How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes Thoroughly and Quickly

How To Clean Makeup Brushes

I always knew that makeup brushes require regular cleansing. But I never knew how important proper maintenance is until my skin started breaking out! Yes, dirty makeup brushes can do that! I found out that a concealer I’d recently bought was breaking me out. Even though I stopped using it, my skin kept getting worse. It’s because I forgot that my concealer brush still had that product in it! It was a frustrating discovery but once I cleaned my brush, my skin caught a break and started clearing up. To save you from similar trouble, I’ve decided to let you in on this step-by-step guide on how to clean your makeup brushes.

But remember, the benefit of regularly cleansing your makeup brushes isn’t just about hygiene though that’s a big part of it. Clean makeup brushes make it easier to apply makeup, especially foundation. Imagine using a dirty foundation brush with dried-up foundation clumps stuck between bristles and how that would give you an uneven, streaky application. Or imagine an unwashed concealer brush that turned hard and how using that brush would irritate your under-eyes when you try to apply and blend concealer.

Unlike what you hear or what you see online, you don’t have to have a special tool or a dedicated product to properly clean your brushes. What you have at home is more than enough. Keep reading to learn how to clean your makeup brushes, what you need, and my secret for a quick but deep cleanse to remove waterproof makeup and stubborn makeup stains lingering on your brushes.

Materials You Need

  1. Cleanser: Some people use regular shampoo or baby shampoo to wash their makeup brushes. I use my Cerave Foaming Face Cleanser as it’s something I can comfortably use for my face too. And it’s not expensive either. So I’m not taking any chances by using a dish soap and neither should you.
  2. Bowl: This is to wash your brushes inside so it’s better if you have something a bit bigger so you can put both hands in. Also, the bowl is for saving water but you can always do the cleaning under running water.
  3. Dry Cloth: This is to dry the brushes later on. You can use a clean cloth or a paper towel.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes

Step 1: Run the Brushes Under Water

First thing first, run the brushes under water to wet them. I don’t like putting them all inside a bowl because I don’t want the handles to stay in the water.

Rinsing them under running water is the best way to focus on the bristles while keeping the handles as protected as possible.

That is actually how I ruined my favorite Chanel brush because the glue that sticks the brush to the handle got loose from excessive water.

Step 2: Fill Your Bowl with Water

This is where the actual cleansing is going to happen. So add lukewarm water inside a wide bowl to wash the brushes in.

Use your cleanser of choice to add to the bowl. Be generous with it! Mix it in to get that nice, sudsy water. Dip the tip of your makeup brush into the bowl to get soap and water.

Step 3: Rub the Brush Against Your Palm

This is the most important part because we need to apply pressure to the brushes to get in between the bristles. So use one hand to rub the brush against it to allow the soap and water to dissolve that makeup residue.

Do swirling motions inside the palm of your hand and lather it up. Then dip the brush into the bowl again to rinse it a bit. Repeat this a few times until you no longer have dirty foam inside your palm.

Step 4: Rinse

Once you’re done lathering and swirling, run the makeup brush under water to rinse it clean. If you think that the bristles are not clean enough and you can feel makeup residue, go back to the previous step and try washing it again.

Step 5: Soak Up Excess Water

Use a paper towel or a clean dry cloth to soak up excess water. Avoid harshly rubbing and pulling, which might damage the bristles of the brush and cause shedding.

Instead, press the cloth against the bristles. Fix the bristles to put the brush in its original shape and avoid leaving it dispensed or squashed. You don’t want it to dry that way!

Step 6: Air Dry

Put your makeup brushes flat on a surface to let them air dry. The important thing here is to make sure that the brushes are not upright as this will delay the time they need to dry because the water will collect at the root of the bristles.

When putting the brushes on a flat surface, make it so that the brushes are tilted upwards and not touching the surface, which causes more dirt and dust to build up. Put them on the edge of the counter to keep the bristles hanging in the air.

How to Deep Clean Dirty Makeup Brushes Fast

This is my secret to super clean makeup brushes in just a few minutes! I double-cleanse some of my brushes, especially my foundation brush. I mean I double cleanse my face if I’m wearing heavy foundation because it’s the only way to completely remove it. So this method works just as well for the brushes! Here’s what I do and how I do it as shown through the images below.

