5 Ways To Clean Makeup Brushes (Useful)

Do you remember the last time you searched for ways to clean makeup brushes? If that makes you scratch your head or think ‘why do I need to clean them at all’, then my friend you are committing a heinous crime against your skin. I find it surprising to see how people often neglect this important aspect of self-hygiene and are clueless about what causes constant breakouts on their skin despite following a skincare routine.

Well, the truth is that just using the best skin care products and following a routine diligently is not enough. You also need to take care of the things that come in contact with your skin, and one such important tool is makeup brush. They come in all shapes and sizes to apply the eye shadow, blusher, concealer, lipsticks, and so on.

While you contour, highlight, and paint your face with the makeup brushes, they pick a lot of skin cells, oils, and debris that accumulate over time to become a breeding ground for bacteria. As brushes and sponges are made of porous materials, they can hold on to all that gunk that gets re-applied on your skin when you use them without cleaning.

Why You Need To Clean Makeup Brushes

According to a New York-based dermatologist, the buildup of dirt, oil, and bacteria on makeup brushes can lead to acne breakouts and skin rashes.  Besides the ugly consequences that come in the form of congestion, skin irritation, and breakouts, the brushes also become limp and clogged bristles fail to blend evenly on your skin.

Sharing makeup applicators is also a big NO because this not only spreads the bacteria but also germ-laden viruses that may cause diseases like conjunctivitis, flu, and cold sores.

Dirty makeup brushes also accelerate the aging process. They may contribute to skin collagen, free radicals, and elastin breakdown, all of which are responsible for premature skin aging.

Although you cannot see the creepy crawlies on your caked makeup brushes with naked eyes, you will be disgusted if you saw them under a microscope and with every sweep of that brush, you plant those dirt mites and bacteria on your facial skin. Eww! Sounds scary, but it’s true.

How Often Should You Clean Makeup Brushes

This will depend on how much you use them. Those who apply makeup every day need to clean their brushes twice or thrice a week. People from the entertainment industry, such as movies, television, and theater artists who apply heavy makeup daily may need to clean them every day or even between the shots.

For average users, cleaning the concealer and foundation brushes once a week may be enough to prevent the buildups. The finer brushes that are used around the eyes should also be cleaned at least twice every month. Other brushes can be cleaned monthly.

The type of makeup you apply with the brushes may also determine how often you need to clean them. For example, the powder-based makeup can be removed by cleaning weekly, but the liquid applications should be cleaned immediately after use to prevent them from drying up on the brushes.

DIY Ways To Clean Makeup Brushes

Nothing feels better than a  bouncy and squeaky clean makeup brush on the skin! Cleaning the brushes not only restores their original color but also makes the bristles live longer and allow a better application. It’s good to know that you are only applying makeup on your skin and not spreading the dirt, bacteria, and oils. Here are a few DIY ways to clean makeup brushes.

# Soap And Water Method

This is the easiest and simplest ways to clean makeup brushes using things easily available at home. You will first need to choose the right cleanser that will not damage the brushes. There are several cleaning products specially designed for cleaning makeup brushes and we will discuss them below.

If you don’t have those products at hand, you can also use a mild baby shampoo or any other gentle soap like the liquid Castile soap for cleaning. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1. First, wash the bristles of the makeup brush in lukewarm water. Avoid wetting below the metal clasp as this may destroy the glue that holds the bristles together. Wash in water until most of the caked-up old makeup residues are removed.

Step 2. Hold the brush under running warm water and keep the bristled angled downwards the water so that only the brush/ sponge part comes in contact with water. Avoid using hot water as too much heat can spoil the bristles.

Step 3: Rub the bristles gently with your fingers and separate them as the water runs down to ensure that water reaches to the center of each brush.

Step 4: Next, create a soap bath for your brush and to do this, take a small bowl of lukewarm water and add a teaspoon of baby shampoo to it. Stir gently to dissolve the soap completely. If the brushes are very dirty, you may consider applying the soap directly on the bristles.

Step 5: Now, dip the brush into the soapy mixture and swirl it. Remember to swirl only the bottom half of the bristles to prevent water from reaching up to the handle. After some time, remove the brush from the bowl and loosen up the dirt by massaging the bristles.

Step 6: Rinse under lukewarm water and continue to work on the bristles under running water to ensure that the grime and old makeup residue stuck in the middle also comes out completely. Avoid wetting the handle while you clean.

