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Tracking Down the Best Scrub Brush

By Chase Brightwell Published

A good scrub brush is indispensable for handling the toughest kitchen messes. We set out to find the best one.

When tackling the most stubborn messes—whether it’s cooked-on egg, crusty bits of frizzled cheese, or baked-on tomato sauce—we often bypass a sponge entirely and reach for a scrub brush. Scrub brushes offer a few advantages to sponges: Their bristles are better at cutting through tough messes and are less likely to cling to food, their handles help provide good leverage, and they tend to keep our hands out of the mess. But not all scrub brushes are built the same, so we decided to test nine models, made from both natural and synthetic materials, with varying handle lengths and head sizes. They ranged in price from about $5 to about $24. Keeping water temperature, soap amount, and cooked-on foods consistent, we put the brushes through the wringer, powering through messes in skillets (both stainless steel and cast iron) and metal baking pans. We also scrubbed metal bowls covered in sticky biscuit dough and washed each brush upwards of 10 times, either by hand or in the dishwasher. Additionally, we sent copies home with nine editors and test cooks and asked for their feedback after a few weeks of real-world use. We were looking for a brush that could cut through difficult messes, fit comfortably in our hands, rinse clean without hassle, and hold up to all that rigorous scrubbing and cleaning. 

We scrambled eggs in stainless-steel skillets, intentionally creating a stubborn, stuck-on mess to test the brushes' scrubbing power.

We preferred brushes with stiff, synthetic bristles, which cut through messes and held up to extended use better than softer, natural bristles.

It’s All in the Bristles

A good scrub brush is only as reliable as its bristles, and we discovered a few bristle qualities that made scrubbing more effective. First: stiffness. There was a spectrum of bristle stiffness, from soft and flexible to ultrastiff and rigid, and most testers preferred the latter. We found that the brushes with stiffer bristles more effectively cut through tough, burnt-on food remnants, leaving behind sparkling cookware. The brushes with softer bristles—including the one brush with natural-fiber bristles—were unable to scrape up cooked-on messes as efficiently as their stiff-bristled counterparts and instead tended to just smear food around. When used to scrub cast-iron pans crusted with rendered burger fat and metal baking pans sticky with burnt-on tomato paste, mustard, and molasses, softer bristles bent out of shape. This made for unkempt, frayed brush heads whose performance worsened over time. The brush with natural-fiber bristles became the most disheveled.

Bristles that flared outward from the brush heads' sides fit into narrow corners and covered more surface area than non-flared bristles.

The bristles’ arrangement and positioning on the brush heads also mattered. We preferred bristles that flared out from the heads considerably, especially on the sides, reaching beyond the brushes’ hard plastic heads. Widely flared bristles increased the scrubbing surface area, allowing us to scrub off more food with fewer passes. Flared bristles were also more effective at reaching into corners. The heads of brushes with straight, unflared bristles too often knocked into skillet edges or baking pan corners without reaching into them, keeping us from tackling every single stain.

Widely-spaced bristle clusters clung to less debris and rinsed clean without issue. Tightly clustered bristles trapped globs of biscuit dough and crumbs and took longer to rinse clean.

The bristle clusters of some brush heads are packed tightly together, whereas some are spaced far apart. Widely spaced bristle clusters tended to perform best. Crumbs, dough, and other food remnants were less likely to get stuck between these bristle clusters, and if they did, they came loose with a single rinse. Brushes with no gaps between their bristle clusters more easily trapped food, and it took additional rinses under the faucet, cycles in the dishwasher, or even whacks on the sink edge to relinquish the debris. All in all, brushes with stiff, widely flared, well-spaced clusters of bristles prevailed.

Some brushes sported scrapers made of solid plastic meant to power through cooked-on messes, but two models had extra sets of ultrastiff bristles that scrubbed and scraped more effectively.

A Note on Scrapers

In addition to their primary sets of bristles, seven of the nine brushes had extra features intended for the toughest scrubbing challenges. Five brushes had plastic scrapers on their backs, but their designs varied. Testers preferred wide, flat scrapers over narrower, tapered scrapers. In lieu of scrapers, two brushes had strips of short, ultrastiff bristles on their backs. The bristles’ many tips were more abrasive than the solid scrapers, allowing them to more effectively scour away tough burnt-on messes. 

We found that brushes with gently sloped or curved handles positioned our hands closer to the scrubbing action and created better leverage than brushes with more steeply sloped handles, which bent our elbows awkwardly.

Handles Were Important

The best scrub brush handles assure a comfortable grip and create good leverage. In our testing, one important factor was the angle at which the handle met the brush head. The handles of the most successful brushes in our lineup were gently sloped or curved away from their heads, creating enough space to keep testers’ hands free of mess while maintaining good leverage for scrubbing. The handles of three brushes bent away sharply from their heads at angles that measured more than 45 degrees, which raised our elbows and forced our hands away from the action, making for awkward scrubbing positions. The head of one brush was adjustable, swiveling between a 0-degree angle and a 45-degree angle from its handle, which was intended to increase versatility and scrubbing options. Frustratingly, the lock mechanism wasn’t strong enough to keep the brush head in place, so it flipped back and forth with every stroke and made the brush almost impossible to use. We preferred rigid handles that sloped up at angles of about 45 degrees or less, which positioned our hands close to the brushes.

Handle material and design mattered as well. The best handles were made of  silicone-coated plastic and had built-in ridges or bumps that made for secure, slip-free grips, even when they were wet and soapy. However, silicone didn’t always reign supreme; one silicone-coated handle was hard and supersmooth, causing our hands to slide around in the soapy water and occasionally slip off the brush. The metal handle of one brush and the wooden handles of two others were smooth and pleasant to hold when dry, but slippery when wet, especially during vigorous scrubbing. Only one wooden-handle model was sufficiently rough-textured and easy to grip, but it felt so thin and spindly that stronger testers feared they might snap it in half. Also, the wooden-handled brushes weren’t dishwasher-safe, rendering them more likely to retain stains, odors, food bits, and globs of dough.

Finally, handle length greatly impacted scrubbing ability and comfort. Testers’ preferences generally came down to the sizes of their hands. Those with smaller hands mostly preferred shorter handles  and found longer-handled brushes awkward and uncomfortable to use. Testers with larger hands often recommended brushes with longer handles, complaining about feeling cramped by short handles.

The Best Scrub Brush: O-Cedar Rinse Fresh Pot & Pan Brush

One scrub brush, the O-Cedar Rinse Fresh Pot & Pan Brush, easily washed away its competition. Its main set of stiff plastic bristles cut through every mess we threw at it. We liked that the bristles, especially those around the head’s perimeter, flared out and scraped up stains in otherwise inaccessible corners. Wide gaps between bristle clusters ensured that all crumbs, dough, and other remnants rinsed free easily. An extra strip of ultrastiff bristles on its back side powered through challenging burnt-on patches.  The handle was gently curved and easy to maneuver most of the time, and its silicone grip was comfortable and secure even in slippery, soapy water, though its handle was a touch long for some users. It’s also dishwasher-safe and did not become stained during our tests. This brush has earned a permanent place beside our sinks, and we think it deserves a similar spot in your kitchen.

Equipment Review Scrub Brushes

A good scrub brush is indispensable for handling the toughest kitchen messes. We set out to find the best one. 

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16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.