How To Clean Makeup Brushes (And Why Its So Important)

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Video What to use to clean makeup brushes
cleaning makeup brushes

It sounds like many of us could use a little reminder about the importance of cleaning our makeup brushes regularly! This is according to the results of a 2015 poll where 39% of women reported cleaning their makeup brushes less than once a month, while another 22% said they didn’t clean clean theirs at all!

While cleaning your makeup brushes one by one might sound like a tricky or time-consuming process, it doesn’t have to be! In fact, today I’ll be sharing two simple and effective methods for how to clean your makeup brushes and makeup sponges.

But before we get to that, let’s quickly refresh our understanding of exactly why it’s so important to clean our makeup brushes regularly!

cleaning makeup brushes

Why It’s Important To Clean Your Makeup Brushes

The main reason it’s so important to clean your brushes is hygiene. Dirty makeup brushes are loaded with oily makeup products, dead skin cells, and bacteria, which is not a good combination for something that regularly comes into contact with your face!

In addition to the hygiene factor, clean makeup brushes are also better for application. Applying and blending your makeup to perfection is much easier with a clean brush! Using a dirty brush can lead to spotty coverage and other issues.

cleaning makeup brushes

What To Use To Clean Your Makeup Brushes

There are several different cleansers you can choose from to wash your makeup brushes. Some manufacturers offer a special makeup brush cleaner for their brushes, which is supposed to help extend their lifespan. Brush cleanser can be a bit expensive, but there’s no reason not to use one if you already have it!

I personally prefer to use Dawn dish soap when cleaning makeup brushes, because the grease-cutting formula makes short work of all the oily makeup residue and bacteria trapped in the bristles. (I prefer Dawn just because that’s what I always use around the house, but any brand of dish soap will do!)

You could even use a gentle soap like Cetaphil or even baby shampoo, but I’d only recommend them if your brushes are pretty clean to begin with. These gentler options won’t be able to dissolve oily makeup nearly as effectively as dish soap (but they’ll certainly work better than nothing!)

What you shouldn’t use to clean your makeup brushes are vinegar or oil. The acid in vinegar is too harsh for delicate brushes, and although it does have the benefit of killing bacteria, dish soap gets rid of bacteria without being overly acidic. And while some people may clean their makeup brushes with a combination of dish soap and olive oil, the oil just isn’t necessary (and it can even worsen residue so it attracts more dirt and bacteria!)

How To Clean Makeup Brushes

cleaning makeup brushes

You’ll need:

  • Dish soap or other brush cleanser (see above)
  • Silicone trivet (optional)
  • Clean towel


cleaning makeup brushes

Step 1 – Wet The Bristles

Run the bristles of your makeup brush under cool water to dampen them. Using cool water here is important, because hot water could melt the adhesives that help hold the brush together.

Equally important is doing your best to make sure that both the brush handle and ferrule (the metal piece between the handle and bristles) stay as dry as possible. The ferrule is delicate, and if water gets inside it can loosen the glue and cause the bristles to fall out.

cleaning makeup brushes

Step 2 – Wash And Rinse

Squirt a small amount of dish soap or cleanser onto a silicone trivet. The trivet is optional, but it will help gently massage the bristles so they lather up faster than they would on, say, a small plate. You can also find silicone makeup brush cleaning mats that are designed for this purpose, but a silicone trivet works just as well and you can use it elsewhere for other purposes.

Place the wet bristles of your brush against the soapy trivet and gently swirl it around to create a lather. Rinse the loosened makeup out of the brush, and repeat swirling and rinsing until water runs clear.

cleaning makeup brushes

Step 3 – Dry The Brush On Its Side

When the brush is clean, give the bristles one last rinse and then use a clean towel to squeeze any remaining water out of the bristles. Set the brush across the top of a drinking cup (or set it on your counter with the bristles hanging off the edge) and allow it to air dry for several hours. It’s important to dry your brushes sideways to maintain the shape of the brush and to prevent any remaining moisture from seeping into the ferrule.

How To Clean Beauty Blenders/Makeup Sponges

cleaning makeup brushes

You’ll need:

  • Pint-size mason jar
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 Tbsp dish soap
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar


cleaning makeup brushes

Step 1 – Soak And Shake

Fill a pint-size mason jar with 1 cup of hot water, then add a tablespoon of dish soap and a tablespoon of white vinegar. Place your beauty blenders or makeup sponges in the jar, then replace the lid. (You can clean several at a time as long as there’s a bit of extra room left in the jar.)

cleaning makeup brushes

Let the sponge soak in the cleaning mixture for about 15-20 minutes. This will give the soap and vinegar time to break down the oily makeup residue that’s trapped inside. After waiting, shake the jar for about a minute.

cleaning makeup brushes

Step 2 – Rinse And Dry

Remove the jar lid and dump out the dirty water. Rinse the sponge, squeezing it frequently in your hand, until the water runs clear. Set the sponge on a towel and allow it to dry overnight.

cleaning makeup brushes

How Often To Clean Your Makeup Brushes And Sponges

You should use the methods provided above to wash your makeup tools every two weeks or so. For brushes that you use to apply liquid makeup like concealer or foundation, weekly washes will help you avoid product buildup.

If you’ve been known to procrastinate washing your makeup brushes, consider washing one brush per day after you finish doing your makeup. That way, all your brushes will stay relatively clean, but you won’t have to commit to any marathon brush cleaning sessions.

For beauty blenders and makeup sponges, most experts and makeup artists agree they should be washed after every use. Because they’re usually used while damp, they can quickly become an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

cleaning makeup brushes

Where To Store Your Makeup Brushes

Once your makeup brushes are nice and clean, you can help keep them that way by storing them the right way! It’s best to keep makeup brushes covered when you’re not using them to protect them from dust and dirt.

A zippered pouch is a good choice, and you can fold it down while doing your makeup so your brushes are easily accessible. It you want something that can sit out on your counter or vanity, consider keeping your makeup brushes in a box with a lid.

And finally, keep in mind that no makeup brush will last forever! If you notice that any of your brushes is shedding, discolored, or has any sort of unpleasant smell, it’s time to replace it!

How do you clean your makeup brushes?

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