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Bottle Brushes

Published January 2019

How we tested

A bottle brush is designed to fit into spaces a standard sponge can't. This cleaning tool—basically a wand with a brush head on one end—fits easily into tall, slim, and narrow-mouth bottles, such as water bottles, coffee carafes, and baby bottles. Curious to see how well they worked, we gathered five popular, widely available models, priced from $4.99 to $13.94, and got to testing.

First, we wanted to see if each brush could fit into a variety of bottles, including our winning glass and plastic water bottles, a narrow-mouthed glass bottle, a baby bottle, a glass carafe, and a stainless-steel coffee carafe. (The answer: Yes, though none of the brushes fit into an exceptionally narrow-mouthed glass water bottle with a roughly ¾-inch opening.) Then we used each brush to remove sticky honey from inside each container and to scrub smoothie remnants from water bottles. We washed each brush multiple times, checking for wear and tear, odor retention, and leftover food particles throughout testing. We also had volunteers use the brushes at home for a week.

Overall, these brushes worked well, remained odor-free, and proved themselves essential cleaning tools. More than one tester said that using a bottle brush took their cleaning to the next level, especially in scrubbing heavily stained coffee carafes. And while most brushes performed well, one was woefully inadequate—and another wowed us.

A Medium-Size Brush Head Offered the Best Coverage

Bottle brushes have two key elements: the scrubber head, with all the bristles, and the handle, which is typically a long, thin wand. Heads ranged in length from 1.88 to 9 inches, and size greatly impacted scrubbing ability.

We wanted a brush that could cover maximum area with minimal effort. The longest brush head, at 9 inches, resembled a big, fluffy cat's tail and was too long to really move around inside containers. With bristles all over the place, except on the all-important brush tip, this model made it difficult to scrub a specific spot and was ultimately inadequate.

Another brush had the opposite problem. Its petite head was the shortest in the lineup, and one tester compared it to using a very fine brush to paint trim on a wall. “You kind of have to work it around,” she said, because it doesn't cover a lot of area at once.” On the plus side, the small brush head made it easy to target specific spots inside a container that needed extra scrubbing.

Our favorite brush was a happy medium: It had a 3.75-inch head that was small enough to easily maneuver in most spaces but still large enough to scrub a sizable area at once.

Shorter Bristles Were Essential

Naturally, bristles were an important factor in a brush's cleaning ability. Two things were key: Shorter bristles, less than 1 inch long, that were more rigid were better at scrubbing, and bristles that covered the tip of the brush were crucial for cleaning hard-to-reach container bottoms.

Our least favorite brush failed on both counts. Its bristles were 1¼ inches long—the longest in the lineup—and were thin and wispy, too flexible to give a good scrub. There also weren't enough bristles at the tip of the brush, which made it completely ineffective at scrubbing the bottom of the container.

Our winner, by contrast, had shorter, more rigid ⅞-inch-long bristles that were spread across the brush head, with plenty of bristles on the tip. This model was extremely effective at scrubbing; one user said it made the inside of her stovetop espresso pot “shine like new,” and she even used it to clean the plastic basket of a salad spinner. “I always scrub the daylights out of that basket,” she said, “and it always seemed to still have a grayish shadow on the horizontal slats, but this thing got in there like a champ.” It also “beautifully” cleaned a colander, which can be challenging to scrub because of its tiny holes.

Rigid Handles and Shafts Made Scrubbing Easier

Brush handles and the shafts they were attached to were made of a variety of materials—wood, metal, and plastic—but material didn't matter as long as the handle and shaft were rigid. One model's plastic handle was attached to a very thin metal shaft, which bent easily and made it harder to apply pressure for scrubbing. Another model with a plastic handle and shaft was more flexible than was ideal, which made it difficult to maneuver the brush head when we cleaned smoothie remnants from water bottles. The remaining three brushes had stiff handles and shafts that gave us good leverage and made scrubbing much easier.

A Large Rubber Grip Was Most Comfortable

None of the handles was truly awful to hold, but a couple were noticeably less comfortable than others. One model's wooden handle didn't have any padding, and the untreated beechwood sometimes felt rough against our hands. A brush with a thin, hard, plastic handle was also uncomfortable to hold.

A silicone-coated brush felt better in our hands, as the handle had a slightly squishy, bulbous grip. But our favorite model had the best design: Its handle was “bigger and easier to grab” than the rest, as one tester noted, and a convenient indentation for our thumbs made it the most ergonomic model in the lineup. The rubber padding was another plus.

Cleanup Was Easy, But the Dishwasher Made It Easier

Three bottle brushes were dishwasher-safe, one was not, and one didn't specify, so we hand-washed it. For the most part, all the brushes were fairly easy to clean. Sure, after scrubbing kale-and-pineapple smoothie remnants from water bottles, most brushes had kale particles stuck in their bristles, but nothing egregious. Meanwhile, the dishwasher-safe brushes, including our winner, were very easy to clean, emerging kale-free from the dishwasher after one wash cycle. (And they looked like new even after 10 dishwasher cycles.)

The Best Bottle Brush

While most brushes were versatile enough to fit in a variety of bottles and effectively scrubbed them clean, one stood out as the clear winner: The Quickie Bottle Brush ($5.80) made for efficient scrubbing, with a 3.75-inch head covered in short, rigid bristles and a stiff handle with a comfortable grip. We also loved that we could clean this brush in the dishwasher. And as one tester put it, “It's not just for bottles!” We used this brush to clean a variety of kitchenware, including a stockpot, cocktail shaker, colander, and salad spinner in addition to coffee carafes, proving that this oft-overlooked cleaning tool is an impressively versatile addition to your arsenal.

Methodology

We purchased five widely available bottle brushes, priced from $4.99 to $13.94. We attempted to fit each brush into a variety of containers of differing shapes and sizes, including our winning glass and plastic water bottles, a narrow-mouthed glass bottle, a baby bottle, a glass carafe, and a stainless-steel coffee carafe. We also assessed performance by cleaning sticky honey out of numerous containers and by leaving smoothies in plastic water bottles overnight, emptying them, and leaving them to sit for 2 hours before scrubbing. We washed each brush 10 times to gauge ease of cleaning and durability and assigned each brush to one volunteer tester for a week to get feedback about how the brushes performed at everyday tasks.

Rating Criteria

Brush Head Design: Brushes that fit into and effectively scrubbed clean a variety of containers received highest marks.

Handle Design: Handles that offered good leverage and were comfortable to hold were rated highest.

Ease of Cleanup: Brushes that easily rinsed clean and were dishwasher-safe were given top marks.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*