How To Clean Your Beauty Tools (makeup brushes to flat irons)


Don’t be like me.

Don’t let it get this bad guys. The thing is, leaving hair in your brush isn’t the worst beauty offense in the world but it certainly doesn’t add anything to your haircare routine. Leftover hair in a brush can snag healthy hair, and inadvertantly apply leftover product onto clean hair as well. Just rake it out, okay?

I’m talking about the steps to clean makeup brushes and hair tools on today’s post. There are a lot of really easy ways to clean makeup brushes (whether you use a spray or a deep shampooing cleaner) but there really is only one way to clean your hair tools. You may be thinking to yourself, “I’ve never considered cleaning my flat iron or curling iron. . .is that weird?” No, it isn’t. And the goal is that this isn’t a task that needs to be repeated often.

Let’s start with cleaning a flat iron and we’ll finish with cleaning makeup brushes.

Gunk getting stuck on a flat iron or any other hot tool is typically the result of burnt product, burnt hair, or both. If you have an ongoing issue of buildup occurring on the plates or barrel of your hot tool, you may need to reassess what products you are using or if your tool is just too hot.

First, make sure your tools are unplugged. Examine your tools and locate any areas where buildup may be sitting on the side of the tool. You can see on the top and bottom plates there is quite a bit of residue from years of use in the salon. It’s that coppery colored stuff.

Using a wet washcloth with shampoo (made to breakdown product!) , rest your tool on the wet washcloth with shampoo for enough time to soften the residue. Then, put some elbow grease into it and rub that residue off. Do your very best to keep the plates or barrel dry, focusing only on cleaning specific areas of the tools. Do not submerge in water, ever.

If that doesn’t do the trick for you, you may need to use acohol on a cotton swab to clean off any sticky residue. You may also need to use a coin or credit card to scrape off stuck on junk as well.

The benefit of cleaning your tools is that the hair won’t get stuck in the residue or be snagged against it when you pull the tool through the hair.

You can see below that I was able to get off a lot of the coppery colored residue and now those sections won’t snag against my hair!

When cleaning your makeup brushes, I always try to keep it quick and simple. Ideally your makeup brushes should be cleaned after every use, but we all know that may be a touch unrealistic for busy daily lives. I shoot for once a week cleaning, and would encourage you to start there if you aren’t in a good routine yet. Your makeup brushes carry so much bacteria and leftover product that you really are doing yourself a disservice by not keeping them clean. It can be a 10 minute task that you perform once a week, for example, that will go a long way in caring for your skin and how your makeup looks!

I love the Sonia Kashuk brush cleaner because it comes with a silicone pad used to scrub the brushes really clean. Other options would be to use a simple solution of shampoo and warm water in a bowl! This brush cleaner comes HIGHLY reviewed!

Start by wetting the brushes, swirl around in cleaning solution, rinse out, and set to dry on the side of the sink after you’ve reshaped the brush head.

Cleaning hair tools should be an “every once in awhile” task, but cleaning your makeup brushes or tools should be repeated much more regularly. Neither task is difficult (unless you find yourself scraping tons of junk off the side of your iron like me!!) and it can be made much more enjoyable by having the right products to make the process most effective!

I’ve found that my brushes usually need a full 24 hours to dry so I like to wash them during the daytime so they are ready to do for the next day when I need them!

p.s. You can find a post where I break down lots of different brushes and their uses here.

Leave a Comment

Comments (34)

  1. Posted February 18, 2019

    I rarely use my makeup brushes, but when I do, I don’t bother cleaning them! It’s such a bad habit that I’ve begun to just forego them completely and use my fingers for makeup application instead… but this is great, Kate! I don’t think I have an excuse to skip cleaning my brushes now! ❤️

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Lauren says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    I’ve always used a mixture of vinegar, dawn dish soap and water to clean my brushes – is that ok?

  3. Emilia says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    What do you think of the it cosmetics spray brush cleaner?

    • Kari says
      Posted December 20, 2019

      Hi Kate!
      Love reading through this and learning about how to clean brushes! I was curious if you could do a little IGTV video of cleaning your brushes? That would be helpful too 🙂 thanks!

  4. Sandy says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    Read on one other blog that using Irish Spring soap was great for cleaning brushes too 😉

  5. Michele says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    I’ve been meaning to clean my flatiron, but also noticed some of the finish coming off (it was a cheapo one I should have upgraded a long time ago). Could you possibly do a post about when to replace stuff? I know it should be obvious, but for those of us who don’t do this for a living, it’s nice to have some guidelines.

    And yes, i know from experience that when a hair dryer starts smoking, it’s time to replace it😂😂😂

  6. Posted February 18, 2019

    YOUR blog is the best hair and beauty blog…so informational and concise! Thank you!

  7. Posted February 18, 2019

    Thank you for sharing the tip on cleaning a flat iron! I’ve been needing to clean mine desperately.

    Felicity |

  8. Beth says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    I’ve had great luck cleaning my flatiron with my portable clothes steamer. Let it soften the gunk and no elbow grease is needed!

