The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning your Makeup Brushes

Jul 22, 2019 | Tools & Brushes

So you have the most awesome and expensive makeup brushes! You invested your hard earned money on them. Now you’re on a hurry and need to use them but they don’t look quite clean…

It doesn’t matter, it’s just a bit of eyeshadow here and powder there, you blow the excess shadow and powder off of the brushes, then use them!

Wait, your face brush has stubborn foundation and you need to use it now..

Should you use the beauty blender instead? But it looks dirty as well!

You wipe the face brush and start applying makeup.

Why not touch up with the beauty blender? Of course you want to use it!

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Whether you like it or not, you are virtually transferring bacteria from your makeup tools onto your skin. When you use your brushes, bits of makeup, oil and even bacteria can get trapped in the bristles. Dirty brushes can contaminate your skin, lead to clogged pores and cause breakouts. Allocating some time to wash your makeup brushes is so much worthy. You will notice how smooth they go with application after you wash them, plus your skin will thank you!

Ideally, you should clean your makeup brushes after every use. It’s a good habit to start washing them thoroughly once a week. Spot clean or wipe clean in between the thorough washes to maintain their hygiene.


Let’s talk about the anatomy of a makeup brush. A makeup brush usually consists of 3 main parts:


  • Bristles

Makeup brush bristles are the hairs of the brush. They can be natural hair or synthetic hair.

  • Ferrule

The Ferrule is the metal part of your makeup brush that connects the bristles to the handle.

  • Handle

Is usually made out of wood coated in varnish or paint.

You may think, who has the time for that?

I get it! You’re busy, but who isn’t?

I’m gonna show you a few I have picked up along the way from other professionals and just experience, so there is no excuse for anything less than freshly cleaned and fabulously smelling brushes.

First method is going to be:


Traditional Cleaning

It’s a basic method to clean your makeup brushes. For this method you need an antibacterial hand or dish soap, olive oil, textured mat and a bowl to mix them all in.

So what you need to do is:

  • Mix your dish soap and a tiny droplet of olive oil together in the little bowl. The olive oil is going to condition your brushes while the antibacterial dish soap will disinfect them.
  • Grab your first brush and wet it slightly with lukewarm water
  • Dip your brush into the soap mixture head down (Make sure the brush stays bristle-side down throughout the entire process. If water gets into the ferrule (the middle metal part that holds everything together) of the brush, it can loosen the glue, causing the bristles to fall out.
  • Swirl the brush onto the textured mat. Wet the brush slightly with lukewarm water. Continue until the soapy residue is makeup free. The Texturized Brush Cleaning Mat by Sigma features seven different textures. It’s these shapes and patterns that help clean your brushes. It’s nice because it suctions to the bottom of your sink, however, if you’re on a budget, a simple texturised mat such as this one shown in the image can do the job perfectly too. It’s a lot better than using the palm of your hand.

There is also the Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Glove. Use it to swirl away build up on the mat textures. Clean your eye brushes on the eye side and face brushes on the face side. It’s easy and practical and gets your brushes clean.

This method is great to wash your brushes thoroughly and get rid of bacteria, but it is a multi-step process and can, in fact, be time consuming. You also won’t be able to use your brushes instantly because they need so much time to dry, like overnight, after you cleaned them. Learn efficient ways to dry your makeup brushes here.

*Beauty tip: use dish soap only on synthetic brushes, if you use it on brushes with natural hair you may ruin them.

*Beauty tip: use condition to soften natural hair brushes. This will not work on synthetic brushes.


Bar of Soap

The same process of the previous method applies with the bar of soap. Just make sure it’s an antibacterial soap or gentle unscented if you have sensitive skin. Take your damp brush and start to swirl it on to the bar of soap. Add a little bit of olive oil to condition the brush hairs and keep adding  a little bit of water with your damp brush to make the process easier. Then you’re just going to rinse it off in a bowl of lukewarm water or under running water. Then dry the bristles with a paper towel or a clean cloth.

