how to clean your makeup brushes

This is an often neglected step in our makeup routine. A lot of times I put it off because I think, “oh, they won’t dry by tomorrow and I need to use them . . . “. But, a lot of times mine are completely dry within about 30 hours, so I’ve started doing this about twice a month on Saturday mornings. 

Brushes that you use with creamy products (foundation, concelear, cream shadow, lipstick, etc) need cleaning more often than those for “dry” product use. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to clean your brushes regularly. I also use a brush cleaner spray regularly to keep them a little cleaner in between deep cleanings. 

Prepare the cleaning solution by using water + roughly a tablespoon of gentle shampoo. You can also use baby shampoo, vinegar, or tea tree oil.  

Have a fresh glass of water to rinse your brushes before cleaning them in the soapy solution. You can also simply rinse them under a faucet. 
* a few readers suggested not submerging your brushes past the metal part (or the part where the handle begins) to avoid getting water trapped in the brush. So, when you are cleaning, try to keep it on the brush hairs only!

Swirl your brush around a few times, pressing gently into the bottom of the bowl. Use your fingers to work the solution into all the brush hairs too!

Give your brushes a good rinse, and let them air dry completely before using again.

I let mine air dry on a towel, spread out so they aren’t on top of each other. Shape the brush back into the proper shape so you aren’t left with a spread out, crazy-haired brush to try to apply eyeshadow!
If you have particularaly sensitive or acne prone skin, I’d recommend washing your brushes even more regularly. Otherwise, twice a month should be plenty. Of course, the more you wash/use your brushes, the quicker they will wear out. Treat them with care, and consider a brush spray like I mentioned above to keep them in tip top shape and condition. 

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Comments (46)

  1. Lauren says
    Posted March 28, 2013

    Interesting, I may need to try this. I usually use this one:

  2. Posted March 28, 2013

    Mary Kay has a great brush spray, so I am going to try that!

  3. Posted March 28, 2013

    One thing I would add is to avoid submerging the brush past the metal shaft so that you don’t get the glue wet that is holding those bristles on! I also rinse the brush with the bristles pointing down so the water doesn’t run inside the shaft.

  4. Posted March 28, 2013

    I agree with bonnieshee, I did that once and my MAC brush now wilts the bristles. I took it back to the store, and a sale associate took one look and asked if I submerged it in water! There are easier ways if you are worried about having a shedding brush.

  5. Kate says
    Posted March 28, 2013

    For a quick clean I will use a facial cleaning cloth too. I ruined a good brush by too much water.

  6. R2P2 says
    Posted March 28, 2013

    OK, I have to say I’m a little surprised at your cleaning method. I’d always been told not to submerge the brush beyond the metal containing the bristles. I’d heard it can not only compromise the bristles’ hold but also also air doesn’t get in there so it can get icky. Which kind of defeats the purpose of cleaning the brushes. But you are a beauty professional & I trust everything else you’ve told us, so is this just over-cautious hype?

    • Kate says
      Posted March 28, 2013

      I’ve never heard that but it kind of makes sense! I’ve never had trouble cleaning my brushes this way, but it doen’t hurt to be cautious.

    • Posted July 2, 2013

      I know it is NOT a good idea to submerge the ferule (the metal part)of the brush into water and splay out the bristles like the pic shows. I have done it on brushes before & while you may get away with it once in a while it will damage the brush integrity inevitably. I researched this very thing after ruining a few of my better brushes. Makeup artists and info from manufacturers advise a brush cleaner or dipping the bristles in isopropal alcohol, swishing, shaking out excess and drying bristle down. Check out You Tube, GossMakeupArtist…Wayne Goss is informative and intertaining.

  7. Posted March 28, 2013

    This is totally off topic, lol, but have you found any cute April 2013 desktop calendars? You have posted some cute ones in the past and I just can’t seem to find one :-(. I like to have a different one each month. Thanks!

  8. Posted March 28, 2013

    Does the temperature of the water matter? If the water is hot, will it damage the integrity of the bristles?

  9. Posted March 28, 2013

    As for not submerging the brush beyond the ferrule, I think the concern is overtime loosening the glue that holds the brush hairs in place. Most folks will suggest rinsing your brushes with the hairs pointing down so as not to let water run into the ferrule. That said, there is definitely conflicting tutorials out there (I’ve seen others who have submerged their brushes as well). Chances are, it will take numerous times of submerging the brush before the glue would begin to break down. It’s a good precaution to take to just avoid submerging the brush beyond the ferrule, especially if you’ve invested a fair amount of money into a brush.

  10. Heidi says
    Posted March 28, 2013

    I’m so terrible with this! It’s just one of those things like going to the dentist that I just put off constantly.

