Dustpans and Brushes
How We Tested
Everybody needs a good dustpan and brush set. The best ones come in nested sets for compact storage. We like big dustpans with wide mouths and rubber bumpers that smooth the transition between the floor and the pan, ensuring that more debris makes it inside. We prefer brushes with horizontal handles and long heads with lots of plastic bristles that angle forward at the tip, allowing access to tight spaces. While none of the sets we tested had all the features we like, our favorite, the Rubbermaid Dustpan and Brush Set with Comfortable Grip, came closest. It has a roomy dustpan and a long brush with plenty of sturdy plastic bristles that slant forward at the tip.
What You Need to Know
A good dustpan and brush are essential for tidying up small, dry messes in the kitchen. They’re there for those days when flour goes everywhere but the bowl, diced vegetables skitter off the cutting board, and your favorite coffee mug shatters on the floor.
What to Look For
- Dustpan Sets: Most of the dustpans and brushes we tested came as sets, and for good reason: The brush nests in the dustpan for easy storage, ensuring that you’ll never lose one part or the other. Bought separately, a dustpan and brush may work perfectly well together, but they won’t nest, so they’ll be harder to store neatly and easier to lose track of.
- Horizontal Brush Handles: The best brushes had handles that sat horizontally, parallel to the surface being cleaned. We found them more comfortable to grip than brushes with handles that rose vertically, perpendicular to the surface being cleaned. Brushes with horizontal handles act like extensions of your hand, allowing you to reach into tight spaces (corners, the backs of cabinets, etc.) more easily. With brushes that have vertical handles, your hand always has to be directly over whatever you’re cleaning—an awkward, tiring position, and one that makes it hard to get into corners.
- A Long Brush Head with Angled Bristles or Tip: The longer the brush head, the more area it can cover in a single sweep and the more bits and pieces it can corral in one go. We especially liked brushes with either pointed heads or bristles that angled outward at the tip—both of these features also helped us reach into corners and deep into crevices more easily.
- Plastic Bristles—and Lots of Them: When it came to cleaning up different types of messes, brushes with plastic bristles performed best. Plastic bristles were flexible enough to sweep up flour, dust, and other fine particles. But they were also sturdy enough to provide some control when corralling bigger objects such as chickpeas or broken glass and tough enough to scrape up bits of food or dirt that occasionally get stuck on the floor. Regardless of the type of bristle, we liked brushes with more bristles rather than fewer. Brushes with lots of bristles summoned slightly more sweeping power than those with fewer. Also, the brushes will inevitably shed some bristles over time, so the more you have to begin with, the longer the brush (and the set) will last.
- A Large Dustpan: Simply put, bigger dustpans hold more stuff than smaller ones—a critical advantage when you’ve got a big mess to clean up or need to sweep up a larger object such as a broken glass. In particular, we liked dustpans with wide mouths, which provided bigger targets for the brushes to sweep into. Still, none of the dustpans was unacceptably narrow; although we would have preferred a wider opening, our winner’s dustpan still got the job done.
- A Rubber Bumper: We liked dustpans edged with rubber bumpers. These strips provided a tight seal between the edge of the dustpan and the floor, forming a smooth runway for food particles. The bumpers won’t completely eliminate the tiny line of debris that always forms between the pan and the floor when you sweep, but they’ll make it a little smaller.
What to Avoid
- Brushes with Vertical Handles: These handles put your hand in an awkward position—directly over whatever mess you’re trying to clean up. While this gives you good control for sweeping up small spills, it’s uncomfortable for longer stints. And this brush design generally makes it harder to get into corners and farther-off spots.
- Silicone Bristles: Because silicone is such a grippy material, bristles made from it stick to the floor as you sweep, making an otherwise effortless task feel laborious. Debris sticks to the bristles just as tenaciously, so any flour or dust is there to stay until you wash the brush.
Minor Flaws and Quibbles
- Thick Brush Handles: Brushes with thick handles were sometimes hard for testers with smaller hands to hold; we preferred slimmer handles.
- Horsehair Bristles: Horsehair bristles are finer than plastic bristles, so they excel at sweeping up flour, dust, and other tiny particles. They’re also softer than plastic bristles, providing a gentler, more luxurious feel while you’re sweeping. But because the bristles are so fine and relatively soft, they can also be a touch floppy, so they are less ideal for doing the odd bit of scrubbing. And once wet, they take longer to dry than plastic bristles do. Still, if you’re avoiding plastic, a horsehair brush is a great option.
- Metal Dustpans: Metal dustpans are also a good option whether you’re avoiding plastic or not. They’re much more durable than plastic pans—they’re unlikely to break, crack, or melt. But they make quite a racket when you sweep hard objects such as dried chickpeas into them. For this reason, we slightly prefer plastic pans.
- Brush-Cleaning Combs: Some of the dustpans we tested came with built-in combs for getting extra debris off your brush once you’re done sweeping up. At best, these combs were ineffective. At worst, they flung the debris back at us when we ran them through the brush. We didn’t dock points from any dustpan that had a comb, but we don’t recommend trying to use them either.
- Sweep up flour on a hardwood floor
- Sweep up sawdust on a laminate floor
- Sweep up raw rice on a tile floor
- Sweep up dried chickpeas on a hardwood floor
- Sweep up broken glass on a laminate floor
- Cram each brush into the space between a refrigerator and a wall 10 times
- Use around the house for a month
- Wash five times
Performance: We evaluated how well the dustpans and brushes swept up and corralled different types of messes.
Ease of Use: We evaluated how easy the dustpans were to use, how easy it was to reach into less accessible spaces with the brushes, and how comfortable the brushes were to grip.
Other Tools You Might Want
Robot Vacuums: A good robot vacuum can help you keep your floors free of dust and other fine debris so that you don’t have to sweep up as often.
Paper Towels: Spilled some juice or water on the floor? You’ll need paper towels, not a dustpan and brush.
Kitchen Sponges: These are a kitchen essential for washing dishes and wiping up small messes.
Dishwashing Gloves: If you’re sweeping up broken glass, it’s a good idea to put on some gloves to protect your hands.