You can use a soap specifically created to clean your makeup brushes.


Electric Cleaning

If manual brush cleaning is not your thing, or you find it time consuming and you need to use your brushes right away after they’re washed, this is the tool for you!

Traditionally, manual brush cleaning can be time consuming, messy, and ideally requires a whole day of air drying before your brushes are ready to be used again. The Electric Make-up Brush Cleaner and Dryer will effortlessly clean and dry your makeup brushes in seconds. The cool thing about it, other than saving you so much time, is that it’s a compact system, small enough to sit on your dressing table, allowing you to keep your favorite brushes in top condition and free from bacteria.

But how is that actually possible?

This electric device uses an innovative spin technology to thoroughly clean and dry your brushes in under 10 seconds.

What you need to do is to add the cleanser that comes with the device, or your favorite makeup cleanser when you clean foundation brushes, but when you clean powder brushes just add gentle soap and water. You can get your brushes nice and dry in 30 seconds!

So what’s a better way to use your makeup brushes knowing that they will be totally clean and dry in seconds, dry enough that you can start using them straight away?


Vero Mona Color Switch

This is a simple dry brush cleaning product that has a thick, holey sponge which catches color pigments as you rub the brush against it, allowing you to reuse it between applications without worrying about color transfer when you pick another shade. It can be cleaned with soap and warm water.


Spot Cleaning

This is something you can do everyday to keep your brushes clean throughout the week. You’re just going to take a little bit of the spot cleaner and put it on a paper towel (MAC has one), lightly swirl your brush into that cleansing spot onto the paper towel until you see no more color on the brush.


Brush Cleaner Wipes

If you are traveling and need to save space with your luggage and at the same time need to keep your brushes clean after every use, try these brush wipes. These individually wrapped Brush Cleaner wipes are just right for on-the-go brush cleaning. The wipe will remove dirt and makeup residue and ultimately avoid bacteria growth. The great thing is it uses an alcohol-free formula so it’s gentle on the brushes.


ELF Brush wipe image


Take a brush and using back and forth motions or circular motions clean brush on wipes. Turn wipe over for additional usage. Use a paper towel to pat brushes dry.

Beauty Tip: For an extra deep cleanse, don’t ignore giving your brushes a wash with a shampoo a few times a month and the Brush Cleanser Wipes in between shampooing.

It’s a nice option if you’re on the go and need a portable option to clean your makeup brushes, whether you have a lot of clients or for your personal use, why not to consider it on your next travel?


Cleaning Makeup Sponges

The best way to clean your beauty sponge is by using a bar of soap, because massaging your sponge against a sturdy bar of soap will work the soap deep into your sponge. So grab your bar of soap and get it to work.

  • Place your dirty makeup sponge under warm water and give it a squeeze to rinse out excess makeup. …
  • Wet your bar of soap and rub it in your hands until it produces a soapy lather. …
  • Rub your blender against the bar, and keep adding water and squeezing the sponge until it’s clean.


Sanitizing your Brushes Handles

Did you know that the handles of your brushes catch bacteria too? You need to sanitize them every now and then and the best way to do that is by using a rubbing alcohol regardless of your Brush Cleaning Method. You’re just going to take a little bit of the rubbing alcohol onto a paper towel and lightly grease the handle of the brush. This way you make sure the brushes are 100% disinfected and they’re not going to be spreading any bacteria.

Consider investing in a Brush Cleaner

Department stores sell cleaners that are specifically made for makeup brushes. It might be worth investing in one if you wear makeup on a daily basis. It is essential to note that a Makeup Brush Cleaner is a more hygienic option and safer for both your brushes and skin especially if you have invested in high end, branded quality brushes.


So, do your skin and brushes a favor and start making some time to clean them! Once you start cleaning and drying your makeup brushes regularly you won’t want dirty brushes to touch your face ever again.

Now be honest, how often do you clean your makeup brushes?


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