Here's Exactly How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

makeup brushes with beige border

Alberto Bogo/Design by Tiana Crispino

While cleaning your makeup brushes might feel like an arduous task at times, keeping them free from bacteria is extremely important and something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Not only does regular cleaning help preserve the look and overall condition of your brushes, but it also gets rid of all the nasty germs hiding in between the brush hairs.

When it comes down to it, how should you actually clean your brushes? As a professional makeup artist, I've found that nothing beats an old-fashioned deep cleanse once a week—but you do have options. Ahead, a simple list of all the ways you can give your makeup brushes a thorough cleaning. You might find that you actually enjoy the process, after all!

01 of 08

Use a Store-Bought Cleanser

Cinema Secrets Brush Cleanser
Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner $24
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Buying pre-formulated makeup brush cleansers are great for when you’re pressed for time. Pro-makeup artists will use them on set in between models and clients to keep brushes sanitary, and you can utilize these cleansers at home when you don’t have time to do a deep rinse and overnight dry. The directions for these cleansers are straightforward and easy to use, you will need to spray or pour the solution directly on the brush and massage it on a cloth or paper towel to rid it of all lingering product residue. Some recommended products are Parian Spirit Brush Cleaner and Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner.

02 of 08

Opt for Dish Soap and Baby Shampoos

beautyblender blendercleanser
Beautyblender Blendercleanser Solid Pro $45
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If you’re wondering what kinds of shampoo or soaps to use for cleaning brushes, Castille soaps such as Dr. Bronners, dish soaps, and even baby shampoos are gentle enough to use for washing. With dish soap, remember: a little goes a long way and most are formulated to remove heavy grease and build-up. When using liquid soaps and shampoos, wet your bristles first to help them pick up the cleansers more easily.

There are also bar soaps formulated to cleanse makeup brushes such as this one from Beautyblender.

03 of 08

Try a Dry Shampoo for Makeup Brushes

anisa beauty brush cleaner
Anisa Beauty Quick Dry Cleaner Spray $8
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Wait, there’s a dry shampoo for makeup brushes? This method might sound like a head-scratcher, yet a dry shampoo method for cleaning brushes actually exists, and it’s genius. To get acquainted with this particular method of cleansing, we spoke to Anisa Telwar Kaicker, CEO and Founder of makeup brush brand Anisa Beauty for her expert tips on the subject. “Using a dry shampoo formulated for makeup brushes is safe for daily or weekly use," she says. "I always use a paper towel or cloth to wipe the top layer off the brush fibers whenever I use a brush. Then, depending on how creative I got with a product, I'll add the Anisa Beauty Quick Dry Cleaner Spray to the process to help get any and all product out of the brush hairs.”

Is this method really effective for cleaning brushes, though? “Dry shampoo is very effective and is great for travel or a quick clean at the end of each use," Kaicker reiterates. "Think of it like 'dry cleaning' for your brushes, as it gets rid of surface oil and dirt for everyday use with no need for water and no downtime.

04 of 08

Reach For Gloves

Probably one of the most standard ways of cleaning makeup brushes is to put on clean rubber gloves, add cleanser to the palm of your hand, wet brushes and massage them in the cleanser for a deep clean. Rinse your makeup brushes under lukewarm water, squeeze out all the excess, and lay flat to dry overnight. If you don’t have gloves, you use your bare hands, just ensure the water isn’t too hot to avoid any discomfort.

If you’ve just purchased new makeup brushes, Kaicker recommends giving them a good shampoo from the start. “Always wash new brushes before using them for the first time," she says. "Just like cleaning your undergarments before wearing them, the same goes for brushes before touching them to your skin.”

05 of 08

Use a Silicone Cleansing Pad

sigma express spa cleansing mat
Sigma Beauty Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat $29
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Using a silicone brush cleansing pad equipped with tiny raised bumps or grooves can help gently remove impurities without compromising the quality of your brush hairs. All you need to do is pour some brush cleanser that suds on the pad and swirl your brushes in a circular motion until all the product is gone.

If you feel that your brush isn’t totally clean, rinse it and then start the process again on the pad. Of most methods to clean brushes, this is the one I utilize the most. Sigma Beauty Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat is a great tool to utilize when cleaning brushes.

06 of 08

Try a Brush Cleaning Machine

Lilumia Makeup Brush Cleaner
Lilumia 2 Makeup Brush Cleaner Device $88
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Why clean each individual brush when you can have a machine do it for you? Yes, makeup brush cleaning machines exist and they clean and dry your brushes in record time. For most machines, like the Lilumia 2 Makeup Brush Cleaner Device you can add your preferred cleanser, insert your brushes and then let the machine do the rest of the work. The machine will pulse and move brushes around while adding cleanser to the mix to get a sudsy clean, and some have an internal drying feature to speed up drying time, too.

07 of 08

DIY Your Solution

Want to get crafty and make your own brush cleansing solution? You can absolutely do so with a few key ingredients: Apple cider vinegar is quite popular for at-home cleaning products. Mix one teaspoon with a cup of warm water. (You can even add some lemon juice to the mixture if you’re not a fan of the vinegar scent.) Thoroughly coat each brush head with this solution and rinse until the water runs clear.

If you have a lot of brushes to clean, you might need to refill your bowl a few times to ensure you’re not cleaning all of your makeup brushes in soiled water.

08 of 08

Remember to Disinfect

In addition to shampooing and washing your brushes, don’t overlook the disinfecting method. While most soaps and store-bought cleansers come with disinfecting and anti-microbial ingredients, it’s imperative to disinfect your makeup brushes with rubbing alcohol at least once a month. (If you’re a pro makeup artist, you should be disinfecting your brushes in between each use.)

You can do this by spraying the alcohol directly onto the bristles, removing it with a paper towel. Remember to wipe brush handles as well and be mindful when using alcohol as many brushes carry natural brush hairs.

Up Next: How to Sanitize Your Makeup: The Complete Guide

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