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How to Clean Makeup Brushes: Step by Step Cleaning Guide

Did you know it’s super important to clean makeup brushes, especially the ones you use every day? Washing your makeup brushes can feel like a daunting task so I wanted to give you super simple steps to make it as easy as can be!

Do you know the best way how to clean makeup brushes? Cleaning them properlly will prevent breakouts and keep your brushes in great shape!

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Why Cleaning Your Brushes is Important

But first, let’s talk about why it’s so important to clean those brushes! Sometimes having a little motivation makes doing a not so fun task a little more enticing. 😉

Your brushes are some of the most important tools you have! Keeping your brushes in great shape is vital to applying your makeup well and preventing things like acne breakouts or rashes. A dirty brush could throw your whole beauty routine off — and you may not even realize that’s what’s causing your issues!

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

While breakouts or irritation are the most likely things that will happen if you never clean your brushes, there are more serious consequences that are possible. Bacteria can live and thrive on dirty brushes, which can lead to infections including E. coli, fungal infections and staph infections, the American Academy of Dermatology Association says.

Washing every brush should be part of your skin care routine. Your skin AND your dermatologist will thank you!

How Often Should I Clean My Makeup Brushes?

The general rule of thumb is to clean them once or twice a week at a minimum. This helps prevent product buildup and keep those brushes in great shape!

You should clean brushes that are used for liquid or cream makeup ideally after every use. According to Sabina Wizemann from the Good Housekeeping Institute, these types of dirty makeup brushes are more prone to harbor bacteria that can cause infections.

What Should I Use to Clean My Brushes?

Ecotools and a cleaning pad to clean your brushes

There’s a variety of things you can use. You can use baby shampoo, dish soap or makeup brush cleaner!

I personally picked up a bottle of EcoTools Makeup Brush Shampoo and it’s lasted me forever.

I also picked up this brush cleaning mat from Amazon and it made a huge difference in how well my brushes get clean (and how easy it is!). It was the best $6 I’ve spent. This is definitely not a necessity but it’s very helpful!

Pro tip — don’t use the cleaning mat for your BeautyBlenders! You have to use a little more care for those — use your hand so you don’t tear them up.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes

Cleaning your makeup brushes really isn’t that difficult — there are no real secrets to it! Here is a simple, step by step look at how to do it.

1. Wet the bristles of your dirty makeup brushes

Wet the bristles of your makeup brush.

Be sure to use lukewarm water and do your best to not get the water above the handle of the brush. That could damage it and loosen the glue which holds the bristles over time.

2. Pour a small amount of soap onto hand or cleaning mat

Pour a small amount of soap onto hand or cleaning mat

Put a small dollop of cleaning solution on your mat or in your hands. Start with just a small amount, because a little bit goes a long way and you can always add more!

3. Massage tip of brush onto mat/hand

Massage tip of brush onto mat/hand

Swipe the brush over the soap and swirl it around to clean all the makeup off.

4. Wash with water.

Rinse with water.

Next up, rinse all the soap from the brushes. Keep rinsing until the water runs clear which may take longer than you think, so rinse them really well!

5. Squeeze the excess water out.

Squeeze the excess water out.

Start by squeezing the excess water out with your hands. Then, you can always follow up by using a clean, dry towel gently to squeeze any other water leftover on your brush.

Pro tip – pick up an inexpensive black towel! I use this every night when I dry my face (because inevitably I didn’t get every last bit of mascara off) and for cleaning my makeup brushes in the off chance there’s a bit of makeup residue. No sense in ruining a nice bright white towel!

6. Reform the brushes.

Reform the brushes.

I like to do this with the palm of my hand. Gently mold the bristles back into their original shape. This will ensure they dry properly!

7. Lay flat to dry.

Lay flat to dry.

Finally, lay all of the brushes out to dry. Ideally make sure to place your brushes so they are hanging off the end of your counter or table, which helps prevent any mold from forming and also helps them dry faster!


How do you clean makeup brushes fast?

If you’re in a rush and don’t have time for a deep cleaning and waiting for the brushes to dry, you can take a shortcut. Do the whole cleaning without soaking it in water!

Pour a little bit of makeup brush cleaner in a small container (dish, glass, whatever you have) and swish your brush bristles in it. Try not to dunk the top of the bristles where they meet the handle, in case it dissolves any glue. 

Wipe the bristles on a paper towel, almost like you’re painting the paper towel with the brush. Do this until there’s no more makeup or liquid coming off on the paper towel.

How do I clean makeup brushes with shampoo?

If you don’t have a special cleaner for makeup brushes, you can use several household items. Shampoo (consider one free of fragrances or other irritants if you have very sensitive skin) works just fine!

Dip the bristles in a little shampoo, then lather it up with water and rinse. Then dry the same as described above.

Can you use Dawn dish soap to clean makeup brushes?

Dawn dish soap is actually a great alternative to a brush cleaner because it’s made to cut through grease and oil. That means it’s great at breaking down any oil from your skin or oily makeup residue left on the bristles. 

How do I clean makeup brushes with vinegar?

To disinfect your brushes after cleaning them, you can create a vinegar solution: one part vinegar to two parts water. Swirl the bristles around in the mixture and rinse.

Some people say vinegar is too acidic for delicate brushes, so keep that in mind!

How can I clean my makeup brushes without washing them?

If you don’t want to get your makeup brushes wet (sometimes you need them clean but also need to use them immediately!), there are products that can clean them without you having to wash them. There are sprays and wipes that can do the trick. 

Sephora makes a daily cleaning spray, and Brush Bath from Ulta gets good reviews. Or try Colorescience brush cleaning wipes. Your brushes may get slightly damp, but the drying time is much shorter than when you wash them.

There you go! I hope this helps you with knowing exactly how to clean makeup brushes so you can ensure yours are always in tip top shape!

Tidy up your makeup drawer with my organizing tips!

2 thoughts on “How to Clean Makeup Brushes: Step by Step Cleaning Guide”

  1. 99% isopropyl alcohol is actually the answer. I know this is basically an ad. I spent so much money on products that never really worked. A makeup artist told me this truth. My brushes have never gotten cleaner!

    • Nope, not an ad – this is actually how I clean my makeup brushes! 😉 Alcohol is great for disinfecting your brushes especially if you’re a makeup artist using your brushes on other people. For the every day person, a simple cleaner is a great option!


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