You probably know that even the most gorgeous set of makeup brushes will lose their softness pretty quickly without the help of a good brush cleaner. Regular brush cleaning has other benefits as well – it prevents your makeup from looking streaky and it keeps your skin clear of breakouts. But do you know what the best makeup brush cleaner is? We’ve got you covered!
We’ve created the ultimate guide to help you! We’ve selected the best makeup brush cleaners on the market, spanning all different kinds of formulas, including sprays, liquids, soaps, and shampoos. We go on to explain exactly how each one of those formulas works and what it is good for to help you decide which one to go for.
In this article:
Our Picks of the Best Makeup Brush Cleaners
You are sure to find the best makeup brush cleaner for you since here we bring a variety of options – the best available on the beauty market now!
1. Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner
With this makeup artist brand, you know you’re buying something well formulated. This brush cleaner acts as an all in one that cleans and sanitizes makeup brushes without having to be rinsed off. Just wipe your brushes on a towel and you’ll know it’ll evaporate soon. It gets out even the toughest cream foundation residue, and will leave your brushes smelling like vanilla. Do note that if most of your brushes are white it might give them a blue tint. Buy it at Sephora!
2. MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser
This brush cleaner is another non-rinse-off that cleanses your brushes while killing bacteria. It contains quite a bit of alcohol that could be drying, but there is also hydrolyzed wheat protein to moisturize and nourish your brushes. It cleans out makeup very thoroughly and leaves behind a pleasant scent, but it may take a few moments to dry completely. It is available at Nordstrom.
3. IT Brushes for Ulta Brush Bath Purifying Brush Cleaner
This is an alcohol-free formula that will be super moisturizing to your brush bristles while cleaning them up. If you want a really quick clean this might be the best brush cleaner for you since it comes in spray bottle and doesn’t require rinsing. It is made with emollients and humectants that condition the makeup brushes well, and is lightly fragranced with natural essential oils. Please note that while it does clean very well, it is not antibacterial. Pick it up at Ulta!
4. Sephora Collection Color Switch By Vera Mona Brush Cleaner
This brush cleaner is very unique and a little magical sounding. It’s called Color Switch because it’s meant to make cleaning makeup brushes during your makeup application super easy. Apply one product, swirl the brush over this dry sponge, and then move on to the next one. You could do a full face with just a couple of brushes! The sponge comes in a metal case for easy portability. Keep in mind that it is not a substitute for a proper cleaning, and it might be a little rough on some makeup brushes. You can find it at Sephora.
5. Bobbi Brown Conditioning Brush Cleanser
This a very thorough and moisturizing brush cleaner that works similarly to a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner. This sulfate-free formula breaks down all of the makeup in your brush, allowing it to get rinsed out easily. It contains some hydrating ingredients that’ll keep your makeup brushes soft, and a bit of peppermint essential oil for a refreshing scent. It is sold at Nordstrom.
6. Sephora Collection The Cleanse: Daily Brush Cleaner
This is another more natural option for spray-on makeup brush cleaners. It cleans the makeup brushes up with the help of some super gentle emollients that break down makeup just enough so that it can be wiped off on a paper towel. It contains a touch of tea tree oil, an essential oil with some antimicrobial properties that’ll keep your brushes free of bacteria. It is available at Sephora.
7. Sigma Beauty SigMagic Brushampoo
This soap-based brush shampoo is natural and very gentle. It is made of saponified coconut and palm oils, which penetrate through the thick layers of bristles in your makeup brushes to break down even the most persistent makeup residue. You would use it just as you would a shampoo, and it is ideal for thorough monthly washes. You can buy it from Nordstrom.
8. Mineral Fusion Brush Cleaner
This is another natural take on brush cleaners that should leave your brushes soft, sanitized and beautifully scented. It’s a spray that contains a bit of alcohol along with grapefruit extract and a whole host of beautiful essential oils. It’s very quick-drying, and ideal for weekly use when you just need a quick fix. Order it online from Dermstore!
9. Make Up For Ever Instant Brush Cleanser
If you want quick, impressive results then this would be the best makeup brush cleaner for you. MUFE hasn’t disclosed its ingredients, but as reviews testify, it works quickly to thoroughly clean makeup brushes without having to be rinsed away. It comes with a spray nozzle and dries very quickly, so it could work especially well for makeup artists. Buy it at Sephora!
10. Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser
This wonderful brush cleaning spray is great for weekly clean-up, as it kills bacteria, removes quite a bit of makeup build-up, and dries very quickly. It does contain alcohol, but that’s balanced out by moisturizing hydrolyzed wheat protein. It doesn’t leave behind a scent, which is a bonus for those with sensitive skin or nose. You can get it at Nordstrom.
11. Ulta Brush & Sponge Cleanser
This no-frills spray bottle holds one of the best brush cleaners for those who want thorough results with minimal effort. Oh, and it works on makeup sponges as well! Spray it on your brushes, lather a bit, and then rinse away and they’ll be as good as new. It smells a bit of soothing lavender, which makes for a calming cleaning experience. Find it at Ulta!
