How do I Clean Makeup Brushes?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Makeup brushes can usually be cleaned with a gentle soap and must be rinsed completely.
Makeup brushes can usually be cleaned with a gentle soap and must be rinsed completely.

Makeup brushes are a fantastic tool for applying makeup, but they can have problems when they’re not regularly cleaned. When brushes are applied to the face, they pick up oil and bacteria, and especially the oil will ultimately clog the brushes and make them less effective. Moreover, bacteria in the brush can be transferred back to the skin and create skin problems. Brush cleaning is recommended every two to four weeks and there are a few good ways to clean makeup brushes.

You should never share makeup with friends, especially if it is applied around the eyes or lips.
You should never share makeup with friends, especially if it is applied around the eyes or lips.

First, people should pay attention to any specific cleaning instructions that come with brushes they purchase. In general, most people can clean makeup brushes with gentle soap or simple forms of shampoo. Avoid high oil shampoos; clarifying shampoos that contain few ingredients may be best choices.

Start by getting each brush wet with warm or hot water, and then add a small amount of soap or shampoo to the brush and lather it thoroughly. Many times when people clean makeup brushes they’ll note colored water appearing as they rinse, which is the makeup running off the brush. Rinse the brushes in hotter water until the water runs clear and the brushes appear to be rinsed of soap.

Makeup brushes pick up oil and bacteria when applied to the face.
Makeup brushes pick up oil and bacteria when applied to the face.

A final step, which may be necessary for larger brushes, is to gently reshape the brush prior to setting it down to dry. Most people recommend drying the brushes on paper towels, but this might cause uneven shaping of the brush. If the brush has a stable base, it can be set on the base instead, or alternately, the brushes can be placed upright in a larger container (usually not touching each other) to dry.

Makeup brushes can be cleaned with clarifying shampoo.
Makeup brushes can be cleaned with clarifying shampoo.

It’s a good idea to clean makeup brushes by these methods but also to clean the handle of the brush. Though this isn’t applied to the face, it can still use cleaning. An additional step of cleaning the handles can be to quickly go over the handle with a small amount of waterless handwash or rubbing alcohol.

Some people would like to clean makeup brushes but are puzzled by what to do while they wait for brushes to dry. Those who wear makeup every day may be reluctant to clean the brushes because they will need them for the next day. Brushes can take several days to dry, leading to minimal ways to apply makeup.

A solution to this problem is to keep a second set of clean brushes on hand. Don’t switch back and forth on the set between cleanings, but keep “clean brushes” neatly bagged in plastic for use when the other set of brushes is being washed. As soon as that set is dry, make it the clean brush set and bag it until the next brush washing occurs.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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    • Makeup brushes can usually be cleaned with a gentle soap and must be rinsed completely.
      Makeup brushes can usually be cleaned with a gentle soap and must be rinsed completely.
    • You should never share makeup with friends, especially if it is applied around the eyes or lips.
      You should never share makeup with friends, especially if it is applied around the eyes or lips.
    • Makeup brushes pick up oil and bacteria when applied to the face.
      Makeup brushes pick up oil and bacteria when applied to the face.
    • Makeup brushes can be cleaned with clarifying shampoo.
      Makeup brushes can be cleaned with clarifying shampoo.