  9. Marta says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    In all honesty, I’ve never cleaned any of my hair tools. My curling iron actually came with a cleaning “thing” that I use after every use and I’ve wiped my straighteners with a dry cloth but when it comes to actually cleaning them like you did, I’ve never done it. My makeup brushes are something I clean often actually, I’ve dealt with acne in the past and try my best to keep everything clean.

  10. Kristin says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    What about makeup sponges/beauty blenders? Do you clean those or just toss them?

  11. Ash says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    Any advice for cleaning a hairbrush? Mine gets this funky dusty-looking buildup that is probably from brushing out dry shampoo. I use a Tangle Teezer and I’m afraid it’s going to get water inside if I submerge it.

  12. Jess says
    Posted February 18, 2019

    Thank you for this! Just a tip on the brush cleaner: Dr Bronner’s castile soap (liquid or bar form, I use unscented) works AMAZING for cleaning makeup brushes.

    Also, I splurged on a brush cleaning mat a couple years ago and it was worth every dang penny. Speeds up my cleaning time, especially on the larger face brushes (powder, etc).

  13. Posted February 19, 2019

    I love freshly washed brushes all lined up to dry. An accomplishment!

  14. Nancy says
    Posted February 19, 2019

    I have a cement-like stain of product build up on the inside of my flat iron. I have tried everything form goo gone to alcohol to baking soda and it leaves only a faint brown spot on the cotton, not even budging the stain and I have left it sit for a while as well. I cannot scrape it off either, it is on there GOOD! Any suggestions guys?! Thanks Kate!

  15. Emily says
    Posted February 19, 2019

    I use Johnsons baby shampoo to clean my makeup brushes as I’ve found that is what works best for me. I have to admit though, I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned my curling tongs…and now I feel gross haha!

    Emily | Snippets of Emily’s Life xx

  16. Tanya Burkhart says
    Posted February 20, 2019

    Just a quick note: Dawn dish soap is amazing for cleaning brushes – it breaks down oils and makeup , is inexpensive and most people probably already have it on hand. You need just a drop on each brush!

  17. Lisa Bauer says
    Posted February 20, 2019

    Hi Kate! Thank you for this post. I never thought of using shampoo to clean my styling tools. I will try it. If you are going to spend a lot of money on good quality flat irons, hair dryers etc, it only makes sense to clean the tools to get your moneys worth! I love reading your posts and watching your videos!

  18. Luiza says
    Posted February 26, 2019

    Great article and good tips. Thank.

  19. Posted March 22, 2019

    Thank you for sharing such an informative blog!

  20. Posted March 22, 2019

    Thank you for posting such a nice blog!

  21. Posted June 7, 2019

    Great blog!

  22. Amelia Williams says
    Posted July 29, 2019

    Clean your beauty products by using a brush cleaning mat. I am using makeup products and maximum time I found that my makeup brushes look really dirty, at that time one of my friends suggested to use this product to clean makeup brushes.

  23. sabina says
    Posted November 1, 2019

    sorry – but i don’t see where you detail how to clean hairbrushes …. ?

  24. Kari says
    Posted December 20, 2019

    Hi Kate!
    Love reading through this and learning about how to clean brushes! I was curious if you could do a little IGTV video of cleaning your brushes? That would be helpful too 🙂 thanks!

  25. Amy says
    Posted January 20, 2020

    What about combs and brushes that have build up of product on them?

  26. Amy says
    Posted March 6, 2020

    What would you recommend for brushes that seem to have a “lint-like “ stuck in the bristles? I remove the hair often but can’t see to get this other lint-y stuff out? Is it just time to replace then??

  27. Sabina says
    Posted March 7, 2020

    YES!!!! we really need a post on cleaning brushes and combs!

  28. Amy Melby says
    Posted April 1, 2020

    Hi Kate, So, I tried curling my BFB fills ins yesterday and I think (not entirely sure) I had it too hot and now there is some sticky residue on the barrel of my wand. How would you recommend taking it off? It’s not a huge amount, but enough that it is affecting the curling and my own hair sticks to it now.

    • Kate says
      Posted April 1, 2020

      really? that seems odd! I would reach out to BFB and see what they say. Also make sure it’s full cooled before you use a wash cloth with soap to try to smooth the sticky residue off!

      • Amy Melby says
        Posted April 1, 2020

        yeah, I thought it was odd as well. This happened yesterday and I tried to clean today so it was def fully cooled off. I’ve tried so far: rubbing alcohol; soap/cloth; shampoo/wash cloth. I am debating some acetone next but hesitant as to what it might to do my barrel, lol

  29. Cathy McIntosh says
    Posted April 18, 2020

    what about getting the build up off hair brushes? I’ve thrown comb in the dishwasher…. lol i have a newer wet brush, and it has gunk on the bristles. How do I soak that off?

    • Kate says
      Posted April 20, 2020

      Soak it in a mixture of warm water and shampoo. It may also help to get a scrubbing brush to brush the product off!

  30. Susan says
    Posted April 23, 2020

    Thank you so much for posting this! Great information and so helpful!