12. Artis Brush Brush Cleansing Foam
Artis is known for making super dense oval makeup brushes, so this foam brush cleaner is made to really penetrate through those tight rows of bristles but also to wipe away easily. You can use it in conjunction with the Artis microfiber cleaning pad or with a simple microfiber cloth to really make sure it gets in and works well. It is available online via Net-a-Porter.
13. Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Palette
This little palette will save you a lot of mess and effort when it’s time to giving your makeup brushes a thorough wash. This little tool is made of silicone and is exactly the right side to slide over the palm of your hand. It has a multi-textured surface perfect for lathering your shampoo-style brush cleaner and allowing it to penetrate into your brush to give a complete cleanse. It comes with two satchels of gel brush cleaner, but we actually prefer it with any one of the best brush cleaners with a rinse-off formula that are on this list. Buy it at Ulta!
14. J.Cat Beauty Dry Makeup Brush Cleaner
This dry sponge is similar to the Color Switch, in that it is made to remove powder-based makeup products off of your brush without introducing any chemicals or water. It doesn’t sanitize, but it also doesn’t require drying time so you can use it mid-makeup application if you decide you suddenly want to use your crease brush to apply a highlighting color. The cool thing is that the sponge itself can be cleaned when you take the time to give your makeup brushes a thorough cleanse, so it really should last a very long time. Order it from Ulta!
15. bareMinerals Well-Cared For Brush Conditioning Shampoo
For when you need that deep clean, a shampoo made especially for makeup brushes is the way to go. This brush cleanser lathers up beautifully, removes every speck of makeup, and then leaves your makeup brushes soft and moisturized like new. It’s ideal for monthly use, and does require rinsing just like a normal shampoo. Get it from Nordstrom!
16. Jane Iredale Botanical Brush Cleaner
This simple brush cleaner will sanitize your makeup brushes with alcohol but will keep them soft with witch hazel and carrageenan. Like other alcohol-based sprays, it should dry fairly quickly. It is a natural formula that comes in a spray bottle for easy carrying and using. It smells grapefruity and fresh. Check it out on Dermstore!
17. Estée Lauder Makeup Brush Cleanser
This brush cleanser is ideal for weekly use but is actually almost as thorough as a shampoo. It cleanses thoroughly and sanitizes well since it contains both alcohol and gentle surfactants that break down makeup from deep within the brush. It contains a touch of wheat protein to condition the makeup brushes, as well. Buy it at Nordstrom!
18. Parian Spirit Professional Makeup Brush Cleaner
This professional strength brush cleaner may come in uninspiring packaging but the formula itself packs a punch. It’s a strong solvent formula that gets out every little bit of makeup, and even works for really stubborn materials like glitter or wax-based creams. It doesn’t require rinsing, as it evaporates quickly. You might find that using a conditioner after a few clean-ups with this brush cleaner is necessary, but it might save you the need for shampooing. You can find it on Beautylish.
19. EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo
This shampoo-style brush cleaner is so fabulous that I’d be willing to use it on my own hair! It’s a gentle, sulfate-free formula that will cleanse your makeup brushes thoroughly without drying them out. It is super concentrated so a little drop goes a long way. The bottle it comes in is made of 40% recycled material, which is fitting for an eco-conscious brand. Pick it up at Ulta!
20. Sigma Beauty SigMagic Scrub
This super unique brush cleaning gadget cleanses makeup brushes gently and without even a bit of mess. It is a soap-based brush cleaner for those thorough monthly cleaning sessions, but it actually makes the process quicker and easier. The soap is embedded in a little plastic plate that can be attached via silicone grips to your sink. You simply dampen your brush, swirl it over the scrub, and then rinse it clean and lay it down to dry. It is available at Nordstrom.
21. Japonesque Makeup Brush Cleanser – Rosewater
This hardcore brush cleaner has a spray formula that doesn’t just sanitize – it also leaves your makeup brushes spick and span. It has an irresistible rosy scent that will linger a bit on your brushes, making your makeup applications aromatherapeutic. It is sold online via Dermstore.
22. Laura Mercier Brush Cleanser
This multi-use brush cleaner can be used in two ways. You can spray it on your brushes and then wipe away for a quick, mid-week clean-up. For a more thorough clean, so thorough that it gets rid of even very persistent cream products, dispense some of the liquid brush cleaner in the cap and then thoroughly saturate your makeup brushes before wiping away. Grab it at Nordstrom!
23. Sephora Collection Purifying Brush Shampoo
This tiny brush cleaner container is ideal for travelers, since it packs easily and won’t spill in your bag. It contains a sulfate-free brush shampoo that cleanses makeup brushes thoroughly but is sulfate-free so it won’t damage or dry them out. The pump itself dispenses a conservative amount of product, which is great for small cleaning situations but might make it harder to clean very dense brushes. You can pick it up at Sephora.
24. Dior Backstage Brush Cleanser
As the name illustrates, this is a quick-acting brush cleaner and sanitizer ideal for behind-the-scenes cleaning. The spray formula is easy to use, giving a gentle cleanse that is ideal for mid-week. It is mostly fragrance-free so it should work for those who don’t do well with scents. You’ll find it at Nordstrom.
