DIY: Cleaning Your Makeup Brush

by Madeleine Hawks

My friend Jessica requested a makeup brush tutorial a while ago (thanks for being patient, Jessica!). Without further ado, here it is!

I’m going to start with the basics here, folks. Makeup brushes are used for: powdered makeup! They come in many varieties, which I don’t know much about, so I won’t go into that right now. You’re going to have to do your own research or wait for a later post that describes what to look for in a makeup brush. I always get overwhelmed by the options and price range at the store and tend to buy a cheaper brush.  However, I know that well-made ($$$) brushes could last forever if well-cared for, whereas mine last only about a year before they look frazzled and sad. If you know what you’re talking about in terms of brushes, unlike myself, do share!

Anyway, whether you wear eyeshadow, blush, or mineral makeup, you probably have some makeup brushes floating around covered in powder, dirt, dead skin cells, dust, and bacteria. That’s perfectly normal nastiness! However, you can take matters into your own hands and clean up your brushes.

I’m sharing a deep-clean brush wash tutorial and a once-a-day sanitizing spray tutorial. The deep clean is recommended as often as you can remember to do it. Some say 1 week is the maximum length of time between deep cleans, while others only do once a month. I am a forgetful makeup brush cleaner and only seem to remember right before I’m about to use the brushes, which would be the worst time to clean them because they take several hours to dry. I’m going to try to start getting into the routine of cleaning them whenever I change my sheets, which is about once a week.

Makeup Brush Wash (weekly):

olive oil (or coconut or jojoba)

liquid castille soap (like Dr. Bronners)

white vinegar

2 shallow bowls or small containers


Put about a quarter sized amount of olive oil onto your washcloth and dab the bristles gently, swiping back and forth, avoiding the stem of the brush, where oils and water can go to destroy the glue and invite mold to a party. Keep in mind that the whole time you’ve got liquid on this brush, the bristles should be pointed downwards to minimize the amount of liquid that will climb into the stem.

Mix the castle soap with some warm water in one of the bowls and wash your makeup brush. Try to keep the level of this low so that you’re not submerging the brush.  Squeeze out and repeat until the brush looks clean.

Dip the clean brush into a shallow bowl of vinegar and swirl until the brush is well-rinsed. Next, rinse the brush under cool-warm (not hot!) water for just a few seconds until the water runs clear. Use your fingers to squeeze the bristles as you rinse. Finally, squeeze out the last bit of water with your hands and pat dry with a towel. Try not to rub the bristles too much or they might lose their shape. Lay flat to dry (I put mine on a washcloth in the windowsill). This sounds like a lot of steps, but I swear each brush doesn’t take long!

*Hopefully you have clean washcloths on hand. My roommate has a tendency to use them and carefully leave them hanging over the shower curtain where I will find them and wash them so that I have some to use.  This is a vicious cycle that I don’t like nor recommend. 

Makeup Brush Sanitizing Spray (daily):

spray bottle

distilled water

isopropyl alcohol

witch hazel (natural astringent)

tea tree essential oil (antibacterial)

olive oil (alcohol is drying – this will keep your brush fibers smooth)

Fill the spray bottle halfway with alcohol. Fill the next quarter of the bottle with distilled water. Fill the final quarter of the bottle with witch hazel and add a little olive oil to the top. Add a few drops of tea tree oil (I also add a little lavender or another essential oil that smells good). Shake it up!

Spray your brushes after you use them and wipe them gently back and forth with a wash cloth (the stains eventually disappear). Lay flat to dry.

3 responses to “DIY: Cleaning Your Makeup Brush

  1. To each her own! Not cleaning isn’t the end of the world, really. There are two potentially bad outcomes for some though: 1) you could break out if you’re prone to acne because of the bacteria that gets on the brush or 2) the color of your makeup changes with brush buildup, especially if you’re using the brush for different powders. To be honest, neither of those is much of an issue for me. I do happen to have a weird phobia of dead skin cells lurking though, so I hopped on the makeup brush cleaning train as soon as possible. I don’t even like to have blankets touch my face because of invisible/harmless skin bits!

  2. Pingback: Face Washing and Other Clean Myths | Get Clean, Girls·

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