How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.

Caitlin M.
ByCaitlin M.

There's an hidden beauty saboteur haunting your makeup kit: dirty makeup brushes. Not only are unclean makeup brushes dangerous (bacteria, ew), but they can seriously ruin a beauty look with just one swipe. To learn how to properly and safely clean makeup brushes, we chatted with celeb makeup artist, Neil Scibelli. Take advantage of his expert tips below:

What to use: There are so many different types of brush cleaners out there that it can be a bit daunting to choose one. The good news is there's no wrong choice—except not cleaning your brushes at all! Check out some of the options below.

Liquid/gel cleaner: The most common type of cleaner, easy to use.


real techniques gel brush cleanser

Try: Real Techniques Gel Brush Cleanser ($6.28, Target)—This gel cleanser lathers nicely and is alcohol-free and non-drying.


Bars: Good for deep cleaning.

beautyblender blendercleanser solid

Try: beautyblender blendercleanser solid ($16.00, Sephora)—A favorite of Neil's, the blendercleanser solid "literally gets every ounce of makeup off your brushes."

Mats: Pairs with cleanser to help work product into the brush. 

sigma spa brush cleaning mat

Try: Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Mat ($25.00, Dermstore)—"The mat just goes right in your sink, and the built in ridges in the mat help to work built up product out of your brushes," says Neil.


Spray: Although a sink and water is recommended for best practices, in a pinch a spray can get the job done. 

japonesque makeup brush cleanser

Try: JAPONESQUE Makeup Brush Cleanser ($14.00, Dermstore)—Neil prefers this on set when he doesn't have access to a sink and water. "It's in a convenient spray bottle and works really for travel and everyday cleansing, especially if you're not looking for deep wash," he adds.

How to clean: Now that you're familiar with the different types of cleaners, how do you actually get your brushes looking like new? There's only a few steps!

Step 1: Wet the bristles, making sure to keep the water away from the base and handle, as water can loosen the glue that binds the bristles to the handle and make your brushes wear down faster. You can do this by either dipping your brush in a cup of water or running gently under the faucet.

Step 2: Apply cleanser to your brush. Depending on the product you're using, you can apply the cleanser either to a clean towel or the bristles themselves. If you're using a liquid, apply product to a clean towel first and swirl brush head around on the towel to remove makeup. If you're using a spray, apply product to the brush bristles directly. If you're using a balm or solid, gently swirl the brush head in a circular motion in the balm.

Step 3: To ensure your brush really gets squeaky clean, make sure you swirl your brush head around in a circular motion on either a clean towel, your hand, or a brush mat. Gently work the the product into the brush. If you're using a solid cleaner, after dipping the brush into the solid, dip the tip of the bristles in a cup of water. Then, swipe the brush in a circular motion on a clean towel to remove makeup. 

Step 4: Next, rinse the cleaner out with water. Again, be sure to keep the water on the bristles and not the handle or base. You can either dip your brush into a cup of water or run it under the faucet gently and slowly. Repeat above steps until makeup brush runs clean through water.

Step 5: Squeeze the excess water out of the bristles and use a clean cloth to reshape your bristles. Lay your brushes flat on a towel to dry. Do not immediately put them back into your beauty bag or store them brush head up! 

How often: "Brush cleansing is really important for combating built up bacteria and makeup that accumulates in our brushes over time," explains Neil. "Personally, I wish my brushes between each client I work on. For at home users, I suggest washing your brushes—especially your foundation and concealer brushes—once a week."

And we agree! If you're using your foundation brush or blender every day, you really don't want all that excess product and dead skin getting smothered all over your face, day after day. And if you wear contacts or have sensitive eyes, cleaning your eye makeup brushes often is also quite essential. Neil recommends washing your eye makeup brushes weekly as well.

What are some of your favorite makeup brush cleaners? Let us know!

About the Author
Caitlin M.
Caitlin M.
Runner. Music lover. All things nachos. Follow me on Instagram: @caitlinsmiller