How to Clean Makeup Brushes

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 08, 2022
4 min read

Makeup brushes can easily become a haven for bacteria (germs) that may cause harm to your skin, your makeup residue, oil, and dirt acting as the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. 

Because of this, you should try to wash your makeup brushes after every seven to ten days.

Using the right ways to clean makeup brushes can go a long way in protecting your skin from acne, skin irritations, and infections. 

Here is a step-by-step process you can use to clean your makeup brushes effectively:

  • Rinsing. Rinsing is the first step in cleaning a makeup brush. Take your makeup brushes and rinse only the tips, using lukewarm running water. This will help to wash off residual makeup products. Take care not to get the whole brush head wet because the lukewarm water may dissolve the glue that holds the handle and brush head together.
  • Shampoo the brush. For this step, you can use either clarifying shampoo or gentle shampoo. Put a tablespoon of any of the two shampoos into a bowl of lukewarm water. Avoid using soap on your brushes because that may cause the bristle to dry out.
  • Swirl and massage.  After mixing the shampoo and water, swirl the tips of your brushes in the mixture. You can also massage the brush tips in the palm of your hand to create more lather.
  • Rinse. Rinse the tips of your brushes a second time using running water.
  • Repeat the process. Try repeating the shampooing and rinsing until you notice that the water running from the brush has become clear. That’s the indicator that your brushes contain no more makeup residue.
  • Squeeze out the water. After making sure that your brushes are clean, squeeze out excess water from the bristles using clean, dry paper towels.
  • Dry the brushes. Now that your brushes are a bit dry from the squeezing, lay them flat on a dry towel. Make sure that the tips of the brushes are hanging off the edge—not upright. Placing the brushes upright may cause the water to flow down the bristles and loosen the glue.

How long does it take makeup brushes to dry? Typically, a day or so. You can also leave them out to dry overnight.

Don’t worry if you find that your makeup brushes feel stiff after cleaning. To solve this issue, apply some conditioner to the bristles and rinse with water. Then, leave them flat to dry. This may help to soften the bristles.

There are a couple of common household products you can use to clean your makeup brushes. Some of them include:

  • Liquid dish soap. Liquid dish soap can efficiently remove makeup product residue that has already caked. Apply some dish soap to a sponge and wipe your brushes on the soapy sponge. Rinse the brush with lukewarm water, wipe it down with a towel, and then leave it flat to dry.
  • Vinegar and lemon. A combination of vinegar and lemon makes a great disinfectant. It goes a long way in killing germs and leaving your brushes with a pleasant smell after cleaning. To clean with this combination, put two tablespoons of white vinegar in a cup of hot water. Wash the tip of your brush in the mixture and then rinse with lukewarm water. Then, cut a lemon open and run the brush against it to remove the smell of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar may also serve as a great option to use with lemon.
  • Baby shampoo. Baby shampoo does a great job of cleaning makeup brushes. It's also gentle on the bristles. Pour a drop of baby shampoo into some lukewarm water and swirl with your makeup brushes. Massage the bristles with your fingers. Then, rinse the brush with water and leave it flat to dry.

How often you should clean your makeup brushes depends on the type of makeup you use. If you are using a brush to apply wet products or makeup with liquid components (like the concealer and foundation), you may need to clean it more often. Try washing this brush at least once a week. This may be enough to get rid of the product. It may also make the brushwork efficient and effective.

When it comes to the brushes you use around your eyes, you should clean them after every two weeks. This also goes for brushes you use to apply dry makeup products (like eyeshadow and eyeliner). The reason for this is that your eyes are more likely to get infections than your skin.

The brushes that you use to apply dry products like powder on your skin only require one wash per month.

Remember to also pay attention to other things like sponges that you may be using with liquid products. Like any other sponge, they soak up moisture and makeup. If you don’t keep the sponge clean, it may promote the growth of yeast and bacteria on your skin. Most makeup manufacturers make them with preservatives that prevent this from happening; however, if makeup builds up for some months, you may get an infection if you get a cut on your skin.

Using a dirty makeup brush may give you skin infections, allergic reactions, and acne, things that are preventable with a simple wash every now and then. Avoid sharing makeup brushes with other people and wash the ones you use often. If you are experiencing skin reactions or infections and think that your brush might be the cause, consider seeking professional help. Check out a certified dermatologist (skin doctor).

If you notice that your brushes have become worn out or that they’ve lost their shape, consider disposing of them and getting new ones. It may not be worth it to keep them around if they won't function efficiently.