I dipped the old brush you see above into some pretty nasty makeup to prove my point. I let it dry and clump up for a couple of days for the sole purpose of demonstrating my process. So my tools are not usually this disgusting.

I squirt out some cleansing oil directly onto the brush, without wetting it first, and work that oil cleanser into the bristles. I rub the brush against the palm of my hand and I watch that oil-based dirt come out to my palm.

I then run it under the water to rinse it. As you can see, the brush is almost all clean even though I haven’t even started with the gel cleanser.

Then I get a pump of my daily gel cleanser into the palm of my hands and wash the brush using circular motions. I then rinse the brush, soak up excess water, and let it air dry.

Trust me, this is the only method I can swear by that even worked on brushes with stubborn stains. Because some brushes, no matter how clean they are, still have that brown stain from the foundation or pink stain from the blush.

Double cleansing gets rid of them too! Also, this method doesn’t actually need any repeating as double cleansing is a very thorough way of cleaning. So you save time and water!

How to Clean Makeup Sponges

Makeup sponges require regular cleansing too. When uncleaned, you might notice that your sponge has a weird smell from all that collective build-up of makeup and skincare from all that patting. And a dirty sponge can give you an equally uneven application! So here’s how to clean your makeup sponges.

Step 1: Prepare a Bowl

You can clean and wash your makeup sponges and beauty blenders the same way you clean makeup brushes. Add a generous amount of your cleanser of choice to a bowl of lukewarm water.

Step 2: Soak the Sponge

Soak the sponge inside the bowl for about 15 seconds. Regularly take it out and dip it in the water again while doing squeezing motions.

This is to help the sponge soak up the cleansing water and squeeze out the dirt stuck inside. Repeat this for several minutes.

Step 3: Rinse

Rinse the sponge under running water while still squeezing it until the water is clear. Remember to be gentle when cleaning your sponges because you might tear them apart.

Step 4: Air Dry

Leave the sponge on a clean cloth or a paper towel to let it air dry. Once it’s dry, put it in a closed container or if it’s a Beautyblender, put it in its own container.

How Often to Clean Makeup Brushes

This will depend mostly on you. But if you’re someone who regularly wears makeup every day, it’s best to clean your makeup tools once a week or at least once every two weeks.

It shouldn’t be too often that it becomes too daunting of a task. But you shouldn’t allow for bacteria and dirt to build up for too long either.

Additionally, unless you’re a pro makeup artist, you probably don’t own a lot of makeup brushes. That means you’re not able to rotate as often and you may have to use one single brush for several makeup products. And in that case, I feel like once a week is a good frequency because you need your brushes to be clean.

How to Store Makeup Brushes

While you can make your makeup brushes and sponges last longer by proper maintenance and regular cleansing, storing can make things easier too. Having them stored inside jars with lids or keeping them inside closed spaces like a drawer is a good start.

For example, if you’re someone who keeps their makeup products in the bathroom, you can imagine the importance of having a closed container like a makeup organizer to keep the brushes protected. A closed container will also keep the dust away and prevent it from settling on your brushes.

How To Know When To Toss Your Brushes

The best way to know when to toss your makeup brushes away is when they stop working the way they used to. Some people assume that you can throw them away once the bristles start shedding off. No!

Most natural brushes, the ones made with natural hair, are incredibly prone to shedding so much so that they shed starting from day one!

So that’s not always a good way to tell. But as a general rule of thumb, a quality makeup brush can last as long as 3-4 years with proper maintenance. Makeup sponges, on the other hand, should be replaced every 4-6 months.

If you think it’s time to replace your old brushes, remember to take a look at our round-up of the best makeup brush sets for every need.

What Are Some Tools to Clean Makeup Brushes

There are certain products available to help you clean your makeup brushes. There are liquids like special cleansers for washing makeup brushes.

There are silicone materials and gritty gloves to help you create friction while cleansing your brush as an alternative to using the palm of your hand. But again, you don’t need these to keep your brushes in good shape.

So this is how to clean your makeup brushes. Remember to do it as often so that you extend the use of your brushes, don’t miss out on performance, and keep things hygienic too. One final thing to note here is that some people use bar soap and rubbing alcohol to clean their brushes. Know that these can damage the bristles as soap and alcohol tend to be very drying. When in doubt, use your face cleanser!

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