Step 7: If you haven’t cleaned the brushes for ages, you might need to repeat the wash and rinse a few more times to get clean bristles. If the rinse water running out of the brush appears cloudy, wash again until the water becomes completely clear.

Step 8: Next, pat the bristles to make them dry. You may use a soft towel to gently absorb some moisture. Cover the bristles with one end of the towel and squeeze with your fingers to dry.

Step 9: Washing the makeup brushes may turn the bristles limp or crooked, hence you need to reshape them to look like before. You may use your fingers to spread, straighten and pull the bristles back into their original shape.

Step 10: Now, let the brushes air dry completely before you put them back. Never lay them on a towel because this may cause mildew. Set the brush down on a counter with the bristles side hanging downwards (you can use this drying rack) so that the water runs outs instead of getting trapped inside.

Step 11: Ruffle the bristles slightly and when the brushes are completely dry, fluff a bit more. The brushes are now clean and ready to use once again.

Steps To Remove Oil-Based Makeup From Brushes

Oil and cream-based makeup may look great on your skin but they can be detrimental for your makeup brushes if neglected. Inspect the brushes closely to see if they have cream-based makeup residues and if they do, soap and water alone cannot clean them. You will need something to cut that oily grime and nothing works better than oil!

Step 1: Pour a little olive oil or almond oil on a folded tissue paper and gently rub the bristles of the brush against it. Alternatively, you may pour a few drops of oil in a very small bowl and swirl the brush. Remember to not soak the brush in oil, just run it gently, back and forth to dislodge the dirt.

Step 2: Now, run the brushes under warm water with the angles of the bristles downwards into the jet of water. Make sure you avoid wetting the handle part of the brushes as this could cause rusting in the metal clip. Too much moisture in the bursts may also loosen the glue. Let the water keep running through the bristles until the caked up residue of old makeup is removed completely. Remember to not use hot water as the heat may the bristles fall apart.

Step 3: Take a small blob of baby shampoo or any gentle liquid soap on your palm and swirl the bristles in circular motions. The soap/ shampoo should work into the bristles and you should be able to feel them on your skin. After a few minutes, you can see the shampoo become dark due to the dirt coming out of the bristles.

Step 4: Now, rinse the brushes under running water (preferably lukewarm) and use your hands to gently rub the bristles to remove the shampoo residues. Please remember to avoid getting to the brush handle every time you use water and keep washing until the water runs clear. If the brushes still feel slimy to touch and water doesn’t turn clear, you may need to repeat the above step and clean with soap again.

Step 5: Pat the bristles to make them dry and bring them back to shape. To do this, take the clean brush and carefully fold it a soft cloth or towel around the bristles. Squeeze out excess water with your fingers and remove the brush. Reshape the bristles by gently pressing them, fanning them and pulling them together to a point in order to restore the original shape.

Step 6: Finally, dry the brushes by following the method mentioned above – put the handle part on a table or counter, and let the bristles stick out of the edge. In some brushes, a few bristles may stick together even after they are dry. Just pick them up and give a nice fluff.

Using A Mat To Clean Makeup Brushes

If you have a collection of say 15 or more makeup brushes, the very thought of cleaning them may freak you out. But, don’t get intimidated because you can clean them with less effort and time by using a textured mat (see Amazon). It aids in removing the oldest gunk and caked makeup without getting your hands too dirty. Plus, rubbing the brushes on a soft and textured mat helps in cleaning more efficiently than massaging with your fingers.

The mats are divided into numerous sections that have different textures meant to work efficiently with different types of brushes and sponges. They are designed in a way to clean brushes that have a unique shape and bristle length. The mats also have suction cups at the back so they stay at one place on the sink while you clean.

Based on your personal preferences, you may choose to use a mild foam, liquid soap, or mild baby shampoo. Some people also prefer to use solid cleansing bars or wet tools. One such example is the Dial soap, easily available at the drugstores. It is an anti-bacterial soap that can remove oils, makeup residues, and kill germs too.

The steps for cleaning with the help of mat is almost the same as the above DIY ways to clean makeup brushes, just for the fact that it is slightly more expensive (cost of the mat plus the cleaning solution or bar). However, mark my words that cleaning with the help of a mat is more fun as you don’t need to do all that dirty work with your hands. After you are done, just rinse the mat by putting it under running water.

