We Put 3 Popular DIY Makeup Brush Cleaners to the Test

Makeup Brushes

 JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

When was the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes? If you have to think about it, it’s probably been too long. According to makeup artist Kristine Cruz, to avoid bacteria, dander, and old makeup buildup, you should deep clean your brushes every couple weeks. That makes most people way past due for a brush cleaning. Since I desperately needed to clean my own brushes, I decided to make my own DIY makeup brush cleaner with the help of Pinterest.

While it crossed my mind to buy a brush cleaner, I decided against it when I realized it meant running to the store and dropping $15 on what is essentially soap and water. So, instead, I went to the best place on the web for a good DIY recipe. With many homemade brush cleaners on Pinterest to choose from, I decided to test out three different recipes based on reviews and the ingredients I had in my kitchen. I also reached to a few experts for some advice.

After all, the whole point of a DIY is not having to run to the store, right?

Check out our honest reviews of some of the most popular DIY makeup brush cleanser recipes on Pinterest.

Meet the Expert

Kristine Cruz is a hair and make-up artist based in New York City. She has worked with the likes of Nicole Scherzinger, Jessica Alba, Jordan Dunn, and Cat Deely.

1. Witch Hazel and Soap

person pouring liquid soap into their hand
  Ruslan Dashinsky / Getty Images

The first DIY cleanser I chose to try was a Castile soap and witch hazel combination. While the recipe wasn't very precise on proportions. I used one container of Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Witch Hazel ($9) and a couple drops of Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby-Mild Pure Castile Soap ($11). I combined the two in a clean spray bottle, shook up the mixture up, and started spraying my brushes. After giving each brush a spray, I gently wiped off the cleaner with a paper towel. Much to my delight, and disgust, a ton of product—and quite possibly bacteria—transferred onto the towel.

2. Castile Soap and Water

Person washing makeup brushes
  Dmytro Pokulityi / Getty Images

I'm not so sure you can actually call this a DIY, as the recipe for this brush cleaner consists only of Castile soap (a pure chemical free soap) and tap water. However, the simpler the recipe, the less it costs, so I figured it was worth trying.

Cruz reveals that this all-natural approach helps to remove both debris and bacteria. Because it's gentle and non-toxic, it's also a great option for someone with sensitive skin, she adds.

While most instructions say to dip your brush in a small bowl of Castile soap and rinse, I found a solution of the soap and water mixture was easier to swirl my brush in, and was actually much more effective at removing left over product and bacteria. While I found this recipe a bit more effective at cleaning my brushes than the witch hazel spray I previously tried, it did take significantly longer for my brushes to dry.

When speaking to Cruz, I also learned that a mixture of 1 tbsp Castille soap, 1 tbsp hydrogen peroxide, and 2 tbsp water also does the trick.

She recommends mixing the aforementioned ingredients in a small plastic bowl and then dipping your brushes into the mixture. Swirl brush in a small sifter until the water runs clear from make-up debris. Squeeze excess water off the brushes. Use the left over mixture to soak brushes in for 10 minutes. Rinse the brushes and finally let them completely air dry or use microfiber cloth to aid in drying faster.

Cruz notes that Castile soap is sulfate free so it will not dry your brushes out.

3. Witch Hazel and Grapeseed Oil

a person pouring oil into a wooden bowl
serezniy / Getty Images

The last DIY makeup brush cleaner I tried was a combination of the first two, in that it combined large amounts of Castile soap, water, and witch hazel. However, this time around a nourishing oil was also needed.

Cruz reveals that coconut oil is also great for brush cleansing. Thanks to its natural anti fungal properties, it also gets rid of bacteria instantly. This method is additionally great for natural bristles because it conditions with mineral protection. Lavender or grapeseed oil can also be used in this scenario. Much like coconut oil, they are natural antibacterial and anti-microbial agents that can rid your brushes of stubborn particles/oil and air-borne pathogens.

The recipe I use is as follows: half a cup of witch hazel, two tablespoons Castile soap, one teaspoon nourishing oil (I used Now's Grape Seed Oil, $8), and one cup distilled water.

After combining all of the ingredients in a bowl, I swirled my brushes around in the mixture, rinsed them out in the sink, and wiped them dry. While this recipe left my brushes very wet (I had to let them dry overnight), come the next morning, my brushes were noticeably cleaner and super soft. I'm glad to say I have found my new go-to brush cleaner.

Final Takeaway

These tried-and-true concoctions are just some of the many ways to maintain and clean your makeup brushes. Unlike some of the brands you may see in your local drug or beauty supply store, DIY options offer a more natural process for both your beauty tools and your skin.

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