Makeup » How to Clean Makeup Brushes (and Store Them)

How to Clean Makeup Brushes (and Store Them)

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Makeup brushes are the kind of items you can buy for life and pass down to your children, but you have to take care of them. If you have high-quality makeup brushes that you store properly and clean on the regular, then you will never have to replace them.

Additionally, cleaning your makeup brushes regularly is very important for the safety of your skin. If your brushes are overloaded with makeup (especially cream products), then they are also going to be holding a lot of bacteria. Using dirty brushes can cause skin issues not to mention that it’s also going to impact how well your brushes work.

In this article, we detail very important instructions on how to clean and maintain your makeup brushes properly.

Weekly Cleaning and Sanitizing

  • If you wear makeup on a daily basis, then you should wipe down and sanitize your makeup brushes at least once a week, although you might prefer to clean them up after every makeup application.
  • The purpose of weekly cleaning is to sanitize the brushes and remove some makeup build-up from them.
  • For weekly cleaning, a dedicated makeup brush cleaner and sanitizer like the Cinema Secrets one from Sephora can do a wonderful job, although I’m actually quite happy with using a 99% isopropyl alcohol spray since it dries quickly and kills most microbes.
  • You can either dip your brush into your cleaner of choice and then wipe it off on a towel or paper towel, or you can spray your brush with the cleaner and then wipe it off.
How to Clean Makeup Brushes

Thorough Cleaning and Conditioning

  • The purpose of a more thorough cleaning is to remove all traces of makeup from your brushes and to condition them. You should do this around once a month or once every two months.
  • You will need a gentle shampoo and conditioner, and a running tap. You can also pick up a dedicated brush cleaning soap like this Sephora one.
  • Dampen your brush under the tap.
  • Put a small drop of shampoo in your palm or directly on the brush, or swirl the brush against the soap to load it up.
  • Swirl the brush against your palm or against a silicone brush cleaning tool in order to work the shampoo or soap into a lather and to break down the makeup that is deep inside the brush head.
  • After a few seconds of lathering and swirling, rinse the brush clean under the tap.
  • Take a small drop of conditioner, and repeat the swirling and massaging motion in order to allow it to fully saturate the brush.
  • Rinse the conditioner off under the tap.
  • Use a soft towel to pat the brush, and then lay it down over a different towel to allow it to air dry.
  • Repeat the process with all of your makeup brushes, and then allow them to air-dry for a least a few hours.
How to Store Makeup Brushes

How to Clean Makeup Brushes with Spray

You should clean your makeup brushes with a sanitizing spray at least once a week to kill bacteria and get rid of the bit of makeup residue. This is the easiest cleaning method, but it’s not the most thorough, so you should still do a deep clean at least once every other month. You will find that this will work best for cleaning makeup brushes.

  1. Get Your Tools

    All you will need in order to clean your makeup brushes with this method is a spray bottle of brush cleaner and either a microfiber towel or some paper towels.

  2. Add a Spray Nozzle

    If your makeup cleaning fluid of choice doesn’t come with a spray nozzle, you can buy a spray bottle from Ulta and decant some of your brush cleaner into it.

  3. Spray It

    Spray your towel with your brush cleaning spray of choice.

  4. Wipe It off

    Gently wipe your brush off on the towel.

  5. Get Rid of Makeup Residue

    Keep running your brush over the towel until no more makeup product comes off.

  6. Repeat

    Repeat with the rest of your dirty brushes.

  7. Let It Dry

    Lay clean brushes down flat so that no brush cleaner penetrates into the ferrule, as this can melt down the glue and ruin your brush.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes by Dipping

The dipping method works particularly well with deep-cleaning no-rinse brush cleaner to give a more thorough cleanse to brushes that are usually tougher to clean. It’s especially great for foundation brushes and other brushes with very dense bristles.

Makeup Brush Cleanser Guide
  • Pour your brush cleaning fluid either into the cap or into a shallow bowl or cup. Make sure to have a microfiber or paper towel on hand, as well.
  • Dip the head of your brush into the cup so it is submerged about half-way.
  • Wait about 10-15 seconds, and then remove the brush.
  • Wipe the brush head gently on a paper towel as many times as necessary for all makeup residue to come off.
  • Once your brush is clean, lay it down flat on a clean surface.
  • If the brush cleaning fluid in your cup is very cloudy and dirty, discard it down the drain. If it’s mostly clear you can use it again with your next brush.
  • Repeat the process with the rest of your makeup brushes, replenishing the brush cleaning fluid as necessary.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes with Shampoo Brush Cleaner

Cleaning with a shampoo-style makeup brush cleaner is the best way to really rejuvenate your brushes. It cleanses them thoroughly by really getting in deep into the brush head and removing all traces of makeup. You should give this deep clean to your makeup brushes at least once every month or two.

Best Makeup Brush Cleanser
  • You will need a shampoo-style brush cleaner, a sink, and some soft towels. A textured silicone cleansing pad is optional.
  • Dampen your brush under the faucet.
  • Put a small dollop of brush cleaner in the palm of your hand.
  • Swirl your brush in your palm until it really lathers up and all makeup in it breaks down – this usually takes 5-15 seconds.
  • Rinse the brush clean under the faucet, and really make sure no brush cleaner residue is left behind.
  • Optionally, you can also use conditioner now to load your brush up with a bit of moisture. This is not required with most brush cleaners, since they tend to be quite moisturizing on their own. If you do choose to do this, make sure to rinse all conditioner residue away as well.
  • To get most of the water out of your brush, gently wipe it on one of your softest towels without rubbing or tugging.
  • Lay it down flat on a clean towel so it can dry. Leave it for at least a few hours.
  • Repeat with all of your brushes.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes with Soap

This method gives just as complete a cleaning as a shampoo-style brush cleaner. It’s totally up to you which method you prefer!

  • You will need a faucet, a soap brush cleaner in a tin, and some soft towels.
  • Run your makeup brush under the faucet in order to dampen it.
  • Swirl your brush a few times over the soap in order to load it up.
  • Work the brush cleaning soap into a lather and break down the makeup residue by swirling your brush in your palm or over a silicone cleansing pad. Do this for about 5-15 seconds.
  • Rinse the brush clean of all soap and makeup.
  • Use your towel gently to remove as much of the water out of your brush as possible.
  • Lay your brush flat on a different towel and leave it for a few hours so it can dry.
  • Move on to your next brush until you’ve cleaned your entire collection.

How to Store Your Makeup Brushes

  • When your makeup brushes are clean and dry, you can store them in a brush bag or sitting upright in a cup.
  • While traveling it is probably going to be easiest to just keep your brushes in your makeup bag.
  • When your makeup brushes are drying after a cleaning it’s important that they be either flat or upside down, so water doesn’t seep into the ferrule, and it’s important that they be in the air where they can dry properly.
  • There are lots of cool brush holders you can pick up, as well, from Rae Morris’ magnetic frame to this silicone organizer from Ulta.
  • You can also experiment with making your own brush holder! It can be as simple as filling up a large jar or cup with beads, so that when you put your makeup brushes in they won’t move, or as elaborate as sewing a foldable bag with elastics to hold the brushes that you can hang on the wall by the mirror.
Makeup Brush Tips & Hacks

Photos via @annabellefleur, Instagram