It’s been almost 150 years since the hair brush was first patented in the United States. All those years later, the finest brushes — such as those on this site — hold true to the demands laid out then by inventor Samuel Firey, that it “effectually cleanses the scalp, produces thereon a healthful irritation and glow, and the brush permanently retains its elasticity.”
The brushes sold by Heaven in Earth are made in Germany’s Black Forest since 1869. The handles and bodies always are wood — usually European beech or pear — but the brush materials vary widely.
Some of the brush handles and bodies used in damp environments are made by a Thermowood process, a heat treatment that closes the wood’s natural pores and makes it even more resistant to water — perfect for a bath brush, for example. Most of the Beech wood used is from FSC forests, where the wood is grown in responsibly managed woodlands.
Brush material can be either plant fibers or animal hairs.
Bristles from pigs or boars are thick and stiff. Horse hair, used in some brooms and hand brushes, is durable. Hair from a horse’s mane is good for shoe brushes and face brushes. The softest hair that is used in its brushes comes from Chinese long haired goats. It is fine and dense, and gentle on faces and babies.
A wide variety of plant bristles are used in cleaning brushes. Mexican tampico, durable and stiff, is used in the dish brushes. Mexican fiber or Tampico as it is also known comes from the spiny, cactus-like Agave lecheguilla plant that grows wild in the semi-desert upland areas of Mexico. The fiber is extracted by scraping away the pulpy matter from the freshly cut leaves. This fiber distinguishes itself by its great elasticity and resistance to temperature change, and is also very water absorbent, and non-electrostatic, so that the brushes remain dust free. The description ‘Tampico’ takes its name from the port in Mexico from which the fiber is exported.
Union fiber is used in tougher situations and Union fiber combines the qualities of both Tampico and Palymra fibers, making it a highly versatile option excellent for scrubbing pots and tougher stains.
The distinctive pot and wok scouring brushes are made from what is misleadingly known as Mexican “rice root,” probably a result of mistranslating the Spanish word for root, raiz.
Natural fiber brushes, of course, require a modicum of care that cheap, throwaway brushes don’t deserve. The rice root brushes, for example, ought to be moistened before use to maintain flexibility.
Goat hair brushes retain a lot of dust — thankfully! — but can be cleaned by running a metal comb through them. If needed run them under lukewarm, soapy water. And once dry comb out. A lamb’s wool duster gets similar treatment. You can dip it in a container of warm water with detergent, wring it out and air dry it. It’s also a good idea to rub some glycerin into it now and then to replace the wool’s natural oil.
Untreated wood will change color as it ages. If you see mold spots form, you can wipe those away with a rag soaked in vinegar, soap and water. But remember it may stay if left too long. This is not a cause for concern, just a part of using naturally made goods.
Enjoy your naturally made wares and be part of where useful is beautiful.