Six Tips That Make Cleaning Makeup Brushes a Breeze

Let’s be realistic here: most people don’t have the time to wash their makeup brushes after every use.

Sure, in a perfect world, you’d never touch a used brush to your face. In the real world, most makeup-lovers have forgotten a brush’s real color at some point or another. And we all know the reason why:

Washing makeup brushes sucks.

Most people hate it. It dries out your hands, uses up two showers’ worth of water, and takes forever.

It’s a necessary evil, but should be done no less than once a month, if not every day.

However, after a month, those dirty brushes start to pile up…

While it might seem like a good idea to wait a month to wash all those brushes, in the end you sometimes have to spend multiple hours cleaning out thirty days of built up gunk. No thank you.

These six tips can help you to shorten this laborious chore and keep from spreading all those nasty makeup germs all over your fresh canvas.

  1. Keep Up the Maintenance

While deep cleaning your brushes after every use isn’t always possible, you should still be wiping all the makeup out of them.

For powder and eyeshadow brushes, a few swipes over a paper towel or dry washcloth and a quick spritz with rubbing alcohol is enough to keep them clean for longer.

Brushes used for liquid products, however, will require a little more work. Try getting a brush cleaner like E.L.F.’s Daily Brush Cleaner, and just spray a little on a paper towel and wipe off all the excess makeup. You can also wipe the bristles over a makeup removing wipe and then finish off with a little rubbing alcohol on a paper towel to remove any residue.

At the end of the month, when it comes time to clean your brushes, you’ll have a much easier time getting the bristles squeaky clean if they’re not full of a month’s worth of product.


  1. Get a Good Scrubbing Surface

Whether it’s a high-end sink matt, a $1 brush egg, a silicone oven mitt or a clipboard with grooves made from a hot glue gun, the best way to speed up your brush cleaning process is to have a good surface to scrub your brushes on.

The grooves in these brush cleaners allow you to dig the bristles in and get out of the product that’s stuck in the middle. This speeds up the process a lot when you can let the brush cleaner do the hard work of scrubbing the bristles.

Personally, I enjoy a brush egg, because it allows me the most freedom of movement.


  1. Break Out the Oil

If your liquid foundation brush is too full of gunk to get clean with baby shampoo or a brush cleaner alone, then you might want to consider using an oil. Baby oil and olive oil are both pretty easy to find lying around the house, and they both do an excellent job breaking down liquid makeup.

Simply work the dirty bristles into a little bit of the oil until the makeup is mostly out. Then, let your normal brush shampoo do the rest.

Using an oil works wonders for getting out excess makeup, but you still have to wash out the oil afterward, so it’s not the fastest way clean all of your brushes.


  1. Use Jars

If you’ve got brushes in the double digits to wash, then you might want to get some big mason jars to help you out.

Fill up the mason jars with a considerable amount of your preferred brush cleaner and add an equal amount of water. Then, put in as many makeup brushes as you can fit while still having room to swirl the brushes around.

Grabbing all the brushes by the handle, swirl them around in the soapy water until the water has been soiled. Rinse the brushes with water, and repeat if necessary.

This technique works best for eyeshadow and powder brushes that won’t require a lot of scrubbing on a ridged surface.

While this is a good way to save some time, be careful not to push too hard on your brushes or submerge them up past the ferrule, or you can risk loosening the glue that holds the brush together.


  1. Micellar Water Isn’t Just for Your Face

Before washing your brushes, try submerging them in a liquid makeup remover to help break down makeup.

In a little bowl, pour your favorite eye makeup remover or micellar water up to about an inch and give each brush a quick dunk before you go to town.

While the brushes wait to be washed, the makeup remover will be settling into the brushes and will help break it down, making it easier and quicker for you to wash all that makeup out. If you want, you can even leave the makeup remover in for a half hour or so after you dunk them.

Just don’t leave them submerged, or let any liquid get up into the ferrule.

  1. Hang Your Brushes to Dry

I resisted buying a brush tree for a long time, thinking that by lying my brushes to dry at an angle I was saving money. In the end, I ended up permanently disfiguring one of my brushes when it dried with all the bristles bunched up. That was when I bought a brush tree.

Brush trees are great, because not only do they keep your brushes intact, but they let you use your clean brushes sooner by drying them quickly and efficiently.  

You can get brush trees from some high-end retailers, but also for fairly cheap from Amazon, Ebay, and even Etsy.

Don’t want to spend the money or don’t have time to wait for one to be delivered? No problem. You can make one pretty easily at home from some craft foam, or other assorted household items.

One of my favorite hacks for those of you not feeling the arts and crafts is to hang the brushes upside down off a counter with clothespins. After wiping away excess water with a towel, clip your makeup brush in, and then place a large book on the end of the clothespin to serve as a counterweight.

Not terribly pretty, but extremely efficient and economical.

Washing Your Makeup Brushes Sucks… But it doesn’t have to be Torture

At the end of the day, washing your makeup brushes regularly is better for your skin, your wallet, and your brushes. It’s a chore, sure, but hopefully these six tips can make it a little less dreadful for you.

Stay beautiful!

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