How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes Revisited

cleaning makeup brushes

Back in June of last year I posted about a quick and easy way to clean your makeup brushes using rubbing alcohol. Since that time I have acquired several new brushes and have made some changes to the way I clean them, so I decided it was time for an update.

In my last post I suggested using alcohol as a quick and easy way to clean makeup build-up from your brushes. There were lots of you who suggested that this might be too drying on a regular basis. Well, I can admit when I’m wrong! While I still think alcohol is a good idea for a quickie cleaning once in awhile…for deep-cleaning there are several better options.

cleaning makeup brushes

I decided to try two of them. First, an expensive Brush Cleanser made by MAC ($14) and old ol’ Dawn Dishwashing Liquid ($3). Results? Both worked great! I didn’t notice any difference after the cleaning. Of course I DID notice a difference in my pocketbook, because the Dawn option was MUCH cheaper! :-)

Let’s talk cleaning method:

cleaning makeup brushes

First, MAC’s Brush Cleanser. Pour 2 parts water to 1 part cleanser into a small glass, swirl the brush in it, being careful to only get the bristles wet.


cleaning makeup brushes

Gently massage the bristles between your fingers, starting at the base and working to the tip.


cleaning makeup brushes

If you’re like me and have waited longer than you should to clean your brushes, the solution will start to get really dirty, really fast! Yuck! Repeat the swirling and massaging the brush until it looks like no more make up is coming off of it.


cleaning makeup brushes

Then press the brushes against a towel to dry……


cleaning makeup brushes

……..and reshape the brush between your fingers.


cleaning makeup brushes

Lay brushes flat on a towel to dry. Always lay your brushes flat to avoid water getting into the handle and ferrule (which can cause rust or deterioration of the brush).


cleaning makeup brushes

Second, Dawn Dish Soap.  If you use Dawn dish soap, liquid hand soap, or shampoo, begin by wetting the brush you want to clean with lukewarm water and dip into soap. Brush the brush back and forth to absorb the soap and start to work up a lather. After you’ve worked the soap into the brush, gently run it under water and repeat the back and forth brushing motion until the water runs clean and suds are gone. Gently squeeze out any excess water, reshape the head of the brush, and lay flat on a towel to dry.


cleaning makeup brushes

A few more tips on cleaning and caring for your makeup brushes:

  • Allow at least 8 hours for your brushes to dry completely.
  • Plan to wash your brushes once a week, or more often if you suffer from acne or very sensitive skin.
  • Never blow-dry or use direct sunlight to dry your brushes, as it can cause permanent damage to your brushes.
  • Fill a shot glass (or something small like that) with rubbing alcohol and swirl your brush in it – it dries VERY fast that way and is disinfected.
  • For heavily soiled brushes that use oil based products like lip brushes and concealer brushes, use olive oil first to break down the oils in the makeup then follow with baby shampoo.
  • A gentle shampoo is better to use than clarifying shampoo if your brushes are natural hair as it doesn’t strip the natural oils from the hair.
  • Take a ramekin full of baby powder (the cornstarch kind) and swirl your brush in it until it’s well coated. Then tap the brush firmly on the edge of the sink until nothing more comes out of the brush. This gets enough of the buildup out of the brushes that following up with alcohol or shampoo is much easier and doesn’t have to be done as often.
  • If you are pressed for time, opt for an alcohol-based cleanser and spray or dampen a paper towel and then sweep the brush against the paper towel until it’s clean.


(or just re-read my first post on this subject!) :-)

How long has it been since YOU cleaned your makeup brushes?

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  1. says

    Great ideas again, Jillee! I use shampoo to clean my brushes, the same shampoo I use on my hair. I guess the reason it has worked well for me is I use a gentle shampoo to being with…not baby shampoo but gentle. I’ll have to pickup some baby shampoo when I go to $ store. I try to clean my brushes frequently because I have them setting out on my counter in a pretty container and I’m sure the same dust that settles on my counter tops, if I don’t continually wipe it off, is settling on my brushes, especially if there is any cosmetic or facial oils left on my brushes.
    Thanks again, Jillee. Love your blog. I’ve read your blog to my husband so many times that he immediately perks up…and listens…that’s the cool part…when I say, “Jillee says such in such is good for…or Jillee thinks…or Jillee recommends trying it this way…or Jillee has a great new recipe…and on and on.” LOL Keep up your great work! : )

    • says

      You’re welcome Labbie1! I know I am guilty of going too long in between cleanings! I need to put it in my calendar or something. :-)

  2. Andrea says

    I buy a travel sized bottle of baby shampoo for a dollar. Not to hard on the pocket book and fits nicely in the medicine cabinet.

  3. Linda F says

    Maybe I’m alone here…. but I never clean mine. I apply make up to clean face, and see no point in removing the make up (blush or powder) from the bristles. All you are removing is make up at that point… or am I missing something?

    • Lynn D. says

      Linda F, even with a clean face, your skin still produces oils. The skin oils and the makeup on the brushes help collect dust and bacteria. It will eventually cause the brushes to breakdown and can cause your skin to get bacteria pushed deep into the pores leading to skin infections. If you invest in good quality brushes, especially the hair ones, it is worth the time it takes to keep them clean to protect them. It’s kind of like the hair on your head. It gets build up from products, oils from your skin and pollution from the environment. If you don’t handle your hair properly, it gets greasy, lays flat, gets split ends and will cause your skin to break out. Same kind of thing.

    • Nikki H. says

      Not cleaning your brushes because you use the on your “clean” face is like saying you don’t launder your towels because you use them on your “clean” body. Your skin never gives up 100% of the dirt on it, you still produce sebum and sweat regardless of how “clean” your skin is, and there is always all that dead skin. Ever knew you needed to change out a towel because it smelled funky from dead skin build-up or sebum? Now imagine all the junk on your brushes. Also, your brushes won’t perform as well with a bunch of product and face residue build-up.

    • krystina Bibb says

      no matter how clean your face is when you begin applying your makeup, your skin is still releasing natural oils that build up in your brushes. That buildup can cause breakouts and stuff.

    • Jo says

      You will get dead skin cells coming off your face into the bristles & from that bacteria will grow. Also where the brush lies as you place it down on different surfaces it will pick up bacteria. It would be worth giving them a little freshen up clean once in a while.

  4. Stacey says

    I use Neutrogena bar soap on my face. Use that to clean my brushes, too. Figure its good enough to use on my face, might as well use it on my brushes, too. Love your blog, Jillee!

  5. stephanie says

    I use a little dawn dish soap and olive oil to clean mine. The olive oil helps condition the brushes. Seems to work great!