I prefer hanging them to dry on a wooden cutting board by fastening the handles with a few rubber bands (see Amazon). When using a mat, it hardly takes me about 15 minutes to clean my 7 brushes and 3 sponges. I let them dry overnight and the next morning I feel elated to find clean and odorless makeup tools ready to use again.

Dos And Don’ts For Cleaning Makeup Brushes

These are delicate tools that need to be handled with care while applying makeup or cleaning them post-application. Here are some of the dos and don’ts that you need to keep in mind for self-hygiene and to ensure that these tools last longer.


  • Make sure you always dry the makeup brushes in a well-ventilated area. If you keep them in closed rooms that do not have enough airflow, this might result in the growth of mildew and foul smell on the bristles.
  • Always store the brushes in the right way and when they are completely dry, keep them upright in a cup or you may lay them on their side. Never keep them pointing downwards or the bristles may bent.
  • When carrying the brushes in your bag, always keep them flat on a brush case that is specially made to fit them snugly.
  • Disinfect the brushes before you set them to dry or even while washing with a vinegar-water solution. Don’t worry about the smell of vinegar because it will disappear once the brushes dry completely.
    To do this, take a small bowl and fill it with one part vinegar and two parts of water. Swirl the brushes in the vinegar solution but avoid wetting the section where the bristles meet the handle. Rinse clean and let dry.
  • Remember to store your makeup brushes in a closed container when not in use to prevent pollutants such as dirt and dust from getting on the bristles. You can also store them in a pencil case or makeup bag.


  • Don’t keep the makeup brushes upright to dry. If the water travels down to the shaft area, this may cause it to rust or rot. It may also weaken the adhesive that holds the bristles together. Hence, let the brushes dry completely before you store them upright again.
  • Never use heating tools like a flatiron or hairdryer on your makeup brushes as the bristles are weaker than the hair on your head. The intense heat emanating from these devices will spoil the fibers, even if they are natural fibers like camel or sable hair.
  • Don’t ever fill the sink with water and let your brushes soak as this can ruin the wooden handle causing it to warp over time. This will also cause water to seep in the base of the bristles and weaken the glue. You would definitely not want the bristles to come off and stick to your cheek just after you have set the base perfectly. 

Top 5 Makeup Brushes Cleaning Products

If you are looking for gadgets and tools that have automated options to clean the brushes quickly then consider your wish granted. The skincare industry knows how important it is to take care of the things you use to apply makeup, hence they have created smart products to help you get the job done quickly. Here are the top 5 makeup brush cleaning products:

1. Automatic Makeup Brush Cleaner and Dryer

This is one of the most beautifully designed makeup brush cleaning device (see Amazon) powered by the 2 AAA-batteries. It comes with 8 collars of different sizes that are flexible enough to fit several types of cosmetic brushes. The cleaner is made of the finest PET material to ensure durability and resistance to rust and damage. It is capable of thoroughly cleaning and drying the makeup brushes in just 4 simple steps that take a few seconds to complete.

2. Lilumia 2 Makeup Brush Cleaner Device

A smart makeup brush cleaning appliance (see Amazon) that can clean up to 12 different brushes at a time, and work with both natural and synthetic brushes at the push of a button. It is capable of removing stubborn dirt and oil buildup on the brushes to ensure that you don’t get blemishes or breakouts. The  Additional Rinse Cycle works by removing any leftover remnants of the cleanser or makeup. With its one solid wash cycle and three rinse cycles, it restores brushes to their original condition without you having to do anything.

3. Ranphykx Silicon Makeup Brush Cleaning Tool

Made of 7 types of screw thread design, this tool is capable of thoroughly cleaning the different types of brushes that are used on cheeks and around the eyes. The apple design ensures that it perfectly fits in all sinks and the eco-friendly silica gel takes care of your skin. The mat has suction cups at the back to help it to stay in place while you do the cleaning. It is highly portable, hence you can fold and carry it with you. You can get it on Amazon

4. BEAKEY Makeup Brush Drying Rack & Makeup Brush Cleaning Mat

This awesome kit (see Amazon) is something every makeup enthusiast must-have! It contains an air tower brush holder and a cleaning mat. While the mat enables you to clean the makeup brushes thoroughly, the drying rack with 28 different holes makes it possible to dry brushes of various sizes together. Thus, it doesn’t take a lot of space or create any mess. The Cleaning mat is Apple shaped and it’s easy to carry and use. It is made of eco-friendly silicone rubber material and has five chassis at the back to clean the brushes.

