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Tips to clean your makeup brushes like a pro

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Makeup brushes feel so soft and plush when they’re new. Over time, wear and tear on your brushes can take that feeling away. I’m here to tell you that caring for your brushes needn’t be a chore and it can extend the life of your favorite brushes for years. Are you ready to learn how to clean your make up brushes like a pro?

I’ve had a deep love affair with makeup brushes for years. There’s something about the long handles, the different sizes and lengths of the bristles and the little cases that I find totally beguiling. Good quality brushes turn ordinary make up application into something almost magical. When I have that special brush in my hand, I just feel like I know what I’m doing—like a true makeup artist. If you’ve ever bought a good quality makeup brush, you know just how expensive they can be. And, they won’t last long if we don’t take care of them.

There are so many kinds of makeup brushes: brushes for eye shadow, blush, bronzer, contouring, lips, you name it. The one thing they all have in common is that they are a breeding ground for bacteria. Yuck! Think about the oils and germs that gather on your face. And then think about how those undesirables get transmitted onto your brushes every time they come into contact with your skin. If that’s not enough to make your skin crawl, literally, nothing is.

High quality make up brushes are designed to last for years, but only if we take care of them and clean and store them properly.

Regular cleaning of your brushes will help remove:

Dirt and debris



Dead skin cells


When makeup builds up on your brushes, it can make them feel scratchy. It’s a far departure from that soft and fluffy feeling we fell in love with when they were new. Cleaning your makeup brushes regularly will help keep them both soft and supple. If you suffer from sensitive skin, this is especially important.

Here are my top tips for keeping your makeup brushes feeling like new.

Clean your makeup brushes on a regular basis

Let’s keep this simple. If you wear makeup all the time then clean your makeup brushes once a week. Wear makeup less regularly? Clean them at least monthly. Here’s a rule of tumb I hope we’ll never forget; if your makeup brushes become claggy and caked in old makeup then it’s been far, far too long since they were last cleaned. Do you really want to be touching your face with something that unhygienic? Regular cleaning will keep your brushes fresh and feeling like new.

I find, it’s best to wash make up brushes at night, before you go to bed, so they’ll have the opportunity to dry before you next use them. Be sure to lay them flat to dry. If you dry them standing up, water will seep into the brushes at the ferrule (that’s the fancy name for where the bristles meet the handle). When this happens, the water can weaken the glue where the bristles are bonded and your brush will start to lose its hairs. That will lead to little hairs all over your face – not good look! There’s nothing more frustrating then picking little black hairs off of your skin after you’ve just finished applying your pristine makeup. Sad to say, once a brush starts to shed, you may as well toss it in the trash. As the hairs start to go, your brush will soon become uncomfortable to use and make it even harder to achieve a flawless look.

Best ways to clean makeup brushes

There’s no need to waste your hard earned money on special makeup brush cleansers. You can give your brushes a really great cleansing with plain old unscented white soap. You can also use gentle shampoos that are sulfate free or even baby shampoo. The gentler the better.

If you really want to get a special makeup brush cleaner, then I’ll advise you to read the label and don’t purchase any cleansers that contain alcohol. They will only dry out the brush hairs and eventually cause breakage. In my opinion, it’s just not worth it when a little old bar of soap will do the same trick.

5 steps to help you clean makeup brushes like a pro

In just a few short steps, you can have clean makeup brushes.

1. First, get your brush completely wet using lukewarm water.

2. Once your brush is saturated, swirl your brush onto a bar of soap until it lathers or apply shampoo to a sponge and simply swirl your brush on the sponge until you create a nice lather. (It’ll totally gross you out when you see all of the makeup colors coming out of the brushes).

3. You may have to rinse the brush and continue the same swirling technique a few times to clean all the old makeup off your brush.

4. Once you think all of the makeup, oils, etc. have been removed from the brush, rinse it in lukewarm water. If the bristles feel slippery or slimy, then you’ll need to continue rinsing to ensure all of the soap or and shampoo has been removed.

If your brushes have a metal band on them, try NOT to get this area wet. It can lead to rust and eventually may destroy your brush.

5. Give your brush a gentle squeeze to remove the excess water and dry flat on a clean towel. Your brushes should dry in about 6 to 8 hours so cleaning them before you go to bed is perfect.

Don’t forget about the handles

We tend to focus on just the brush bristles when we clean makeup brushes, but it’s important to clean the handles too. The brush handles are riddled with germs and yucky stuff too, so they need a good cleansing. You can simply clean the handles with a soapy cloth. If you’re a real germ freak, use a bit of rubbing alcohol. This way you can clean and disinfect in one quick step.

Preserve the names and numbers

This tip may sound silly to some of you but, if you really want to keep your brushes in tip-top shape, consider putting a bit of clear nail polish over the name or number on the brush handle. Names and numbers will eventually wear off, and with regular washing you’ll notice them starting to disappear. A quick coat of polish will definitely protect the brush information so you won’t forget just which brush is used for what. As a bonus, they’ll always look new!

Condition your brushes

If you start to notice that your brushes are feeling a bit stiff over time, try massaging a tiny bit of hair conditioner into the bristles and rinse in warm water. Dry them flat, as you normally would, to bring back that soft, luxurious feel that encouraged you to buy them in the first place.


That’s pretty much it. Just a few easy to follow and inexpensive ways to keep our personal makeup tools in tip top shape. Investing just a few minutes a week to care for your brushes will definitely help them last a lot longer.

If anyone has a tip I’m missing, please share in the comments section.

Shop our brush cleaning tools and supplies here


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