry on a towel.
For tortoiseshell use warm water, not hot, as this causes the comb to bend.
These should be allowed to stand for one or two hours weekly in cold water containing a little borax or Sanitas (preferably the latter), to sweeten and cleanse thoroughly. Nowadays most sets of bedroom-ware are provided with a small upright jar, as a substitute for the old-fashioned oblong tooth-brush box. This is a great improvement, as if brushes are covered while wet they smell fusty, and the bristles rapidly become soft. It is a good plan to put these brushes after use on the window-ledge until dry.
Nail-brushes may be bought from 1d.; tooth-brushes from 6d. As soon as the bristles come out when in use, a toothbrush should be discarded, as painful surgical cases have occasionally arisen from the lodging of a bristle in the palate or back of the throat.
If these are not properly treated they soon become disagreeable and slimy. Soap should not be rubbed on them, neither should they be allowed to lie in soapy water, nor put away with any water in them. They should not be wrung out, as this destroys the elasticity and tears them, but well squeezed. If slimy, they should be placed in strong salt water for some hours, as this stiffens them. If they have been so neglected that this treatment is not effectual, then add one wine-glass of muriatic acid to 3 pints of water, and steep the sponges in it. Alkaline solutions will not remove the slime.
It is well to thread a loop of string through a sponge, and hang it after use on a nail outside a window, or put in a sponge-basket; but never put it while wet in a sponge-bag. Sponge-baskets, being more open, are preferable to sponge-bowls.