5. Automatic Makeup Brush Cleaner & Dryer

If you dislike hand cleaning the brushes and find it gross to have the buildups stick on your fingers, get this automatic makeup brush cleaner and dryer from the house of RICRIS. This smart tool can thoroughly clean and dry the makeup brushes in seconds without any mess. The manufacturer claims that the spinner is 99% effective at removing makeup residue, dirt, dead skin cells, and oils on the brushes. The device is battery powered and made of eco-friendly material to be safe on your skin. It is backed by a 1-year manufacturer warranty.

Signs That Tell When It’s Time To Toss Your Makeup Brushes

You may have an emotional connection with your favorite makeup brush, but like everything else, it also comes with an expiry date. No matter how much you clean or wash them, this can only make them last longer but there comes a time when you need to replace. But, how to know when it’s time to toss the old makeup brushes and get new ones? Here are some signs to look out for.

# Application of makeup not even as before

If you notice the makeup application going slump and not as even as before, this could be due to worn out makeup brushes. Applying makeup products using exhausted tools will give you a subpar appearance, hence they need to be replaced immediately. 

# Bristles feel dry like straw

If you wash your makeup brushes often (check out the ways to clean make brushes above), you will notice that they become dry and brittle after some time. If the bristles have become too fragile and come off easily, you will have a hard time applying makeup with it. When this happens, know that it’s time to invest in a fresh set of brushes.

# Bristles losing their bounciness

With regular use, the bristles tend to lose their original shape and more so if you are rough with them or smash them against your cheekbones. It’s normal for the bristles to bend and break slightly with use, but if they don’t bounce back after bending, it’s a sure sign that you need to get new brushes.

# Bristles shedding too much

It’s normal for the bristles to shed once in a while, but if they are shedding too much lately then chances are the adhesive that hold them together has become too weak. To avoid having bristles stick on your face or lying in the sink, toss the old makeup brushes and get new ones.

# After you get over a bad flu

If you have just recovered from a bad flu, make a list of things that you use daily, such as toothbrush, makeup brush etc, and make sure you replace them to avoid harboring viruses.

# Sponges starting to crumble and crack

Makeup sponges are made of soft and delicate materials hence they can last only as much. If you invest in good quality sponges and clean them regularly, they may stay good for a long time but eventually you will start seeing cracks. This means it’s time to retire the old sponges and buy new ones.

# Frequent breakouts

If you notice frequent breakouts on your face, chances are your makeup brushes and sponges are covered with dirt and germs. They often have more bacteria than you can remove by simply cleaning with water and soap. You know your skin type well and if there are breakouts that appear out of the way, it is important to investigate the reasons.

# Broken handles

The makeup brushes made of eco-friendly materials are built to last but if they are exposed to water, the brush handle can begin to warp and fall apart. That’s why you must carefully follow the ways to clean makeup brushes correctly as mentioned above. If for any reason the handle becomes loose, it will not apply the makeup properly, hence it should be replaced.

#Cracked brushes

If you dropped your makeup brush accidentally and cracked some part of the handle or ferrule, it’s time to get a new set of makeup applicators. I know it’s hard to toss away favorite tools but cracks can harbor germs and bacteria that can get transferred to your face, so better be safe than sorry!

Related Questions

Is there a way to clean makeup brushes without water?

Yes, you can use a dry shampoo like the one by Sephora to remove the old residue, debris, and dirt from both synthetic and natural makeup brushes. Just spray the shampoo on your brushes and swirl it around in a tissue paper or cleaning cloth to see all the gunk come out with ease. The best part is that your brushes stay dry the whole time.

How often should you clean the brush?

The sad truth is that 70% of women don’t clean their makeup brushes until they start smelling bad or stop applying products evenly on the face. As a rule of the thumb, you must clean the brushes every week. Choose any one night, Saturday or Sunday night to follow the easy and quick ways to clean makeup brushes. Some women who wear a lot of makeup every day must clean them in every 3-4 days or spot-clean in between applications.

What can I use to clean eyeshadow brush between different colors?

If you wish to create a dramatic eye look with multiple colors, consider using a sponge to clean after a sweep of each color used. The rough texture of the sponge will help in rubbing off the old color pigments from the bristles.

See Also:
How To Clean Dried Polyurethane From Paint Brush
How Long Does A Beauty Blender Last
How To Remove Lip Gloss From Clothing
10 Back To School Organization Tips For Your Home

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