How to clean your makeup brushes

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Cleaning my makeup brushes wasn’t high on my priority list, when I first started wearing makeup. (Back when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.) I probably started experimenting and wearing makeup in the 6th grade. Wet & Wild brand, Bonnie Bell…only the high quality stuff. I matched my eye shadow to my outfit.  My lipstick to my plastic dangly earrings. This was The Way, young Jedi.  It was the 80’s! We did not wear any colors found in nature, especially on our fancy faces – just no way. The only makeup brushes that I owned, were the ones that came with my blush (bubble gum pink colored, of course), and the many eye shadow pallets that I accumulated from Thrifty’s drugstore. All the dinosaur moms are shrieking with delight at the mention of Thrifty’s! Yes, I am actually that old. But lets move it along, shall we?

I obviously didn’t give much thought to the makeup brushes, let alone how to clean them. None of the women in my immediate sphere of influence owned a “set” of makeup brushes. (Let’s blame everything on our Moms!) Whatever came in the Clinique eye shadow, is what my Mom used. Good enough for Mom, good enough for me. I didn’t know cleaning makeup brushes was a thing, until much later.

Recently, I taught my two oldest daughters how to clean their brushes, and thought I’d post a helpful tutorial on how it’s done.

It’s simple, really. You only need a few things:

  • dirty makeup brushes
  • baby shampoo
  • lukewarm water
  • cleaning tray (optional) I found mine at Ulta, for about $15. But, I used the palm of my hand before that, and it works just fine!

I recommend cleaning your brushes once a week. I clean mine on Sundays, after church. Pick a time that will become routine for you, and make it a habit. Dirty brushes can cause breakouts, uneven makeup application, and buildup of bacteria on your brushes. Cleaning makeup brushes isn’t the most fun thing in the world, (I find it relaxing) but turn on some Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin (LOVE), grab a beverage, and go to town!

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This is all you need. ^^

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This is the optional cleaning tray. ^^ The large nubs are for your big, fluffy brushes. The smaller nubs are for your small brushes. It fits right over your hand, as shown. My tray is rubber, and stays put nicely.

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Apply a quarter-sized amount of baby shampoo. (My hand model wasn’t available for this shoot. Enjoy your youth.)


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Swirl your brush gently on the tray. If you don’t have one, swirl the brush into your palm. Just as effective! Repeat this step several times, until the water runs clear. The more you use a particular brush, or the darker the makeup on the brush, the more you’ll need to repeat this step. No biggie. Sip your beverage, you’re almost done.

*It’s worth noting that it’s important to hold your brush downward, into the stream of running water because if you hold it “brush head up” the glue that holds the hair fibers in place can detach over time. Word to the word.

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Once you are satisfied that the thing is clean enough to eat from, gently squeeze the water out, between your fingers. And that’s a wrap!

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I’ll pause so you can gaze upon my clean set of brushes for a sec… Nice, right?!

Ohh ya, for the love of Pete, do not store your brushes upright until they are 100% dry – See above glue issue. This will take about 24 hours for quality brushes. I’ll do a post on quality brushes – Remind me.

I hope this post was helpful to you! And somewhat entertaining.


Warmly, Sarah

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  1. I like to use Neutrogena fragrance free facial cleanser to clean my brushes. Works well and does not have fragrance which makes my skin happy. Even though I use Dermalogica products for my facial routine, it’s too expensive to use on the brushes. So I purchase the Neutrogena specifically to wash my makeup brushes.
    You’re on top of it Sarah, washing yours once a week. I am inspired to do better.

  2. I’m really glad you made this post. Don’t judge me, but I’ve never cleaned my brushes. Gross, right? How embarrassing! Thanks for the tips, Neighbs!

    1. Yay! I’m so happy it was helpful. No judgment here. Don’t be embarrassed ~ Have you seen the trail of dry shampoo from my house?! ha, ha ha. :))

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