25. Shany Detox Professional Brush Cleanser
Perfect for carrying around while you travel, this little brush cleaner cleanses both natural and synthetic brushes, instantly removing any makeup residue, dirt and bacteria from your brushes. It’s fast-drying and cruelty-free, but also boasts matricaria flower extract as its main ingredient, which is known for its healing properties, thus making it a great brush cleaner even for sensitive skin types. Pick it up online on Amazon!
What Makeup Brush Cleaner Types to Choose?
As you have noticed on our list of the best makeup brush cleaners, there are different cleansing formulas you can choose, which we discuss in detail below.
No-Rinse Liquid Brush Cleaner
Spray and dip makeup brush cleaners are great for cleaning makeup brushes frequently, since they dry quickly and don’t require rinsing with water. Some sort of spray brush cleaner should be used at least once a week to quickly clean and sanitize your brushes.
These kinds of brush cleaners rarely give as thorough a clean as cleansers that require water. However, some kinds do, but the flip side is that they tend to be quite drying, which is why they are best used in conjunction with shampoo or soap-esque brush cleansers.
These brush cleaners sometimes come with spray nozzles, so they can be sprayed directly on the brushes or on a cloth. In other instances, they come with a cap which is meant to be filled up. The brushes are then soaked in the brush cleaner and wiped.
Most formulas of spray makeup brush cleaner are focused on removing surface residue of makeup from brushes and sanitizing them to clean bacteria. They will usually be alcohol-based, since alcohol is an excellent sanitizer, but you’ll also see alcohol-free formulas that contain other antimicrobial agents. If you have acne you might want to use these brush cleaners after every makeup application, in order to prevent your brushes from collecting bacteria from your skin and then reinfecting you.
These hardcore brush cleaners can give your makeup brushes a very thorough cleaning that removes a lot of makeup build-up. They are usually based on emollient ingredients like isoparaffin or isododecane. These more thoroughly cleaning brush cleaners are also often somewhat sanitizing, and they are also likelier to dry out your brushes. If you regularly apply cream or liquid products with a brush, then these brush cleaners are totally worth purchasing.
Shampoo-Style Brush Cleaner
Much like the shampoo you’d use for your hair, shampoo brush cleaners are gels that come in a bottle. They should be used once every month or two to give your makeup brushes a more thorough clean that really gets rid of any makeup residue that may be hidden deep within the bristles of your brushes.
You apply the shampoo brush cleaner to your brush heads while they are damp, massage it in, and then rinse your brushes clean. While you can absolutely use your regular shampoo to clean your makeup brushes, the benefit of a dedicated brush cleaner is that it is made with brushes in mind. It doesn’t contain any ingredients that’ll leave behind a residue and it tends to be quite gentle.
Soap Brush Cleaner
The main alternative to using a brush cleaning shampoo is to use a brush cleaning soap. Much like a regular body soap, a soap brush cleaner is made of saponified botanical oils (usually coconut and palm) that do a wonderful job of melting down all kinds of makeup products!
While soaps are too harsh and alkaline to use on the face, that doesn’t need to be a concern when it comes to cleaning makeup brushes. Regular bars of soap usually have oils or emollients added to them that would leave a residue on your makeup brushes, but with a soap-based brush cleaner you know that your brushes will be totally clean without anything left behind.
Like with shampoo-style brush cleaners, soap brush cleaners should be applied to brushes while they are damp, lathered and then rinsed away.
Dry Brush Cleaner Sponge
One of the newer innovations we’ve been seeing is the dry brush cleaning sponge. These dry sponges are not meant to really clean or sanitize your brushes. When you wipe your brushes on them they will remove powder from the top bristles.
This allows you to clean makeup brushes in the middle of a makeup application, when you would like to go from one color to a different one with the same brush but without combining the two colors or ending up with a muddy look. It is not a replacement for a brush cleaning spray or shampoo.
Brush Cleaner Tools
Silicone pads have become very popular in recent years for brush cleaning. They are not used alone but in conjunction with a rinse-off brush cleaner. Once the shampoo or soap has been dispensed either on the brush or on the silicone pad, you rub the brush on the pad to work the shampoo or soap in and create a lather.
Normally you would just use your hands for this, but the silicone pads are just as gentle but they are quicker to work the brush cleanser in and to create a lather. The big benefit is that your hands don’t get dirty or dry from the brush cleaning process, so once your makeup brushes are rinsed clean you don’t have to wash your hands before drying them.
Another recent brush cleaning innovation is the spinning tool. You attach the brush to the spinning tool, which is suspiciously similar to a handheld electric whisk, screwdriver, or immersion blend. You place your brush’s head in a bowl filled with a bit of water and some shampoo-style brush cleaner, and then click a button to spin the brush.
The spinning effect is forceful enough to create a foam in the water and to actually clean the brush. The tools will not work with all brush handles, unfortunately, and they are really only worth investing in if you have mobility issues or if you have some brushes that are particularly dense and tough to clean with other methods.
Photos via @anajohnson, Instagram, Sephora