many used makeup brushes in a container

How to Clean Makeup Brushes Quickly & Easily

Makeup Brush Cleaning 101

Whether you stick to a strictly 10-minute makeup routine every day or spend hours and hours on it, you are probably using makeup brushes. They are perfect for applying gorgeous eyeshadow to your eyes, smoothing the foundation on your face, contouring, applying blush and bronzer – a good makeup brush is a tool we find ourselves reaching for daily.

Brushes are definitely one of those day-to-day tools that we overlook. We need them, we use them, but we rarely care for them. One of the most common beauty mistakes is not cleaning the makeup brushes frequently enough. It’s hard to remember to do so because more often than not, it’s hard to tell that they need cleaning. And let’s face it, we’re all a bit lazy.

We pack on products day in and day out, but we convince ourselves that the product is coming off onto our faces and so the brushes aren’t catastrophically dirty.

Of course, with the more recent releases of makeup sponges, people are paying more attention to the cleaning of their makeup tools. But why? Why do beauty blenders and other makeup sponges generally get more love than brushes?

The answer is quite simple, and it lies in the simple fact that humans are visual creatures. We see that our beauty sponge is soaked with foundation, contour, or cream concealer so we vigorously clean them to get that satisfying image of makeup coming off a sponge when we saturate it with soap. However, just because you visibly see the pigment and the need to clean your sponges, doesn’t mean that your brushes are squeaky clean and don’t need a good bath once in a while.

How Often Should You Clean Your Brushes?

You wash your face (hopefully) every night before bed. You use disposable cotton pads. You wash your clothes regularly. So why wouldn’t you do the same with your makeup brushes?

Dermatologists agree that the cleaner the brushes are, the better they are for your face. Since you apply makeup to your clean, bare skin, using clean tools will help prevent breakouts and other skin issues that may arise. But how often should you do it?

Most dermatologists will say that cleaning your brushes by at least soaking them once a week is a must, especially when it comes to foundation and concealer brushes. Eyeshadow brushes should be washed at least twice per month, and all others – once a month.

Makeup brush bristles, especially those made of natural fibers are porous, which means that the product clings on to them, allowing the bacteria to flourish. However, this is not the only issue when it comes to them. A clean brush will allow for a smoother application and allow you to have that flawless finish you are after. Dispersing old product on your face is not only bad for your skin but also detrimental to your precious, expensive brushes. Therefore, cleaning them regularly will extend the life of the bristles and keep them fresh and flawless for much longer!

Why Is It so Important?

How often do you ask yourself – why do I have these breakouts? Must be the amount of water I drink. No, it’s the excessive amount of coffee I intake. No, it can’t be that the gods must be angry and have chosen my face as their ritualistic sacrifice goat!

Let’s take a step back and be honest for a moment. Take a second to think about what you do with your brushes. Your brush is dipping into a product and then touching your face to apply it, in turn picking up whatever bacteria is on your skin — then comes tomorrow where you dip that bacteria-filled brush back into the product — leaving your product with bacteria on it.

Worried about premature aging? Don’t use dirty brushes! The dirt that collects in the bristles can, over time, of course, cause the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which you definitely do not want.

What about sharing makeup brushes with a friend? Ummm, no! Imagine putting someone else’s bacteria on your face, eyes, and lips. Imagine the viruses that can wreak havoc. The possibility of getting a stye is not worth testing your friend’s newest high-end makeup purchase. Just let it be.

It’s a vicious cycle, to say the least. This cycle of events can result in two things really; bacteria filled products and break-out central on your face!

Now, let’s not be unreasonable. It’s likely almost impossible to keep up with dedicating an hour to cleaning every brush every single day; especially considering eye brushes actually don’t cause any breakouts or pick up that much bacteria. No one is claiming that you should give each individual brush a deep cleanse after every single use. No, you’re simply expected to give every brush a spot clean as often as possible and give it a deep clean every couple of weeks.

Related Products

What to Use to Clean Your Brushes?

Sometimes, keeping things simple is the best thing you can do. The best and most thorough way of cleaning anything is water and a gentle soap. Using gentle soaps instead of regular ones will prevent the bristles from drying out if they are made of natural fiber, and it is also the cheapest thing you can use because you probably already have it in your bathroom. Of course, you can use specialized brush cleansers, but you really don’t have to. Here are a few cleansers you can use for your precious babies.

Solid Soap Bars

Soap bars can be a very affordable option that works perfectly. Just pick up a bar of soap — you can use fragrance-free if you don’t want your brushes smelling of anything after, or pick a lovely floral or fruity scent to leave you sniffing your brushes for the next week. Make sure that it is gentle though, you don’t want any of those anti-bacterial ones (they are banned in some European countries for a reason!).

