How I Clean My Makeup Brushes

A few months ago I had a post about how to deep clean your beauty blenders, and I got a lot of nice feedback and messages saying it was really helpful! I decided to do a follow up post about how I wash my actual makeup brushes. After all, they need cleaning too!

v dirty!

Washing makeup brushes is honestly a bit of a chore, but it is an absolutely necessary one. I used to wash them less frequently than I do now (we’re talking YEARS ago when I first got into makeup) but I noticed that I got more breakouts on my face if I waited too long between washings. That fact alone made me feel disgusting for letting them get so dirty, but after some research I also found out waiting too long to wash can also lead to damaged brushes, muddied makeup application, clogged pores and even viral infections!!! So it’s VERY important to wash your brushes, even if it’s a bit annoying! These days I wash them about once every 1-2 weeks. It helps that I have a nice sized brush collection, so I can go longer between washing by swapping out brushes.

Anyway – now that I’m off my soap box haha – for today’s post, I’m washing both face and eye brushes, from a variety of brands. It’s 21 brushes in total – this is about average for the number that I usually wash at one time. I don’t normally count or anything but it felt like the same amount haha

hand clean

This is the method I’ve been using to wash my brushes for years. Once upon a time I bought fancy brush shampoo and researched all these devices supposed to make your brushes softer, last longer, blah blah blah…but you don’t need all those things! Here’s what I use to wash my brushes:


  • soap – I use dish soap normally. You can also use shampoo (this is a great use for shampoo that you got in a beauty box that doesn’t work well with your hair…), baby shampoo which is really nice and gentle on the brushes, or, if you really want, an actual makeup brush cleaner. In the past I’ve used the Elf one which was fine, but I didn’t feel the need to get it again. I’ve also heard very good things about the Cinema Secrets one but haven’t personally tried it.
  • paper towels
  • dirty brushes
  • water…haha
  • and some kind of “scrubby” device. I use this one called a BrushEgg, which I like, but Elf also has a scrubbing glove that I’ve been eyeing, Sigma has one that’s…expensive and ridiculous (seriously click and look how stupid that looks lol), or you can even use those silicone pot holders. I’ve even seen people use LEGO boards for this purpose…as long as it’s scrubby and won’t damage the brushes, you’re good!


And tbh, you don’t need to have this – but it makes it SO MUCH EASIER to clean them if you do!!

So before we jump into it, I wanted to show you something related that I use now and then to spot clean my brushes between uses. A while ago I got this Dry Clean Brush Spray from Sephora and it’s awesome. I wrote about it on my favorites a few months ago too.

dry clean

All you have to do is spray a dirty brush:


…and then rub it on a paper towel:


And it’s mostly clean!


It doesn’t completely clean the brush, but it does a good enough job if you just need a quick switch to a new color or a touch up between washings. I find it works best on eye brushes. Here’s another example, an eyeshadow brush that’s a bit dirtier:

dirty brush

Just spray:

spray spray

Wipe it off:


And it’s good!

swipe swipe

You can see it’s not completely sparkling clean, but it’ll do for changing to a new color.

Anyway… back to our deep cleaning procedure!! So you have your soap, paper towels, scrubby device, sink, and dirty brushes, and we’re ready to go. First of all, just like last time, make sure you take off all your jewelry or watches – we’re gonna be getting very scrubby here:


I like to put my ipad up on the counter in front of me so I can watch youtube videos while I wash 🙂 You’ll also want to lay out some paper towels next to the sink for you to put the brushes on as you wash. I like to do 2-3 layers so it’s a bit thicker and the counter doesn’t get soaked.

So the actual washing is very similar to washing the beauty blenders. First, put some soap on your scrubby device:


Next, wet the brush. For face brushes, I like to put some soap directly onto the brush as well.


And then – scrub away!! I like to do this away from the water at first, so you can really scrub it good and clean.


This is why having a scrubby glove or other tool makes it SO much easier to clean. I used to just do this in the palm of my hand, which worked – but it made my hand sore and pruny after washing 20+ brushes each time lol

It’s equal parts gross and satisfying to watch all the foundation or whatever product come out of the brush. If you need to, add more soap and just keep scrubbing til the water runs clear:


Then, just do a quick rinse:


And you’re done!! I like to wipe the brush out on the paper towel a little to make sure all the product is out. This particular brush is a bit stained, so it can be hard to tell when it’s totally clean…


…but a quick wipe shows it’s good! Then you can gently reshape the brush if necessary, and lay it to dry while you finish.


And on to the next one! I won’t show you all of them obviously but just a few so you can get the idea…just add some soap:


A good scrubbing:


Wipe it down, and you’re done!

2laid out

It’s that easy! For most brushes, it’s literally that simple. The only difficult part is keeping your fingers from getting pruney haha. The only weirdness you might run into could be brushes that are oddly shaped or sized – for very tiny brushes I like to use the other side of my BrushEgg with little dots to get them really clean. An example of this is my brow brush. It’s a really tiny, thin brush head that kinda gets lost in the scrubby lines of the BrushEgg – but the dotted side works perfectly:


Of course, it doesn’t really matter and you could still get the job done without a specific tool – but it certainly helps! 🙂

Another kinda weird brush is my spoolie brush I use to go through my brows – this needs washing too! But it’s the same process, more or less. I just put some soap on and gently run it through the scrubby edges, and it’s good as new:


Once I’m completely done with all my brushes, I like to run them on a clean paper towel one more time to make sure nobody needs a second run-through:


And then I give them one last good dry (especially for more dense ones, like face brushes):


And it’s ready to lay out to dry!!


It’s hard to see in this pic, but this brush still had a bit of product left in it that I got on the towel:

elf dirty

Another quick run through got it all fixed up!

elf clean

Again, you really don’t have to be this meticulous with your brushes – but I’m meticulous by nature and I figure if you’re doing this, you might as well do a good job, right? I have been washing my brushes this way for a long time and I’ve had many of them for several years, and they’ve held up perfectly fine. That first brush I showed with the wooden handle is one of my very favorites, they don’t even make it anymore and I’ve had it since at least 2012. And while it might not matter if you have to toss an Elf brush that only cost $3 – for some of these more expensive brushes like Sephora and MAC, these brushes cost upwards of $20 EACH, so why would you not take care of it??

Also, quick side note – while I was washing my brushes I also had my Beauty Spatula chillin in a cup of soapy water, getting cleaned while I cleaned. Two birds one stone right?


So anyway! Once you’re finished washing, drying, and inspecting all your brushes, they hopefully look beautifully clean like this:


Unlike my beauty blenders, which I leave out in my kitchen windowsill to dry fully, I like to lay out my brushes on a soft towel in the bathroom to dry (also pictured – the Beauty Spatula, some hair clips, bobby pins, and my elf mask brush haha)

laid out.png

Normally it takes a little less than a day for the eye brushes to dry, and about 2 for the more dense face brushes. Once they’re all dry and clean you’re good to go!!!

before and after

And that’s how I clean my makeup brushes! Do you have a favorite method for cleaning your brushes? I hope if you’re a makeup lover you enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful 🙂

Thanks for reading as always, ❤ Kaela

PS: I’ll do a complete rundown of all my brushes someday (when I have a better collection lol) but here’s all the brushes in this post – in the order they’re laying out in that photo on the pink towel:


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