How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Here’s a shocking statistic for you! According to an poll (published in Allure Magazine – July 2011), 45 percent of women surveyed NEVER clean their makeup brushes! Now, I am DEFINITELY not the role model for keeping makeup brushes clean (witness the photos below! ugh!)….but I DO try to clean them once in awhile…ofoccasionally…when I remember! But after reading several articles about this, I have now recommitted myself to good makeup brush hygiene.

When you think about it…good, clean brushes makes sense! I mean these things are touching your face! If you are not careful, dirty brushes can be a source of bacteria and cause skin breakouts and even minor disease.

So…how often SHOULD we clean our brushes?

Well, that depends on who you are asking. I read everything from EVERY DAY to every couple of months! But I am going to go with renowned makeup artist Bobbi Brown who says…..

“For concealer and foundation brushes, at least once a week to prevent a buildup of product. And because these brushes are used on your face, the cleaner, the better. Brushes that are used around the eyes should be cleaned at least twice a month, while all others can be washed once a month.”

Now that sounds rather reasonable. Especially after discovering THIS tip for quickly and easily cleaning makeup brushes from Allison at Petit Elefant. Allison says she picked up this tip from a makeup artist she works with.

All you need is:

  • rubbing alcohol
  • an old washcloth
  • a spray bottle

#1  Lay your brushes down on the washcloth and spray the alcohol on the brush bristles. Make sure they are completely saturated.

cleaning makeup brushes

#2  Then rub the makeup brush back and forth on the washcloth and just WATCH all the gunk that comes out! If your brushes are as filled with makeup as MINE were….you are going to need to repeat this process several times. Just keep spraying, rubbing until no more makeup comes off onto the washcloth.

cleaning makeup brushes    cleaning makeup brushes

#3  Now this is important! Squeeze out the excess alcohol with a clean towel, reshape the brush head, and let the brush dry on a table or countertop. This will allow the brush head to dry into a perfect shape. Never let your brushes dry on a towel—the bristles can become mildewed.

cleaning makeup brushes    cleaning makeup brushes

And here they are… clean and perfectly “fluffed” makeup brushes!

Don’t they look happy?  :-)

cleaning makeup brushes


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  1. Britt says

    I use purity made simple to clean my brushes. This is my favorite because not only does purity cleanse and remove all makeup but it lightly hydrates my brushes as well keeping them happy.

    • Joan says

      What is purity ; is it a makeup line or cleaner line of products? I could find nothing via a search.

      • Ayshela says, the brand name is actually “purity made simple” if you want to look it up.

  2. Keri says

    When my brushes get reallllly gunky, I use a teeny tiny bit of EVOO on a paper towel to help break down the makeup. I dab the folded paper towel on the top of the olive oil bottle to get a blot on the paper, then swirl my brush on it to get the bulk of the makeup out of it, then I wash with baby shampoo, rinse, shape and let them hang over the edge of my counter overnight. I only do this every couple of months or so, but it’s helped prolong some of my more expensive brushes.

  3. Courtnei says

    I always clean my makeup brushes with baby shampoo, it’s gentle enough for the delicate bristles. I work with makeup artists who say straight alcohol is too strong for how often you should clean the brushes (at least once every two weeks if you use them everyday).

  4. says

    Oh man. I’m trying to think of the last time I cleaned my make-up brushes. I don’t even want to think about how gross this is going to be…

  5. Queenie says

    I’ve always been told to invest in really good make-up brushes and they will last you a lifetime. My favorites are by Bobby Brown, they clean beautifully and I’ve had several of them for nearly 20 years. I used to use alcohol to clean my brushes, now I use Dawn dish soap in a glass of warm water. Swish brushes around in solution and when water becomes discolored, start fresh and continue until water remains clear. Rinse thoroughly in warm water and reshape brushes. I dry mine in a glass with the brush end up.

    • Norma says

      If you wash your brushes using a water method, it is not a good thing to dry your brushes with the bristles facing up or laying flat. Try to hang them upside down to avoid water getting into the ferule.

  6. says

    I don’t understand how they can hold harmful bacteria. If it only touches YOUR OWN face, wouldn’t it just be your own bacteria? You can’t infect yourself. If you have some kind of open wound or infection on your face, maybe dirty brushes could irritate it more. And you definitely don’t want to share with anyone–that’s bad hygiene all around.
    Now, if you’re using makeup with all the nasty chemicals and additives, then I can see how you’d want to wash your brushes more often….but we shouldn’t be using that kind of make up anyways!
    I can see how the makeup would build up and get gunky. I need to clean a couple of my own brushes. I read you can just use a little baking soda in water and soak your brushes, then rinse them clean. I may add a couple drops of tea tree oil to help with the cleansing process.

    But….you know…I’m not a pro or anything like Bobbi :)

    • Queenie says

      According to my eye doctor, dirty brushes and old make-up can lead to a variety of eye infections including ugly, painful sties.

    • Ayshela says

      They get wet (water, sweat, moisturizer, etc), and many types of makeup hold proteins that feed bacteria and molds. You get bacteria on your face from touching things with your hands and touching your face, from airborn bacteria, from having a cold, etc. Besides, many makeup brushes are left in the bathroom, which is one of the places in your home where bacteria thrives *because* it’s often damp and dark enough to foster growth. Just like you need to throw away cosmetics periodically to get rid of the bacteria that grows in them, you need to clean the brushes that come in contact with those cosmetics, with your face, and with an environment prime for growing icky stuff. =)

  7. Mommy2jands says

    I haven’t used alcohol, but I’ve read and have tried using baby shampoo. I have it already since I use it for my kids and it’s probably more gentle for the brushes than regular shampoo.

  8. says

    i was thinking it was about time i washed mine…don’t have alcohol though so it may be shampoo for me too!

  9. Rebecca says

    I wash my brushes when I remember and when I plan on using them on someone else :D But I just use shampoo it works for me :L

    • Liz says

      I used to work at a cosmetic counter for a couple years (now, I play mom). We would use this technique after each client. However, each night we would REALLY clean the brushes. Rebecca is right. We told people to use shampoo (we suggested baby shampoo) or the face cleaner they used to really get the brushes clean. Just a pea sized amount & rub till the brush is clean & water runs clear.

      • Natalie says

        I use Dove to clean Bare Minerals brushes – works like a charm and doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin!


  1. […] Fantastic Clean: I am usually too lazy to clean my brushes until my face breaks out and I blame dirty brushes (instead of sugar and dairy, hence my face right now – augh)! Do your face a favor and clean your makeup brushes this weekend! […]