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What is a Wire Brush?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A wire brush is a type of tool that features abrasive metal bristles attached to a handle or a wheel that can be attached to an angle grinder or bench grinder. The handheld wire brush tool handle is usually made of wood or plastic, though some are made of metal. The wires are typically made of a very hard steel, though other materials may be used for lighter applications. The bristles may be made from one continuous wound wire, or individual bristles may be attached to the brush handle or wheel by staples or glue. A wire brush is commonly used in metal working capacities.

Removing rust and paint are common applications of a wire brush, and different wire brush materials will be used for different purposes. Brass wire brushes, for example, are used for lighter duty jobs as well as for softer materials that may become scratched or pitted when the brush bristles are rubbed against them. Stainless steel bristles are used for applications in which sparking is a fire hazard, and high carbon content steel is used for other, heavier duty applications. Some wire brush bristles are even made from softer, non-metal wires and are used for extremely light duty applications.


For bigger jobs, a wire wheel is preferred over a handheld wire brush. The wire wheel is mounted to a drill, angle grinder, or bench grinder so it can be spun at high speeds. Such a high speed combined with an abrasive brush will allow a user to remove a significant amount of material such as paint or rust. One should be careful when using such a wire wheel, however, because it is possible to start removing metal from the piece unintentionally. Wire wheels are usually disc-shaped, though others can be cone-shaped or other shapes to accommodate a specific job.

Sometimes wire brushes are used by welders to clear off rust and other materials from the surface of a metal piece that is to be welded. This is done for two reasons: first, it will allow a cleaner surface on which the welding will be done, and second, it will provide a cleaner electrical connection for the ground clamp, which is an important step in the welding process. A small hand brush is usually sufficient for such purposes, but for larger jobs or rustier pieces, an angle grinder with a wire wheel mounted to it is more likely to be used.

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