How to Clean Makeup Brushes

Makeup brushes soaking in a glass filled with water and vinegar.

Hooray! It’s girls’ night out and your bathroom is more crowded than a Twilight premiere. Makeup is flying and your inner bad girl dares you to come out and play. So you grab for your ammunition: layers of eyeliner and dark, smoldering shades. Your makeup brushes have gone through a battle by the time you are done, but it’s worth it to look this good for a solid twenty minutes—before you start dancing and your face melts. Clean makeup brushes are a necessity for these kinds of nights.

A makeup brush can become layered with dead skin, extra makeup, and the oils from your skin, making it a breeding ground for bacteria. That means nastiness for your face. Leaving the makeup brush without a proper cleaning can also shorten its life span. The good news is that it’s super easy and fast to do and there are a few options in the type of products you can use.

Cleaning Makeup Brushes

  1. bowl of vinegar and waterUsing vinegar and water to clean makeup brushes. All you need for this is a bowl, water, and vinegar. Put two parts water to one part vinegar into the bowl and swirl the head of the brush around for at least thirty seconds. Then rinse clean with warm water. Reshape the brushes and lay them on a paper towel or washcloth to let air dry. Do not rub the brush dry, as this will set the brush on the fast track to a short life.
  2. baby shampoo and makeup brush on paper towelUsing baby shampoo and water to clean makeup brushes. If you are repulsed by the smell of vinegar like I am, then maybe you want to opt for baby shampoo to clean your makeup brushes. Grab your bowl, baby shampoo, and water. Take a capful of baby shampoo and put it in warm water. Swirl the head of the brush around for at least thirty seconds and then thoroughly rinse the brush with warm water. Reshape the brushes and lay them out to dry. Remember not to rub the brush dry. Just leave them in peace to air dry.
  3. bottle of olive oilUsing extra virgin olive oil, baby shampoo, and water to clean makeup brushes. Using extra virgin olive oil helps to soften the brush which loosens more makeup. This is a good option if you really use your brushes a lot or use them on other people a lot. Take a paper towel and pour a few drops of olive oil directly onto it. Take your makeup brushes and scrub them in the olive oil that’s on the paper towel. Next, place about a pea-sized amount of baby shampoo onto your fingers, wet the brushes, and swirl them around in the baby shampoo. After some scrubbing and swirling, just rinse with warm water and set out to dry.
  4. lady splashing her faceUsing a gentle facial cleanser to clean makeup brushes. If you have extra-gentle facial cleanser, this works just as well as baby shampoo. Put about a pea-sized drop on your fingers or palm, wet the brush and swirl the brush around on your finger or palm for at least thirty seconds. Rinse the brush with warm water and set out to dry. Don’t use a face wash that’s harsher (like Proactiv) or a face wash prescribed by a doctor. These chemicals can damage the brush hairs and shorten the life of your brush.
  5. packages of wet wipesUsing a wet wipe to clean makeup brushes. If you want to keep your brush neat and tidy between real washings, use a wet wipe. Take a wet wipe and swipe the brush back and forth over it. When finished, you can hang the pretty blotches of color on your fridge for everyone to enjoy. Or send them to a modern art museum.
  6. makeup brush in cleaning solution next to bottleUsing store products to clean makeup brushes. Makeup brush cleaners are available for purchase, but always make sure to look at the ingredients before using them—especially if you have skin allergies. I personally don’t like to use products that have a long list of words I can’t pronounce, but you do what you want to do. Fun fact: cleaning your makeup brushes with products that you already have in your house can save you money.

More Makeup Brush Cleaning Tips

  • Let’s talk about drying again. I know you’re just dying to hear about drying your brushes again. I’m just giddy about it. Make sure your clean makeup brushes are dry before you use them again. Also don’t use a blow dryer or rub them dry or you will shorten the brush’s life span. You can, however, squeeze the extra moisture out of the brush.
  • It’s better to be safe than sorry. Makeup brushes are made out of different materials. Brushes can be made out of actual animal hair (there are ones made out of squirrel hair) or nylon, among other things. Try to read the care instructions when you buy the brushes. But if you’re like me and rip open the packaging like it’s Christmas morning, destroying any hope of reading any care instructions, then just be safe and use baby shampoo or a mild cleanser with warm water.
  • This is just skintastic! If your skin is prone to breakouts, it’s a good idea to give your makeup brushes a good washing each week so you aren’t putting old makeup mixed with old skin oils back onto your face. If you love having makeup parties or you have roommates that always borrow your makeup, make sure to clean them more often. Remember you can always use wet wipes for a quick clean.

Makeup Brush Cleaning Aids

Makeup Organizer
If you do own a lot of makeup brushes, it might be worth your while to invest in a makeup brush organizer or holder. This will help keep your makeup brushes cleaner because they won’t pick up the extra array of makeup dust that lives at the bottom of your bag. In fact, Amazon sells more makeup organizers than you can shake a makeup brush at.

Jonhson's Natural Baby ShampooIf you don’t already have some at home, it would be a good idea to get some baby shampoo.Johnson’s Natural Baby Shampoo is a great, gentle cleaner, and it is available from many online vendors.

Selection of makeup brushesNever soak your brushes in water. This can cause the integrity of the entire brush to go south. Don’t be afraid to get part of your makeup brushes wet, which will happen during cleaning, but don’t completely submerge your makeup brushes either.