Makeup 101: How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes

April 5, 2016
how to clean makeup brushes

In honor of Spring cleaning, I thought it was the perfect time to share with you how and when to clean your makeup brushes. It’s pretty gross to think about what can grow on your brushes, but it’s even worse to ignore! Bacteria and other unimaginable issues aside, brushes aren’t cheap so sticking with a hygiene regime will also prolong the life of your brushes.

As a makeup artist, cleaning brushes is the most daunting task. I’m also a neat freak, so ensuring my brushes are as clean as possible is really important to me. I used to wear a latex glove and use the palm of my hand as a surface to swirl my brushes against until I learned about cleansing mitts…talk about a life saver! Using a mitt not only cuts cleaning time in half, but it also takes deep cleaning to another level.

So how often should you wash your brushes? Generally, if you use them on a daily basis, once a week is best. And to keep them clean in between washes, you can use an instant brush cleaner, such as Make Up Forever Instant Brush Cleanser ($12, or Sonia Kashuk Brush and Sponge Cleanser ($6.99,

What You’ll Need

how to wash makeup brushes

Deep Cleaning

1 Gentle Cleanser with no harsh chemicals – such as bleach – some great options:

  • Kirkland Signature Environmentally Friendly Ultra Liquid Dish Soap, baby shampoo, or unscented bar soap PLUS Olive Oil – It will not only condition your brushes so they remain soft, but it will also break down the residue of heavy product build up like foundation and concealer.
  • Blvd Cosmetics Brush Shampoo & Conditioner, $18.85
  • BeautyBlender BlenderCleasner Solid,$16

2 Cleansing Mitt/Mat (A must!)

  • Aesthetica Cosmetics Makeup Brush Cleansing Mitt, $19.95 (orig. $25; I love this because it’s vegan, cruelty-free, latex free, paraben free, and BPA free)
  • Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat, $25 (Has 7 seven textures and fits at the base of the sink, but make sure to clean your sink first!)

3 Small Bowl or Dish (If you’re using a liquid cleanser)

4 Towel or Brush Drying Rack

5 Rubbing Alcohol – to disinfect brush handle

Step 1

Dampen your brushes with lukewarm water holding the brush vertically, facing downwards. Avoid the other end of the ferrule – the metal piece that attaches the bristles to the handle – because the water will break down the glue and the handle will eventually detach from the ferrule.

how to clean makeup brushes

Step 2

Dip or swirl the brush in your choice of cleanser until saturated (i.e. bowl with shampoo/oil mixture or cleansing solid).

Step 3

Swirl the brush on the mitt or matt in a circular and sweeping motion. It’s important to do so very gently because you don’t want to alter the shape of your brush. Choose the surface or texture that corresponds with the length of the bristles.

Brushes used with powder products are relatively easy to clean and the product washes off fairly quickly. Foundation and concealer brushes require a little more time. With either one, it’s easy to gauge when it’s clean.

Step 4

Rinse the cleanser off the brush using the mitt under warm water in the same manner as step 3.

Step 5

You want the brush to dry completely to avoid rust or mold. Gently squeeze out the excess water. You can take it a step further and use another towel to soak up the water. Lay the brushes flat on a towel, placing the ferrule on the edge of the table or counter top. Another option is to use a drying rack, such as the Benjabelle Daisy Brush Tree ($19.95) or Sigma Dry’n Shape Tower ($39-69).

Lastly, pour a small amount of alcohol on a paper towel and clean the handle/base to ensure they are entirely disinfected.

Spot Cleaning


  1. Towel or a few paper towels
  2. Spot Cleaner
  3. Bowl (optional)

Place the bristles on a towel or 2 layers of paper towels, and spray the spot cleaner directly on to the bristles. If you’re using a cleanser that doesn’t come in a spray bottle, pour a small amount in a small bowl and dip 1/4 of the bristles into the solution. Gently swirl the brush in a circular and sweeping motion. Do so in 2-3 different spots on the towel until all the product has been removed. Lay flat to dry.

TIP: Spot cleaners are especially great for foundation, concealer, and eyeliner brushes. If you clean them in between uses, deep cleaning will be a breeze!

You can shop some of the products below:

Make the investment my darlings! You may even notice an improvement in your skin. Like always, please leave any questions, comments, or additional tips below. Happy cleaning! xo Sarah


  • Reply sarah etman April 6, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Thanks Gorgeous! <3

    • Reply Sarah Najafi April 6, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      You’re so welcome sweets!! Xoxo

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