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Makeup brushes are essential tools in almost every makeup routine. They do everything from blending, smoothing, and buffing anything from foundation to bronzer onto the skin. And if you’re applying makeup daily—whether a full face or just a touch of it—that means your brushes are working hard.
Now, here's the no-so-fun part. Over time, your brushes and sponges become the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, dead skin cells, oils, and dirt. All this buildup can begin to clog your pores and cause breakouts. Plus, dirty brushes don’t work as well as clean brushes do—makeup can end up looking streaky and uneven do to the gunky bristles. Grossed out yet? Don’t worry—it’s never too late to start getting your brushes in perfect shape.
From daily disinfecting to deep cleaning, we’ve rounded up the best makeup brush cleaners out there.
Best Overall: MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser
This pink bottle is a best-seller for a reason. Users love this cleanser for a number of reasons, including its ease of use. Simply apply the formula onto your brush or into a towel, then run the brush back and forth on the towel until clean.
Best Antimicrobial: Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner
For makeup artists (or just about anyone), this liquid cleaner is a godsend. Not only is it quick-drying, but it’s 99.99% antimicrobial disinfectant, which effectively kills bacteria. Plus, it can be used on both natural and synthetic fibers.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Daily Brush Cleaner
For a few bucks, you can have a brush cleaner wherever you go. Small, but mighty, you’re able to tote this spray almost anywhere, including your carry-on. The formula is gentle enough for everyday use, so if you’re a total clean freak, you can spritz this on at the end of each day. Just make sure your brushes are fully dry before using the next morning.
Best Drugstore: Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Gel
I’ve been using this cleanser gel for years. It’s convenient to purchase—find it at any drugstore—and it successfully gets the ick out of my brushes. It’s also free of alcohol and lathers quite nicely. Pair it with our favorite mats below for major cleaning power.
Best Spray: Make Up For Ever Instant Brush Cleanser
Get instant purification with one spritz. Spray directly onto your brush, then rub in circular motions over a tissue or paper towel to remove debris. Bonus: This spray has no fragrance for those with a sensitive nose.
Best for Sensitive Skin: EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo
Fussy skin? Like your makeup or skincare products, the cleanser for your brush shouldn’t irritate your skin either. Which is why we love this brush cleansing shampoo from EcoTools. It’s dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and formulated with plant-derived ingredients, so it’s safe and gentle for even the most sensitive skin types.
Best Deep Cleaner: Missha Deep Clean Brush Cleanser
Plant extracts do the dirty work in this deep cleaning formula. It works to gently strip excess oil and makeup from bristles, without damaging them. Pair with a mat or simply use your palm—lather up with the brush, then rinse with water.
Best Solid: Japonesque Solid Brush Cleanser
With ingredients like goat’s milk and coconut, this solid brush cleanser is a great alternative to its liquid counterparts. Simply swirl the bristles onto the actual product under running water and watch leftover makeup and residue go right down the drain.
Best for Everyday: Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser
This cleanser pick is great for everyday use—simply spray your brushes on both sides, wipe off dirt and debris with a tissue or towel, then let dry. Air drying should take just a few minutes, and you’re ready to use your brushes.
Best Conditioning: bareMinerals Well-Cared For Makeup Brush Cleaner
This foaming cleanser not only gets every bristle squeaky clean but also conditions them at the same time. After drying, the end result is a soft, flexible finish.
Best for Sponges: Beauty Blender Instaclean
Need a clean sponge immediately? This waterless spray eliminates surface stains quickly, even in the middle of applying a full face of makeup. To refresh your sponge, spray onto the sponge until it’s completely saturated, then wipe onto a tissue or towel to remove makeup.
Best Mat: Sigma Beauty Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Mat
Transform your sink into the ultimate cleansing station. We love this large mat for when you have to clean every brush in your arsenal. With seven textures, it gets the grime out of all your brushes—whether it’s a dense contouring brush or a soft eyeshadow blender. Using your fave cleanser, swirl brushes into the mat and wash every speck of bacteria away.
Best Handheld Mat: Practk Palmat Makeup Brush Cleaner
Want the power of a mat, but would rather keep it compact? This handheld version is for you. Whether you’re right or left-handed, the adjustable strap is able to conform to any hand shape and size. Not only does it fit right in the palm of your hand, but it’s also got three textures to clean every type of brush.
Best Splurge: Tom Ford Brush Cleaner
Sure, this gorgeous bottle would elevate your vanity lineup, but it’s the formula inside that does all the work. It cleanses, disinfects, and conditions your makeup brushes for a smoother application and longer brush life. You need two sprays, one on either side of the brush, then tissue off, and air dry for up to two minutes.
Best for Powders: Anisa The Wash
This unique wash specifically targets powder-based makeup formulas, like pigmented blush or contour. With ingredients derived from amethyst and coconut, this foaming formula effectively gets rid of buildup, even deep within your brushes. Pro tip: Don’t add water until you’re ready to rinse your brushes off.
Best Alcohol-Free: Sephora Collection Daily Brush Cleaner
No alcohol means no drying and no irritation. We recommend spraying onto a towel, saturating it, and then running the head of the brush against that wet surface until it’s clean. This can be on both natural and synthetic bristles.