April 2017 article on anthrax in vintage and new brushes

Discussion in 'The Brush' started by JBSharp, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. JBSharp

    JBSharp Well-Known Member

    The Strange History of Anthrax Cases Tied to Men's Shaving Brushes - http://www.livescience.com/58667-shaving-brushes-anthrax.html

    I came across this in another forum and thought it would be of interest, an addition to the information presented elsewhere by Ryan (@PLANofMAN) and others. This article reviews the WWI-era anthrax scare, how modern brushes are handled, and the risk present in vintage brushes.

    In summary: WWI disrupted the usual supply chain for imported animal hair, resulting in unsterilized hair making its way to manufacturers. In addition, horse hair was used more widely as badger hair became difficult to get. Horses were more likely to have died from anthrax; in addition, horse hair was generally lighter in color and more subject to discoloration in the sterilization process, so brush-makers may have avoided disinfecting it. (Lighter colored brushes were proven more likely to carry anthrax.)

    Today, stricter safety standards and import regulations make anthrax infection unlikely. Well-used vintage brushes carry a very low risk. Unused brushes made prior to 1930 may carry a small risk. (Brushes made from the early 1920's forward generally carry a "sterilized" label indicating their safety.)

    Anecdotally, I have one vintage brush ("sterilized") which I use happily and one non-sterilized Rubberset which is unusable due its single-digit number of bristles, pending a restoration. I suppose we should all take care with those pre-1921 non-sterilized brushes, to eliminate even the minimal risk of infection.

    >>>EDITED to add link to the article and recognition of earlier contributors
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
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  2. RetLEO-07

    RetLEO-07 likes his penguin deep fried, with pink sparkles

    Interesting bit of history there. No worries on my end. Haven't run into any vintage brushes yet at the fleamarket.
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  3. RyX

    RyX DoH!

    I was aware of the risk as I've collected four hanks of horse hair from the South bound end of North facing equines. So many brush handle Artisans, but no one making knots outside of China or synthetics. The sterilization process can do damage to the natural fibers so outside of Dawn dish liquid and a light bleach solution in nearly boiling water, I haven't proceeded. Modern medicine can deal with anthrax, but I don't want to be Patient Zero of a new plague!

    Sent from my C6730 using Tapatalk
  4. JBSharp

    JBSharp Well-Known Member

    I saw your post with the horse hair and was anxious to see what you would do with it. My Vie-Long horse/boar is one of my favorites and I was wondering what you'd ultimately decide. I don't mind a vintage brush, but I'd be wary of wild, unsterilized hair.
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  5. RyX

    RyX DoH!

    After a bit of research on killing Bacillus anthracis I took a two pronged approach. The suggested methods included;

    • Immerse in water and maintain at 95ºC (203ºF) for 25 minutes or at 100ºC (212ºF) for 15 minutes.
    • Expose to 10% bleach for two hours.
    I held at just under boiling for the thirty minutes in a 10% bleach solution. To be safe I'll do the treatment again and not worry about the color changing effect of bleaching the hair.
    Next step is still a question. I haven't settled on what to use to make the plug. Several products on my list but experimentation & testing will tell.
    All my horse hair is tail. My uncle has some mane that I'll pick up soon. Mixes usually include both although the percentages vary.
    I'm also seeking boar bristle. Wild pigs are pest animals, hunted as such. Not the China Bristle quality brushes commonly source, but this is for fun just to see if I can do it.
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  6. RetLEO-07

    RetLEO-07 likes his penguin deep fried, with pink sparkles

    From a layman's view I'm thinking that the brush may be a bit floppy.
    It's going to be interesting to see how
    it turns out
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  7. JBSharp

    JBSharp Well-Known Member

    Edited the OP to include link to the article. Sorry for the oversight!

    From my reading of the article and its source paper, the color change was a concern only because it made the brushes look less like badger hair, so no problems for you. From your research, do you know whether you'll trim the exposed ends, or will you need to use the natural end? I've read that horse hair is more like badger hair (its performance due to the natural taper at the ends) than boar (will flag/re-split after trimming).
  8. RyX

    RyX DoH!

    My first two badger brushes, both Vulfix's, are quite floppy. The formula ( Knot diameter X 2 = Loft ) was not applied. My third badger, a Whipped Dog High Mountain, is much more densely packed, and I received it as a loose knot. I was able to choose the loft. Combining short loft and dense knot gives a whole different feel to a brush.

    I harvested the tail hair myself. I do plan to align the natural ends for at least one knot. More if it turns out to be an easy process. With the tail hair being 12" to 18" there's hope of making more than one knot from each of the four hanks. That means some will be tipped with trimmed hair. By mechanical abrasion - sand paper - I'll experiment with softening the trimmed tips. I've read speculation that Semouge does this with boar bristles because their brushes arrive already somewhat broken in.
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