These Are the Best Makeup Brush Cleansers Out There

We searched for cleansers that will make your brushes sparkle

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Best Makeup Brush Cleaners

Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

If you’re anything like us, cleaning your makeup brushes often falls into that “eh, I can probably skip it” category of tasks. But here’s the thing: Keeping your brushes clean is essential for the health of your skin and the efficacy of your brushes. The hard truth of the matter is that dirty brushes and sponges can quickly become a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, oil, dead skin cells, and other grime—all of which consistently get transferred onto your skin (and into your products) every time you use them. Plus, dirty brushes simply don’t work as well. “Clean makeup brushes will give you the best application possible,” says expert Anisa Telwar Kaicker, since built-up product and pigment on dirty brushes can leave your makeup looking streaky and discolored. 

Meet the Expert

Anisa Telwar Kaicker is a makeup brush expert and the founder & CEO of ANISA Beauty and Anisa International.

So, how often should you actually be cleaning your brushes? Kaicker says it depends on how frequently you use the brush and the type of formula you’re using it with. “Cream and liquid formulas tend to pick up and hold on to oil and dirt more so than powder products,” she explains. As a general rule of thumb, she suggests cleaning your complexion brushes at least once per week and other ones (eye shadow, highlighter, etc.) every two to three weeks.

Here’s the good news: There’s a litany of different makeup brush cleansers on the market that make it easier than ever to get your brushes (and sponges) squeaky clean with minimal effort required.

Meet the Expert

Ashley Rebecca, professional makeup artist in New York City and Byrdie contributing writer.

Keep reading for more on our favorites.

Best Overall: MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser

MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleaner

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Pretty packaging

  • Works quickly

  • Keeps brushes soft

What We Don't Like
  • Not for deep cleaning

Who else recommends it? Allure, Reader's Digest, and Best Products all picked the MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser.

What do buyers say? 300+ Macy's reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

There’s a good reason why this is a long-time best-seller. It’s super easy to use—you can apply a bit directly to the brush or onto a towel and rub the brush against the towel—and it helps condition bristles while getting them nice and clean. It’s a top pick for Kaicker, who says that it’s extremely effective at removing debris from brushes.

Active Ingredients: Sodium trideceth sulfate, hydrolyzed wheat protein | Size: 7.9 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Daily Brush Cleaner

e.l.f. Daily Brush Cleaner

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Travel-friendly

  • Can be used daily

  • Dries quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't come in a larger size

Not only is this a super affordable pick, but it’s also very portable, making it the ideal addition to any makeup bag. Mist the quick-drying spray onto your brushes after each use to ensure they’re fresh and ready to go for the next day.

Active Ingredients: Alcohol denat | Size: 2 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Gel

Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Gel

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Lathers well

  • Lightweight gel texture

  • Removes powder residue well

What We Don't Like
  • Contains parabens

The gel formula of this wallet-friendly pick lathers extremely nicely. It also pairs beautifully with a brush cleaning mat (keep reading for our favorite one of those). And since it’s alcohol-free, you don’t have to worry about it drying out your natural bristle brushes.

Active Ingredients: Sodium laureth sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine | Size: 5.1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Antimicrobial: Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner

Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • No rinsing required

  • Smells nice

What We Don't Like
  • Contains parabens

This is a staple among many pro makeup artists, largely because it’s not just a cleanser. It’s a 99.99 percent antimicrobial disinfectant, making it the choice for anyone who wants to ensure their brushes are completely bacteria-free. The pro-grade formula works equally well on synthetic and natural bristles alike, and it comes in three sizes.

Active Ingredients: Isoparaffin hydrocarbon, hydrotreated heavy naptha | Size: 8 fl. oz. and 32 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo

EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • Budget-friendly

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don't Like
  • Can leave a slight residue

Cleaning your brushes regularly is even more imperative if you have sensitive skin, but making sure you do so with a gentle cleanser is also paramount. The last thing you want is a formula that’s potentially going to elicit more irritation, which is why this pick is ideal. It’s gentle, plant-based, free of potentially-irritating fragrance and parabens, and dermatologist-tested. Just FYI, it’s meant to be used for a weekly deep clean rather than a daily freshening.

Active Ingredients: Decyl glucoside, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate | Size: 6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Mat: Sigma Beauty Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Mat

Sigma Beauty Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat

Sigma Beauty

What We Like
  • Cleans multiple brushes at once

  • Fun color

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't include a cleanser

Up your cleansing game by pairing your fave cleanser with this mat. Pop it in your sink, and you can effectively clean all your makeup brushes in one fell swoop; it touts seven different textures that will get the residue out from all of your tools. Just swirl your brushes against the mat and let the silicone nubs do the hard work for you.

Size: 9 x 6.5 in. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Spray: Anisa Beauty Quick Dry Brush Cleaner Spray

Anisa Beauty Quick Dry Brush Cleaner Spray

Anisa Beauty

What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Alcohol-free formula

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for deep cleaning

Spray cleaners are ideal for quick, on-the-go freshening, and this is one of our all-time favorites. Yes, it immediately removes residue from bristles, but more importantly, it dries pretty much instantaneously, meaning you can even use it right before putting on your makeup without having to wait for your brushes to dry. Per that point, happy reviewers refer to it as a dry shampoo for your brushes.

