How to Clean Makeup Brushes

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We all know that it’s bad for us to use dirty makeup brushes on our skin, but can you actually remember the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes? If you’re someone who skips out on this frequent beauty chore, you might be surprised to learn that experts say you should wash your makeup brushes once a week, especially if you use them often.

If you’re guilty of letting this task get away from you (like us), don’t worry. It’s never too late to get yourself on track. One thing you can start doing right away? Stop sharing your makeup brushes. “Coming in contact with your own oils and germs is one thing, but being exposed to someone else’s bacteria is entirely another,” Jenny Patinkin, celebrity makeup artist, previously told PS.

Ahead, we’re sharing how to clean your makeup brushes at home, the right way. Whether you’re looking for a DIY brush cleaner that you can make with items around the house or the right way to clean different types of makeup brushes, we’ve got you covered. Keep scrolling to learn more.

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

For a faster clean (perfect for pros or beauty girls in a hurry), use an alcohol-based product like the Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleanser ($24). It will sanitize and cleanse your brush but dry quickly. Spritz it down so that it is damp, then wipe the bristles against a clean, soft towel that you don’t mind staining. While you may think to use a paper towel or tissue for this, Patinkin warns against it. “I don’t like to wipe brushes on a paper towel or a tissue because the paper can disintegrate and leave tiny fibers in the brush hairs,” she says. Repeat your spraying and wiping process until you see no residue on the towel.

For a deeper clean, Patinkin likes using Woolite or London Brush Company’s Pure Goat Milk Solid Brush Shampoo ($34). They’re both very gentle on bristles (after all, you use Woolite on your cashmere — so it’s good enough for your beauty tools!). If you’re washing synthetic ones, break out the dish soap. “A tiny drop of dish detergent in warm water will break up any oil that’s accumulated,” she says. To clean your brushes during a wet wash, you can try a cleansing mat or a towel, but no matter what, use something that has texture. “A textured surface grips into the brush hairs, which helps to pull out the oils and pigments,” Patinkin says. For super-delicate brushes, just softly swirl them in the palm of your hand until they’re clean.

If you’re looking for a DIY way to clean your brushes at home, all you need is a little bit of olive oil and antibacterial soap. Mix two parts antibacterial dish soap to one part of the extra-virgin olive oil on a clean plate, then grab your first brush and wet it slightly with lukewarm water — making sure the brush stays bristle-side down throughout the entire process. If water gets into the ferrule (the metal tube in the middle that holds everything together) of the brush, it can loosen the glue, causing the bristles to fall out. Next, dip the damp brush into the soap mixture and coat it thoroughly. Then, work the mixture into the bristles using the palm of your hand and fingers. Continue until the soapy residue is makeup-free. Finally, rinse the brushes under lukewarm water until no soap runs from the bristles.

Makeup Brush Drying Tips

When it comes to preserving the shape of your brushes, it’s all about how you let it dry post-wash. “Even if it gets bent or splayed during washing, you can wet it down again to reset the hair pattern,” Patinkin says. She recommends gently squeezing wet brushes in a towel to soak up extra moisture then reshaping the head with your hand. Above all, don’t be rough with it. “If you spin, shake, or flick your brush, you’ll get the hairs out of place and they’ll dry frizzy, the same way your own hair would if you shook it out instead of combing or brushing it.” Additionally, being too harsh can loosen the glue in the ferrule, damaging it irreparably.

You may have read that storing a brush on its side is the best way to let it air-dry, but Patinkin disagrees. “You want to prevent water from dripping into the handle, which is what causes [the heads] to come loose,” she says. She suggested setting the bristles over the edge of the counter so they get 360-degree air circulation. (Try taping your handles to the counter so they stay put!) “This way, you won’t get a matted shape on one side like you would if you set it down on a flat surface.”

Melissa Liebling-Goldberg is a former beauty and fashion director at POPSUGAR.

Renee Rodriguez is a staff writer and social producer for POPSUGAR. She writes across all verticals, but her main areas of expertise focus on fashion and beauty content with an emphasis on reviews and editor experiments. She also produces social content for POPSUGAR’s TikTok and Instagram accounts.

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