Liquid Soap

Liquid soap is another thing we all have in our bathrooms and is the most commonly used product for cleaning of makeup brushes.

Any shampoo you love can work as well. Baby Shampoo has definitely made a comeback — this time in the beauty community. You can squeeze some into the palm of your hand and then rub your brush into it — again alternating with running it under the tap until the water runs clear. However, word of warning – do not use clarifying shampoos even though you may be tempted to do so. Blondes, stay away from that purple shampoo around your makeup brushes. Your best bet is to go for a gentle liquid soap or a shampoo that can be used daily to avoid damaging your precious bristles.

Makeup Cleansers

Specialized products made for this purpose alone exist on the market. Sometimes, this is the easiest option for a busy girl who cannot be bothered with soaps or DIY options. However, they can get expensive over time, especially if you are cleaning your brushes as regularly as you should.

Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes at Home

We all love a good DIY project. So why not make your own DIY brush cleaner with things you already have at home? One of the tried and true methods many makeup lovers swear by is mixing two parts of dish soap with one part olive oil. Give the concoction a little stir to combine the two and use it to clean your makeup applicators, brushes, and beauty sponges!

Another great makeup brush cleanser recipe is for the natural girls out there. Combine about a cup of distilled water, 10 ml liquid castile soap, 120 ml witch hazel, and about a teaspoon of olive, jojoba, or almond oil. Give it a good stir and get cleaning!

Finally, you can make your own spray for daily cleaning as well. Get a spray bottle and mix 60 ml distilled water, 150 ml isopropyl alcohol, and a few drops of essential oil of your choice. Then, you can give your brushes a quick clean every day and disinfect them for future use.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes – Step by Step

Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning is the lazy girl’s best friend when it comes to avoiding the spread of bacteria. A dirty brush equals dirty skin. It is essentially a speedy cleansing method that you can do to your brushes daily or as often as possible.

The market is filled with options at every price range of spot cleaners – or just use your own! These often come in spray form for ease of use. You basically spritz them onto your brush and rub the brush into a piece of tissue to remove any makeup and bacteria from it.

While this step is great to keep your brushes sanitary enough for daily use, they aren’t fully removing every single trace of makeup – plus the strong alcohol in them can be damaging after a while. So, try as you might, you’re still going to need a deep cleanse every now and then.

Deep Cleaning

You cannot avoid it. It’s going to take time and a bit of effort, but you absolutely must give your brushes a deep clean. Here’s how:

  1. Wet the brush bristles with lukewarm water
  2. Put a few drops of the brush cleanser of choice into the palm of your hand, or a brush cleaning mat. Alternatively, soak the brushes in the cleaning solution for a few minutes.
  3. Massage the bristles with your fingertips for a few minutes to remove the excess product. Do not smash into the bristles – be very gentle to avoid breakage
  4. Rinse the brushes with lukewarm water one by one
  5. Use a paper towel or a clean cloth to squeeze the excess water out. If you notice that more product is coming out, repeat steps two and three
  6. Gently reshape the brush
  7. Leave the brush to dry. This step is absolutely crucial and you have to do it right. Do not leave your brushes to dry on a cleansing pad, paper, or the counter. This can cause them to become a breeding ground for mildew, at which point you can say goodbye to them. Instead, make sure that the bristles are pointed downward, or leave them hanging off the edge of your counter.

Never leave your brushes to dry vertically with the bristles up. Not only is this bad for the brush shape, but also its longevity. Since the bristles are glued to the handle at the base, water can dissolve the glue and make bristles fall out or shed excessively. Also, avoid applying soap on the base for the same reason.

What to Avoid?

Look, we get it, cleaning your makeup brushes is not rocket science. However, there are some things worth noting that can help you extend their life and make them more useful in the long run. If you avoid some of the common mistakes, you can have beautiful brushes for a long time and not cringe every time you look down and see a bunch of hairs on your counter when you apply makeup.

Avoid Strong Soaps

No one has ever benefited from a super strong soap on their face or hair, so why should your brushes? You’re not using petroleum oil as makeup, so no need to be super excessive when it comes to cleaning.

Avoid Blow Dryers

If you’re in a rush, it is tempting to just grab a blow dryer and speed up the drying process. But don’t do it. The heat can damage the bristles, especially those made of man-made fibers, and ruin your expensive, pretty brushes. Save your money and just wait a little longer.

Avoid Alcohol

Cleansing sprays do contain a bit of alcohol, yes, but they are not meant to be used every day. It can dry out the natural fibers and make the bristles break off, just like your hair does when you get split ends.