How to clean makeup brushes

This is a cautionary tale for those of you who don’t think your makeup brushes need to be washed every 2 – 4 weeks depending on how much you use them. Just like your mascara shouldn’t be kept longer than a 4 to 6 weeks – the growth of bacterial in the dark and damp tubes can only be kept at bay for 4 – 6 weeks by the preservatives and anti-bacterial ingredients.

One day after a few humid weeks in Sydney and Las Vegas, I looked down to discover my kabuki brush had clumps of powder practically glued to the bristles. It was not a pretty sight, the brush had picked up excess oils from the face and moisture from the damp air, mixed with the powder and started created a bacteria ridden mess. From afar, the brush didn’t look so bad (see the picture below) but as you can see from the picture above, it wasn’t a pretty sight – and to think, all that was being transferred on to my face every day, with more build up occurring every time I used it.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes

So my advice to you is to work out a 24 hour period when you won’t be apply makeup so you can finally clean your makeup brushes! Here’s a quick ‘how to clean your makeup brushes’:


What you will need:

  • Every single brush your your collection (blush, face, foundation, eye shadow, lip liner, eye liner, kabuki and etc)
  • A foaming face wash (we used a Dove one)
  • Warm water & the bathroom sink for about 20 minutes
  • Old-ish towels

4 Easy Steps to clean makeup brushes:

  1. Dampen the bristles of the makeup brush with warm water.
  2. Add a small amount of face wash to the brush bristles and get a good lather up with your fingers.
  3. Rinse the bristles of the brush under running water until the water turns clear. Inspect the face brushes thoroughly. If your brush is extra dirty like mine, keep following step 2 & 3 until there are no clumps visible.
  4. When all brushes are clean, run the bristles across the towel then lay them flat across the towel to air dry. Do not dry them standing up.


Hot tips:

  • Make sure you don’t dampen the whole make up brush or leave brushes soaking in water. It will loosen the glue keeping the bristles in the brush over time.
  • If you’re in a hurry to use your brushes, let the dry naturally for as long as possible (but not in direct sunlight) before using a hair dryer on a low heat to dry them.

Why haven’t we recommended a brands makeup brush cleaning product?

We’ve tried a few brands that have a makeup brush cleaning soap/wash, but they never lather up as nicely and they don’t was as nicely as a good soapy/bubbly face wash.

We did like Sephora’s Purifying Brush Shampoo and Beauty Blender’s blendercleanser – but for me it’s another product in my cramped bathroom cabinet.

Meanwhile, the brush cleaning sprays for an antibacterial spritzes in between real washes… well where does the build-up go? In my opinion, the build-up is still there (and the spray only adds to it) but the product stuck to the brush bristles are sanitised. At best.

Nothing beats a good wash.

Would you eat off a plate that had just been sprayed with an antibacterial spray?




  • Kimmi- says:

    That is gross. Did you have to show us that so close to dinner time!!

    Great post though. I wash my brushes weekly because I want them to last as long as possible. My tip is to do it the same time as doing a hair treatment. Those 3-4 minutes before rinsing it out is a great window for brush cleaning.

  • Susan says:

    Really the best way is to dry them standing up but upside down, so that all the water can get out completely, because its the water that loosens the glue which holds the hair. I don’t have anything to have them upside down completely but i rest it at and angle which the water can completely get out.

    keeping the plastic wrap and tubes that the brushes come with is handy too, to keep their shape 🙂

  • La:Dolce:Vita Fashion Fix says:

    Great post! I desperately need to clean my makeup brushes. I brought a new set from Pur Minerals recently so those will hold me over until all of the old ones are clean.

  • Shelly says:

    Can you use foaming hand soap?

  • Helen Lee says:

    Hey Shelly,

    Yes you can!

  • emily W. says:

    Woowww….ew. Going to do this stat. Never done this. Been trying to figure out why my face is breaking out. Between my hormones changing (again) after kid #2 I’m thinking this is a definite contributing factor. Yikes. Thanks!