  11. Posted March 28, 2013

    I SO need to get better about this! Thanks for sharing your tips!! : )


  12. Carly says
    Posted March 28, 2013

    I REALLY need to do this more often!


  13. Posted March 28, 2013

    I’ve heard of this method before. I usually just wash them with my hands and under running water. This seems more gentle and better for the brushes.

    Making It Sparkle

  14. Posted March 28, 2013

    I use Cetaphil and water to wash mine. It seems gentle enough to get the brush clean, but not so harsh that it’s hard on the bristles.

  15. Megan says
    Posted March 28, 2013

    I tried to use a Pinterest method that involved simple vinegar and water I think it was. It had you soak the brushes in the mixture for a certain length of time. After the time was up I wasn’t convinced that my brushes were clean, dug out some baby shampoo I had on hand for making eye makeup remover and tried that. Oh my gosh the amount of makeup that came out of my brushes turned the water dark. :O I was so grossed out. I have to remember to do this regularly to avoid that happening again. On the up side, afterwards my brushes looked like new and it felt good to do my makeup with clean brushes.

  16. JANNA says
    Posted March 28, 2013

    I also clean mine with warm water and baby shampoo and it works great!! Lots of gunk comes out of there!

  17. Posted March 28, 2013

    I use philosophy purity cleanser on my brushes now. Works great.

    I also spin them between my hands after rinsing to release any excess water and fluff them up while they dry. It makes a mess in the bathroom but I like the results.

    Good reminder, Kate!

  18. Arielle says
    Posted March 28, 2013

    I agree with the submerging part! I see you already noted that in the post. I first read NOT to do that in Bobbi Brown’s book, Makeup Manual. Prior to reading that, I had always submerged.

  19. Posted March 29, 2013

    I was about to text you the other day and ask you this very question. Adding to my to-do list. Sooooo overdue!

  20. Posted March 29, 2013

    I did not know there was a brush cleaner spray for in between cleans. Thanks for the info. The post about cleaning was also great and you are right, we don’t clean make up brushes often enough.


  21. Posted March 29, 2013

    Smart idea, indeed. Moreover, it’s so important to keep all the brushes clean, as they have direct contact with the skin.
    Concerning hair, I’ve found a great way for those who want to be rather catchy:

    Buzzed hair

  22. Posted March 29, 2013

    I finally washed my favorite brush after like….2 years of using it daily (totally gross I know), but now I’m officially a believer, it was like a brand new brush!

  23. Posted March 31, 2013

    i’m with everyone else haha.. need to do this and i don’t. i will try, these are great tips!

  24. Posted April 2, 2013

    Thanks for this post. I just cleaned all of make up brushes, for the first time (ever)! Oh my! That is gross. I guess I just never thought about it.

  25. Posted April 12, 2013

    Thanks for the tips. I have an oily skin so I always make sure to clean my brush every week. Of course to maintain the glow in my face since its oily and its always have to be fresh and I thank LifeCell skincare product for this. Thanks and more power!

  26. Posted April 17, 2013

    This is a really interesting piece – thanks!Susan

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  28. Posted April 25, 2013

    If you’re like me, you’re proud of your collection of makeup brushes review. I have quite a few made from all kinds of different animal hair, synthetics, you name it. Problem is, I like to use really colorful makeup. In particular, I like to use many different colors that would all smudge into some horrid brown after a few days of mixing on my brushes.

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  30. Posted October 21, 2013

    Thanks for the post! Usually I wash my makeup brushes with different products depending on the types of bristles
    The Best Makeup Brush

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  33. morzan says
    Posted May 4, 2014

    wow actually this very helpful post !!! i like it ! i wash my makeup brush with dove shampoo πŸ™‚

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  34. Posted May 22, 2014

    I really like your blog, it’s informative and interesting. My girl friend had also into this problem a few months back and discussed it with her friend before going on a party as she really needs to clean up her brush, she told her to buy a make-up cleaning kit from and clean it up at home easily, she placed my on line for that and get it with discounted rates. Girls go for that, you will find it really easy.

  35. Gi says
    Posted October 26, 2014

    It is okay to submerge the brushes briefly, just don’t soak them. Then lay them flat to dry.

  36. Posted January 21, 2015

    This is a very helpful post! πŸ˜€ I’m having difficult time cleaning makeup brushes.

  37. Posted February 16, 2015

    I think that it is very important to know how to clean your make up tools because you apply make up with them on your face. Thanks a lot for these amazing advices! Regards! Bulls Cross Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  38. Posted August 18, 2015

    Its really nice post i really like

  39. Posted August 18, 2015

    Its really nice post i like your idea