Brushes, Brushes, and More Brushes
A scrub brush is a scrub brush, right? It’s just a handle and some bristles – no bells and whistles, so what’s the big deal? Well, a scrub brush is not as simple as you might think. Yes, it has a handle and bristles, but what type of handle and bristles are necessary for the task at hand? Those are important questions to consider if you are going to get the most out of your brushes.
Handle Lengths and Types:
The most important factor to consider when looking at brush handles is length. Brush handles range in size from 6” the whole way up to 20”. The handle length you choose depends on what you need to clean. A one-handed, 8” scrub brush will clean a basic frying pan or sauce pan just fine, but would struggle to clean a deep ice chest or the inside of a fryer. For something like that, you might consider a two-handed, 20” brush that offers greater reach.
Handle type also comes into play. Most brushes have plastic handles with ergonomic grips for fingers, but some have basic wooden handles, others have T-shaped handles, and some don’t have handles at all. Brushes without handles will just have some type of grip positioned directly over the bristles, not a handle extending from the bristles. This type of handle may be slightly harder to grip, but provides the greatest leverage and strength when scrubbing. Selecting a handle is really a matter preference, but having to use an uncomfortable handle can make cleaning even more detestable than it already is.
Believe it or not, pot and pan brushes are typically made from two different bristle materials. When selecting a brush, you want to consider carefully the recovery strength of bristles. A good pot and pan brush is going to have bristles with excellent recovery strength, meaning that even after consistent use, the bristles will retain their original shape and rigidity. You don't want your bristles to splay out or crack because it will severely damage their ability to clean pots and pans effectively. Either of the following materials make for effective brushes:
- Synthetic bristles - Synthetic bristles are made of plastics and other chemical compounds, offering the greatest recovery strength of the bristle types. Because they consist of processed materials, special qualities can be engineered into synthetic bristles, such as resistance to acids and solvents, resistance to moisture, and high heat capabilities. Common synthetic bristle materials are polyester, nylon, and teflon.
- Vegetable fiber bristles - Made from the roots or stalks of various plants, these bristles are typically coarse, making them useful for a number of applications. Common bristle materials are palmetto palm fibers, Tampico agave fibers, and Indian Palmyra palms. Union fiber bristles, the most common, contain a mix of two or more fibers (usually Tampico and Palmyra) and have a standard medium-stiff texture.
There are some pieces of equipment that may require specially shaped brushes, such as drains and pipes, coffee urns, slicers, and condiment dispensers. These pieces contain hard-to-reach areas that a basic pot and pan brush may not be able to address. Thin-diameter brushes with wire handles are perfect for fitting into small pipes and bending to accommodate tough angles.
Another type of brush is designed especially for fryers and fryer parts. Fryer brushes and bristles are engineered to handle extremely high temperatures, in order to clean machines while they are still warm. These brushes utilize non-metal handles to ensure you do not burn your hands while cleaning hot machines, and are often “L”-shaped to address the hard-to-reach sections of fryers.
Caring for Your Brushes
Pot and pan scrub brushes are designed to take a beating. Because they are so durable, cleaning and caring for them is easy. Research your own brushes to be sure, but some scrub brushes can be put right in the dishwasher, making cleaning a snap. If your brush is not dishwasher-safe or you choose to wash it by hand, care is still easy:
- Run your brush under hot water and rub bristles with dish detergent (Try to remove oils as quickly as possible because they can quickly turn your brush rancid and make it unfit for use.)
- Keep an eye on the base of your brush, making sure that no food or grease remains lodged where the bristles meet the handle.
- Rinse your brushes, then treat them with sanitizer.
- Leave in a clean place to air dry.