  • Diane says:

    I usually clean my brushes with shampoo. Make sure to flip your brushes occasionally while drying, they dry faster.

  • Amy says:

    Could u use a hair dryer to dry them faster?

  • Helen Lee says:

    Hey Amy,

    I would try to let my brushes dry naturally, but if you want to speed up the process a hair dryer could be used but on a low temperature. Think of your brush bristles as hair – you don’t want to be blasting it with hot hair too often.

  • Laurel says:

    Great guilde! Just got my first set of real brushes today. 🙂

  • liz smith says:

    After washing, I clamp my brushes to a (plastic store) pant hanger then hang the hanger up so that the brushes dry upside down.

  • Diora says:

    besides baby shampoo, could I use any kind of shampoo? Is that with or without conditioner? How about a l’occitane brightening facial wash,though I’m sure it’s gentle enough, will it disinfect as good as an antibacterial wash? I am so confuse as there are so many good tips! Is spot cleaning necessary? And if so, how can I do that without having to buy a brush cleaner spray?

  • Kit says:

    Oh, and I don’t know if anyone else has ever gotten a “tangle” in their buki but I did a while back and was worried I’d have to get a new one. In case anyone ever wants to know, a bamboo skewer works great to work it out and realign the bristles during washing. Just poke it in from the side then up to the ends of the bristles, working deeper each time!

  • Gerri says:

    I dry my brushes on a “rack” made of a bent wire shirt hanger strung with rubber bands. The coat hanger can be hooked over my bathroom window mechanism. The rubber bands are easy to wrap around various brushes to allow them to dry more or less vertically.

  • Erica says:

    Great post. I clean my brushes with an anti-bacterial hand soap. This post reminded me that I need to clean them again.

  • Jessica M (GobletSparks96) says:

    Being a dumb teenager, I wet the entire brush, instead of just the tips >.< Will this have any effect on my brush? And if so, is there anything I can do to salvage it?

  • Sammy says:

    Great post very helpful. When I started washing mine the water turned the colour of my foundation :-/ I guess it really needed cleaning. On drying I just lay a towel out and rotate it position every 30 min or so

  • dina says:

    I love using BeautySoClean makeup brush cleaner for every day.
    it sanitizes your makeup and also removes any germs or bacteria. Also you can try their other products; such as the sanitizer wipes and the sanitizer makeup mist, they work like magic 🙂

  • Roo says:

    I like using the eye makeup remover pads to clean my gel eyeliner brushes first…they get really gunky. Then use a mixture of baby shampoo, witch hazel and alcohol to clean. Then I tuck them into a new roll of toilet paper (wedged into the side so they are secure) and let them dry upside down by laying it over a towel rack. Works really well. 🙂

  • Helen Lee says:

    Thanks for all the extra tips guys – I agree, the liner, brow and even eye shadow brushes need almost daily wipe downs to keep build up at bay!

  • Chloe says:

    Try The Brush Guard Cleaning Kit. It works so well, my brushes have never felt better! It makes cleaning my brushes really easy too.

  • Meagan says:

    Genius! I have been searching for an actual recipe that works, and somehow it seemed dumb not to think of using your own face wash! It was amazing how much gross built up gunk was in my brush. Thanks for the quick tip, I’ll be sure to actually clean my brushes from now on!

  • Babs says:

    After cleaning my brush most recently it has a “sour” smell. Any ideas about getting rid of that. I’ve tried washing with “Goop” and Dawn dishwashing liquid, but the smell remains.

  • Nancy Goldblatt, Wardrobe Wiz says:

    It sounds like the brush stayed wet too long and soured, like a mop left in bleach water too long.

    I have read that white vinegar in water can take the sour smell out of a mop. They suggest soaking the mop, 1 cup of white vinegar in a gallon of water.

    Its worth trying on your sour smelling makeup brush. Just decrease the amount of water and white vinegar but try to keep proportions. You probably can’t soak the brush but you can hold it in the liquid for a minute or two and then rinse it out.

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  • madi says:

    Does It matter if the face cleanser also helps acne??

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