How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes

I love makeup. D would probably argue that between the makeup and the nail polish I should try to find a 12 step program. But I can’t help it, it’s so fun to try out new colors or techniques, even if I’m not planning to leave the house. But when I do leave the house, I pretty much always have makeup on. Whether it’s just some concealer and mascara quickly before work, or a dark smokey eye for a night out with friends. It’s like art for your face!

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

So if you’re like me and you use makeup, you probably also use makeup brushes – for blush, eye shadow, foundation, etc. Apparently I have a brush for everything and then some…But it’s important to keep those brushes clean so that you don’t spread bacteria all over your face again and again! Ideally, you should do a quick-clean if your brushes every week, and a good deep clean about once a month, regardless of whether you’ve used the brushes every day, or only just a few times.

The good news is, you can do a monthly deep clean of your brushes using stuff you probably already have in your kitchen!

Brush Cleaning Supplies

You will need:

  • dish soap
  • olive oil
  • a plate
  • water (not pictured)
  • paper towel or dish towel (not pictured)
  • dirty, dirty makeup brushes

The soap will remove the bacteria/grease/color left on your brushes while the olive oil helps to condition the brush bristles and keep them from drying out.

Soap and Oil on Plate

First, add equal parts of the oil and soap onto a plate. I start with a teaspoon of each, then add more as I go along, if I need it. Next, swirl your dirty brush in the mixture and you’ll see all the leftover makeup start to flush itself out of the brush.

Swirling a Makeup Brush in Oil Soap Mixture

After you’ve swirled it around for 10 seconds or so, rinse the brush in lukewarm water to get all of the soap out. Rinse until the water runs clear and the brush is no longer soapy.

Washing Makeup Brushes

Make sure not to get water in the ferrule of the brush (the metal part of the brush that holds the bristles onto the wooden shaft). If you get water in there, the glue that holds the bristles together and onto the shaft will fail and your brushes will not be good brushes anymore!

Makeup Brush Ferrule

Once you’ve washed off all of your brushes, gently reshape them and lay them flat to dry. I usually prop them on a paper towel and leave them to dry overnight.

Drying Brushes

I won’t lie, this brush cleaning was loooong overdue, and cleaning your brushes like this works really well, especially if it’s been a while. If you take good care of your brushes, they’ll stay very soft and supple and you can use them for years and years. I’m always amazed at how great using dish soap and olive oil works. Check out how dirty this brush was:

Dirty Stippling Brush

A few swirls around the plate and a quick rinse, and it’s as good as new!

Clean Stippling Brush

Quick, easy, no special ingredients, and it’s kinda fun!

Clean Makeup Brushes

42 thoughts on “How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes”

  1. Great post! Cleaning my brushes is something I never seem to make time for. I even have “brush cleaner”, but I’m such a procrastinator. I need to make time for it! Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Im not sure about grapeseed oil since I’ve never used it but you could definitely test it out on one of your brushes. Let me know if you try it and how it works out!

    2. I used canola oil and it worked pretty good! You can use most oils, just make sure you rinse them really well! :-)

  2. Very cool! I have been trying to think of a way to clean my brushes to the cleanest they can be for the longest time!! Could this work on paint brushes to?

    1. Thanks! I dont think you should use the cleanser for paint brushes. What kind of paint was used? If its acrylic or water based paint rinsing them in water should be fine. If its oil based paint turpentine works for cleaning them. Good luck! :)

  3. I’ve used this method before, but a few of my brushes don’t seem to mix well with the oil. They get kind of greasy and don’t got back to their original shape. They seem to just hold the oil even after they have dried. Any tips for that?

    1. One suggestion I can give is to use a regular antibacterial dish soap and not one with added moisturizers. I once used a soap with olay moisturizers for your hands and had a similar problem. If that doesnt help, try using more soap and less oil, like a 2 to 1 ratio instead of 1 to 1, make sure the brush gets very soapy while you are rinsing and rinse it very well. Sometimes that takes a bit longer. Hope that helps!

  4. I have heard to wash brushes with Baby Soap because its mild, haven’t tried it yet but I REALLY have to wash my brushes will definitly add the Olive Oil to it….thanks!

  5. This is a GREAT way to clean your brushes, but when you let them dry on their side, the water on them seeps down into the brush handle and ruins the brush. So I just Cover the bruch part in a layer of saran wrap, and let them stay upsidedown in an old (but clean) cup.

    1. Thanks for sharing the tip! You’re right, you definitely have to be careful not to let water get into the brush. I always make sure to prop them up at the opposite end. Also, have you heard of the Brush Guard? They’re great for drying brushes and help them to keep their shape, too.

  6. I just tried this and it worked great. My brushes were filthy. I think it helps if you use quality brushes to begin with. I use MAC brushes.

  7. This works. And two suggestions: you can substitute shampoo for the dish soap; nicer smell. And when you lay out your brushes to dry, do so at an angle. Put a rolled towel or washcloth under the towel or washcloth their drying on. This way, no water will pool in the brush base or ferrule.

    1. Hi BookLover00! Yes, shampoo is a great suggestion and a nice alternative to dish soap. And you’re right, keeping your brushes at an angle while they dry is a must! Thanks for commenting :)

  8. I just tried cleaning my brushes this way and it worked great! I couldn’t believe the amount of makeup that came out! I’ll definitely keep using this method and pass it onto my friends. Thanks!

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  10. Hi I have really wanted to clean my brushes for a while now and this seems like such an easy way… Do you know if you can use vegitable oil instead of olive oil?? Thanks :)

  11. I’m quite skeptical of this method to be honest. What you neglect to mention is that getting oil into the drain (which is implied when you rinse the brush in water over a sink) is very, /very/ bad for the drain and if done regularly, the oil could possibly build up and clog the pipes.

    1. Hi Rin. I think you may be confusing oil and grease. While grease (which solidifies) can certainly clog pipes and is not good to pour down drains, using a small amount of olive or other oil to clean brushes once a month is not going to damage or clog pipes. My husband is a plumber and he would certainly let me know if my method of cleaning brushes was in some way harming the plumbing!

  12. I wish I’d known about the water in the ferrule, I ruined my favorite liquid foundation brush. I’m going to try this formula out and be more careful next time. Thanks!

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