Active Ingredients: Disiloxane | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Solid: Jenny Patinkin Luxury Vegan Makeup Brush Soap

Jenny Patinkin Luxury Vegan Makeup Brush Soap

Neiman Marcus

What We Like
  • Natural formula

  • Travel-friendly

What We Don’t Like
  • Coconut oil can be comedogenic for some

Solid cleansers are the choice for travel since there’s no stressing about spills. This one is not only our favorite solid, but it’s also a great option for anyone who wants a totally clean and natural cleanser. It contains just three ingredients: coconut milk, vegetable glycerine, and coconut oil. Still, it’s naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial (thanks to the coconut oil) and also deeply conditioning for your bristles.

Active Ingredients: Coconut milk | Size: 2.6. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Wipes: Artis Brush Cleansing Wipes

Artis Brush Cleansing Wipes

Artis

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Travel-friendly

  • Locking-lid

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains alcohol

  • Contains fragrance

As is the case for face cleansing wipes, you shouldn’t necessarily rely on this format all of the time or for a deep clean, but if you’re in a rush or on the go, they can be a very easy alternative. All you have to do is gently massage the bristles with these wipes, let the brush dry for a few minutes, and you’re good to go.

Active Ingredients: Alcohol | Size: 30 wipes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sponges: Beautyblender Blendercleanser Solid Pro

Beautyblender Blendercleanser Solid Pro

Sephora

What We Like
  • Works on brushes and sponges

  • Comes with a built-in mat

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Brushes aren’t the only tools that need to be cleaned regularly. Reach for this option for your makeup sponges. The solid cleanser is a revamped formula of the brand’s best-selling wash. Now it contains charcoal to further help pull out gunk and grime from both sponges and brushes. While it is pricey, it does come with a silicone scrubbing mat to aid in the cleaning process and double as a convenient drying stand.

Active Ingredients: Sodium palmate | Size: 5.3 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Electric: RICRIS Makeup Brush Cleaner and Dryer

RICRIS Makeup Brush Cleaner and Dryer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Cleans and dries

  • Works on many different size brushes

What We Don’t Like
  • Still need to purchase a cleanser

If you really want to make the brush cleaning process easier and more foolproof than ever, this electric device will do all of the hard work for you. Attach your brush to the electric spinner (it features attachments for eight different sizes), add some water and the cleanser of your choice to the bowl, turn on the spinner, and watch in amazement as the gunk and residue immediately come off. Dump out the liquid and spin again to get your brushes dry.

Size: Package, 5.63 x 5.51 x 4.21 in. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

Yes, you do need to be cleaning your makeup brushes regularly. The MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleaner is one of our top picks, an effective formula that also leaves your brush bristles nice and soft. If you’re in a rush or just want to quickly freshen up brushes before use, try the quick-drying Anisa Quick Dry Brush Cleaner Spray. And when your tools require an extra deep clean, consider using the antimicrobial Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner along with the Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat, which features textured silicone nubs to effectively break down and remove all kinds of gunk and grime

What to Look for in a Makeup Brush Cleaner

Gentle, Non-Damaging Formula

With proper care, your makeup brushes should last for years. Byrdie writer and makeup artist Ashley Rebecca notes that "if you don't wash your brushes and take care of them, you will start to see over time that they become very stiff in texture, usually resulting in them just needing to be thrown out." Because it's so important to wash them regularly, you'll want to choose a gentle formula that will not damage your brush's bristles.

Solvents

As much as you don't want to overdo it with harsh chemicals that will make your brushes lose bristles quickly, a cleaner should contain some type of solvent to help break down any buildup of product. You can even choose one that doesn't require any water.

Ease of Use

Ideally, you'll have plenty of time in front of a sink to do a thorough wash. But for those times you don't, a spray cleaner that air dries is a great bet. Choose a brush cleaner based on what your daily habits and beauty routines are and how often you're in a place where you can do a thorough cleaning that involves a sink and running water.

FAQ
  • Is a makeup brush cleaner worth it?

    Definitely! Provided you use your brushes regularly, of course. If makeup brushes live in the back of a drawer and you bust them out on rare occasions, decide for yourself—but if you use one or more brushes on a daily or weekly basis, you'll be best served by owning a brush cleaner.

  • What is the easiest way to clean makeup brushes?

    For liquid makeup cleaners, Rebecca instructs users to massage the product "into the hair [of the brush], move it back and forth on the mat to really work the product into the brush, then rinse under water until it runs clear and there's nothing left to get out."

  • How often should you clean makeup brushes?

    It's recommended that you clean your makeup brushes every two weeks, ideally. If you use your brushes less often, you can probably clean them monthly instead, without issue. You can also use a spray cleaner in between formal washings.

  • Can vinegar clean makeup brushes?

    Vinegar may help remove some of the bacteria from makeup brushes. However, it might not do much to remove heavy buildup. It's often used as a single step in a multi-step brush cleaning process for extra disinfecting.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. After years of not cleaning her makeup brushes regularly, she recently committed to making it a weekly activity. The Jenny Patinkin cleanser on this list is her current go-to.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The Best Makeup Brush Cleaners to Sanitize Your Tools. Allure. https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-makeup-brush-cleaners

  2. The 17 Best Makeup Brush Cleaners, According to Beauty Experts. Reader's Digest. https://www.rd.com/list/best-makeup-brush-cleaners/

  3. 10 MAKEUP BRUSH CLEANERS THAT'LL HELP PREVENT BACTERIA BUILDUP. Best Products. https://www.bestproducts.com/beauty/g542/best-makeup-brush-cleaners/

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