The Reason For Brushes On The Side Of Escalators Revealed & It’s Not to Clean Your Shoes


Last Updated on 2023-03-29 , 9:14 am

Random escalator fact: In some parts of the world, countries are developing so fast that some people have seen phones but never seen an escalator.

Take for example this clip of people riding escalators for the first time:

And then realise that they probably took that picture using the highest tech thing everybody currently has called the smartphone. (But don’t laugh too hard, cause the first few escalators were an attraction in Singapore too.)

So anyway, that’s about as much fun as we can have on escalators. Because from this point onwards the article is gonna get grim.

You know those brush things on the side?

Image: TnkImages /

Turns out, the true purpose of those brushes isn’t to clean your shoes.

It’s to prevent the escalator from sucking your soul right into the escalator and trap you inside forever.

Just joking.

Actually no. I’m only half-joking, because without those brushes the escalator might actually cause people to have injuries called degloving.

Brushes Prevent Random Things from Getting Stuck

Degloving involves, as it suggests, taking off the gloves off your body. Except, without a glove. Or, the glove means your skin.

How this happens is when your feet get trapped between the sides of the escalator and the moving steps that you are on. You know, the part of the escalator where you find the brush.

This makes it so that people are less inclined to stand right at the edge. Things like shoelaces or loose clothing are also less likely to be stuck there because of the brushes.

For instance, in one case a man got strangled from his shirt getting stuck.

So with the brushes there, unless you are really trying hard to undergo the process of natural selection, it’s a lot harder to force your feet there and get stuff stuck.

Elevators and escalators actually kill about 30 people and injure about 17,000 people in the United States each year. In Singapore, it was 29 injuries per month in 2018.


If you’re some kind of sadist who likes to read about people getting injured or frigging die from escalators, you might want to read this scientific study or this one. You can find more individual cases pretty easily on the news if you have a hobby of watching people die from mundane objects.

Brushes Prevent Escalators from Exploding like a Michael Bay movie

If you feed the escalators enough flesh and blood, it might even explode. By flesh and blood, I mean things like grease and litter that might otherwise accumulate under the escalator.

You see, escalators were patented in 1892. But because humans are stupid, we mostly don’t do anything to design flaws or imperfections until something happens. So the design stayed mostly the same, without some safety measures.

(Like climate change…)

And something happened in 1987, that you might know as the King’s Cross Fire, which is a fire that killed 31 and injured 100.


The cause? A lit match that fell through the gaps and set fire to grease and litter underneath the escalator, according to the London Fire Brigade.

Now that something really happened, deflector brushes, emergency stop buttons and automatic sprinklers were then added to the escalator.

With that, I guess I’ll be taking the stairs today.

Except, each year there’s over 1 million injuries and over 12,000 deaths in the US related to the stairs.

Dammit, I guess I’ll just sleep in the office then.

Featured Image: TnkImages /