How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

by Meghan Carlson | 1 Comment

Spring is here! (Well, in our hearts, anyway.) Which means it’s time to refresh, rejuvenate, and reinvigorate our beauty routines—in other words, it’s time for some spring cleaning! This week on the blog, we’ll be exploring a variety of ways you can start fresh this season. And we’re starting with something that most of us should be doing regularly all year long: cleaning our makeup brushes.

The Julep Blending Brush & Sweep Eyeshadow Palette at work

Cleaning your brushes is an easy step to forget, but it’s an important one. Each time you use your brushes, bits of makeup, oil, grime, and bacteria can get trapped in the bristles. This can lead to clogged pores and breakouts if you don’t clean in between uses. Regularly cleaning your brushes is also the best way to ensure they keep their shape, distribute products effectively, and generally last as long as possible. Not only that, but if you like to switch up your shades often, leaving leftover color on your eyeshadow brush or blush brush can muddy the color of any subsequent shades you use. We love blending colors as much as the next gal—but we prefer to do it intentionally.

The good news is that cleaning your brushes is fast, easy, and it’s actually pretty fun! Consider adding it to your Sunday night routine, along with packing your lunch and picking out your outfit, to help you start the week on the right foot. And you’ll be surprised how using soft, clean, fresh-smelling brushes will help perk up your Monday morning.

How often should I clean my makeup brushes?

Depending on how often you use your brushes, it’s best to give them a deep clean at least once a week. To avoid bacteria build-up and those color muddling issues on days in between, consider picking up a daily brush-cleaner spray and spritzing it onto your brushes after each use. And any brush that you use around your eyes should be cleaned after every use to prevent infection.

What brush cleaner should I use?

You’ll find many options for brush cleaner at your favorite beauty supply store or drug store, and there are lots of DIY tips for making your own at home, so it can be a challenging to figure out which cleaner is best for you. Fancy brush cleaners can cost a pretty penny, while certain DIY recipes, if used repeatedly, can be harsh on your bristles, stripping their essential moisture and leading to breakage.

For a quick and gentle clean that leads to super-soft brushes, baby shampoo is an affordable and great smelling option. And for really caked-on makeup, a little bit of olive oil works wonders—especially on smaller brushes you use with waterproof products, like your Angled Liner Brush. Simply dip the brush in a bit of oil and rub it against a sponge or a paper towel, and watch the gunk come right off. As a general rule, anything you use to clean your face can be used to dissolve and clean makeup off your brushes.

But some of these options do not fully disinfect, so we’re sharing one of our favorite DIY recipes that combines the antibacterial benefits of soap with the moisturizing effects of oil into the perfect shampoo recipe for soft, squeaky clean makeup brushes.

DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner:

2 parts dish soap
1 part olive oil

How to clean your brushes:

Combine the dish soap and olive oil in a small container, and then, one by one or in small groups, gently swirl your brushes in a circular motion in the mixture. You’ll see the makeup start to come off into the mixture.

From root to tip (with, not against, the direction of the bristles), wipe the brush against the edge of the container to remove any excess cleaner.

Then, rinse! Run the brush under cold or tepid tap water and swirl it in the palm of your hand, until the water runs completely clear. If needed, gently squeeze it to reshape and release any residue trapped in the bristles.

To dry, hang your brushes upside down or lay them flat on a towel, gently blotting any excess moisture as necessary. Reshape the bristles with your hand and allow to fully air dry before the next use. For bigger brushes, this can take several hours, which is why we like to clean our brushes before bed, so they’re nice and dry in the morning. Note: Do not dry your brushes with the bristles sticking up, as this can cause moisture to get trapped in the handle and damage the adhesive, causing your bristles to fall out over time.

Don’t forget the handles!

To prevent the spread of bacteria from your hands to your brush handles (and vice versa), make sure you also suds up the handles during disinfecting washes. In between washes, you can also disinfect the handles with a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a paper towel.

Bonus! A clever nail polish hack for handles:

We always love finding out new uses for nail polish, and this one is a great tip: Over time, the printing on your brush handles can start to wear off. To keep the text from fading, apply a clear top coat, like the Freedom Polymer Top Coat, over the name and number on the side of the brush. Your brush handles will look like new and stay easy to identify for much longer.