Knowing how to clean makeup brushes and other beauty tools is important for the health of our tools as well as the health of our skin. This article shares some of the best cleaning routines, practices and products that I recommend including daily, deep cleaning techniques and disinfection.
Best Way To Clean Makeup Brushes
The importance of cleaning one’s makeup brushes and tools consistently and thoroughly cannot be overstated. I was reminded of this last week when I experienced something akin to a minor skin infection derived from (I believe) my well-used (read: gunky) concealer brush. And, it had only been a few days since its last cleaning.
While many of us know this, my anecdotal opinion is that very few of us truly clean our beauty tools-at least on some kind of consistent basis. Furthermore, I would hazard to say many of us still question how we “should” be doing it.
To that end, I want to share my own routine along with a few product recommendations.
Putting cleaning words into action requires a routine that is easy, fast, and effective and with an emphasis on fast. Without all of these elements working together, very few of us will follow through.
What I have developed over time comprises all of those elements and is effective for all types of brushes, natural and synthetic. It can also be parlayed to beauty tools such as sponges and spoolies and more.
How To Clean Makeup Brushes and Tools
Effective cleaning comprises 3 different types of cleaning with 2 timelines. It’s not as confusing as it sounds, and I have created the chart below that outlines what and how often.
Daily Brush Cleaning – Speed and Ease
Daily brush cleaning is the epitome of speed and serves to remove makeup and oils from brushes with minimal effort between deeper cleans.
Makeup color will apply more purely and texture will be consistent after each and every use.
Most importantly, most daily products are very effective yet require very little to no drying time. As such cleaning can be performed on the fly right before makeup application. If you wear makeup more than several times a week, a daily cleaner is a helpful addition particularly if you need to switch between different makeup products and colors without using a different brush.
This product type is typically packaged in a spray bottle. Cleaning involves either spraying the product onto a paper towel or onto the brush head itself and then rubbing the brush head clean on the towel.
Best Daily Brush Cleaners
Sephora Daily Brush Cleaner Spray
This is my tried and true that I have used for years. Moderately priced, it works better than many more expensive brands.
Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner Spray
Cinema Secrets is a makeup pro favorite and gets rid of any kind of hard to clean makeup.
e.l.f. Daily Brush Cleaner
A great affordable drugstore product that works.
Be aware that these cleaners work primarily due to their oil and petroleum-based ingredients. They function as solvents to dissolve makeup residue and oil (i.e. isododecane, ethylhexylglycerin, naptha alkylate and more). The downside, if there is one, is that the brush or tool is left just a tiny bit oily.
Additionally, while the daily cleaners may contain some kind of disinfectant (i.e. tea tree oil or alcohol), they are not meant as a replacement for a deep bacterial disinfection.
Deep Cleaning Makeup Brush Routine
Deep cleaning, as its name suggests, is a more thorough and inevitably time-consuming process (than daily cleaning). Unlike daily cleaning, it usually involves water and soap which then involves drying time. Deep cleaning addresses more of the anti-bacterial and anti-microbial brush needs.
How Often to Deep Clean
There is a wide range of acceptability for how often one should deep clean brushes and tools. Clearly, the biggest factor is how often beauty tools are used. If you use brushes or other tools every day or every other day, I recommend deep cleaning a minimum of once every other week or optimally, once every week.
A number of cleaning and soap options are on the market including standard home cleaning products like Castille soap, Dawn dish soap, and vinegar. My personal preference is to use something pre-made that is quick and effective. It will also not leave any kind of residue or vinegar smell.
Here are a two of my tried and true deep cleaners:
How to Deep Clean Makeup Brushes
- To begin, wet the brush head bristles with warm-not hot-water. Pro tip: be sure to avoid getting the ferrule or metal ring on the brush handle wet. Too much water may dissolve the ferrule glue. Been there done that.
- Place the soap onto the brush head and swirl either onto your hand like this:
Or use a brush cleaning mat like this one below. Be the boss of your brush and don’t be afraid to really swirl and take charge. The nubs on the mat help dislodge the makeup.
- Rinse the brush head well with water until the water is clear and no longer soapy.
- Using your hand, gently squeeze out excess water. Using a clean towel, press out additional water.
- Reshape the brush head and lay it flat onto a paper towel or dry towel. Let dry completely before using.
Makeup Brush Cleaning Tools
If you are going to invest in only one item, I highly recommend a cleaning mat. Not only are they inexpensive, but they vastly reduce cleaning time and mess, come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices.
I use one like this that is very convenient and hand held:
Or there are other options that lay flat like this one:
Disinfecting Makeup Brushes
While most deep cleansers disinfect to some degree, my preference is always to doubly ensure that disinfection truly happens. Unfortunately as of this writing, my go-to spray disinfectant has been discontinued.
These separate products are hard to find however I am testing out this cosmetic sanitizer mist and will update this article with my findings in a few weeks.
This product is spray-on, quick drying, and contains some alcohol along with alcohol myristate that provides a bit more emollience to the disinfection than just alcohol alone. It is marketed and doubles as a disinfectant for powder makeup including eyeshadow, blush, bronzer etc.
Another option would be spraying tea tree oil and/or alcohol lightly on the brush once it is dry or almost dry like this:
This post shared some of the best practices and recommendations for cleaning beauty brushes. While many cleansers and methods exist, my personal preference is easy, effective, and most of all fast.
Please let me know in the comments what you do to take of your makeup tools.