03-09-2019, 07:31 PM
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Every now and then someone posts a question about the dust that can puff from a dry shaving brush when the tips are rubbed, e.g. against the palm of the hand.  The usual response is that it's dry soap and that one needs to do a better job of rinsing the brush out.  I've always subscribed to that viewpoint.

Not anymore.  I did some testing, and in my case it's hard water salts.

I noticed that my boar brushes and stiff badger brushes were often "puffing" whereas the synthetics and softer badger brushes were not.  And it was vexing, because I could never seem to eliminate the issue no matter how much I rinsed those stiff brushes.  Then it occurred to me that my Nevada tap water is REALLY hard -- like 550-610 ppm on my Total Dissolved Solids wand.  According to Wikipedia, water is "soft" below 60 ppm; "moderate from 61-120 ppm; "hard" from 121-180 ppm and "very hard" above 180 ppm.  Seawater is 6000+ ppm, whereas freshwater ranges from 15 to 375 ppm.

So I did an experiment.  For one week (7 shaves) I used one of my "puffing" boar brushes (Omega 10049), rinsing it thoroughly in a basin of 1L of clean distilled water after rinsing it under the tap per usual.  And to control for the "basin bath vs. tap stream alone" difference, I then used the same brush for 7 shaves the next week, rinsing it thoroughly in a basin of 1L of clean tap water after a good rinse under the tap.

The result:  When the final rinse was in distilled water, the brush didn't puff at all when dry.  When the final rinse was in tap water, it still puffed.  I concluded that what's "puffing" off the stiff brushes is not soap residue but dissolved solids in my tap water. The final distilled water bath in my experiment simply washed away those solids.

What's curious is that it's my stiff brushes -- especially boar -- that have this issue.  Synthetics and softer badger brushes don't.  I can only conclude that boar (and some stiff badger) hairs have a rougher surface to which the mineral deposits adhere.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting.  I'm not going to worry about that "puffing" anymore.  The mineral deposits (if that's what they are) don't seem to degrade my brushes, and I'm too lazy and cheap to mess with distilled or reverse osmosis equipment anyway.

19 313
 03-09-2019, 07:44 PM
  • chazt
  • Senior Member
  • Queens, NY
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I have never seen the phenomenon. To my understanding, NYC water tends to be “soft” so perhaps that’s why. You presented a well constructed experiment and your conclusions seem reasonable. It would be interesting to see the experiment replicated perhaps at another time of year, or by another curious shaver with similar circumstances.

10 3,314
 03-10-2019, 02:23 AM
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Very interesting and thanks for sharing. For some reason "clean-er" water tests on most things show a -wow, I never thout it could make that big of a difference- type of effect. Plus, they don't even need to be run by water system sales people Smile

9 1,500
 03-10-2019, 04:33 AM
  • Tonality
  • Attempted Soap Sabbatical
  • Worcester
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It is absolutely hard water deposits. I've gone from a very hard water environment living in New Mexico to the softest water around in Massachusetts and the difference is huge. It only took a couple shaves with each brush to complete get rid of the dust puff you describe. All of my brushes did this and I was afraid that I would be stuck with forever, but now you would never know.

36 1,868
 03-10-2019, 05:19 AM
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now that is a proper scientific test and analysis of results. Thanks

0 152
 03-10-2019, 05:48 AM
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Hard water, once had a home with really hard water, never thought about it until this thread. My first attempt at soap and brush
failed horribly some 30+ years ago. I could not get a lather, all I had was Williams and a cheap brush. Might have been that water.
I blamed Williams, might not have been the soap, but the water. But, I've never had a brush problem as you described, but I 
understand how and why, after the issues we had with that house. Glad you found a cure... Cheers

1 1,031
 03-10-2019, 06:40 AM
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[quote pid='910174' dateline='1552223999']
now that is a proper scientific test and analysis of results. Thanks

Thanks for the research. I was quite confused how my brushes were suffering too. Now I only need to move back to NYC to ensure good brush health.

62 1,435
 03-10-2019, 12:19 PM
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The dust is calcium stearate (is soap scum). Happens with hard water and high stearate soaps. I have not found it harmful but when your brush gets loaded it can kill lather pretty quick. No way to stop it if you have hard water. Boars seem more sensitive to it.

Periodic lathering your brush with dish detergent will keep it in check.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

3 847
 03-12-2019, 03:15 PM
  • blzrfn
  • Butterscotch Bandit
  • Vancouver USA
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I think it is a combination of issues as some of my soaps tend to cause this more than others.  In particular it seems shaving CREAMS leave more residue behind despite thorough rinsing after each use.  The water at my house is moderately hard, probably on the lighter side of the spectrum compared to the rest of the country.

158 2,893
 03-12-2019, 03:34 PM
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I heat up a mug of distilled bottled water to soak my brush, use tap water to lather and rinse, and distilled water again as a final rinse. This has been my process for years. A gallon lasts a long time. EZPZ. Smile

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