Beauty Basics : Cleaning Makeup Brushes & Tools The Easy Way!

It doesn’t matter if you are 15 or 50, if you use makeup brushes and other beauty tools (and you should!) then you HAVE to clean them. Cleaning makeup brushes can be a game changer both with makeup application and with the health of your skin. Brushes, sponges and other makeup tools can harbor bacteria, oils and other chemicals. This can cause breakouts, uneven application of your makeup, and even eye infections. (Ick!)

Ok, so on your last trip through Target, or Sephora or Ulta, you may have passed that (not so innocently placed) last rack of “Essential” products on your way to check out. Among those endless tubes of irresistible lash lengthening mascara and perfect makeup remover wipes might be a bottle or two of makeup brush “shampoo”. One tiny bottle at $10. That, my friends, works out to about $30 an ounce. To clean your makeup brushes! Yep, it’s important to do. No, you don’t need to spend that much to do the job right. Here is how cleaning makeup brushes can be easy, and inexpensive. And, you can DIY it. Ah, our fav word, right? Let’s get one step closer to healthier skin and prettier makeup!



Beauty Basics : Cleaning Makeup Brushes & Tools The Easy Way!


Cleaning Makeup Brushes & Tools

First thing first… At least once a month, gather all your makeup tools together near a sink. This means makeup brushes, sponges, and other tools like eyelashes curlers. I like to do this on a Sunday after I finish my makeup and hair. It’s a slower pace day, and I can wait overnight for all of the tools to dry, as I won’t need to reapply makeup until the next day.

Second, make your DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner. This is how I do it.

In one small dish, I put a few tablespoons of olive oil or fractionated (liquid) coconut oil. In a second small dish or bowl, use several pumps of antibacterial hand soap. This can be the cheap, 79 cent variety. Some beauty bloggers mix the two, and you can if you prefer. I like to do each step separately when cleaning makeup brushes and tools. Here’s why.

I separate my brushes and sponges into two piles, tools that are primarily used in powders, and tools that are primarily used in oil based products. (Such as foundations and concealers). All your tools for oil based products, dip into the oil, saturate, and squeeze out the excess. The oil will help to break up the heavier ingredients in those tools. Now set all of these aside for a few minutes while you move onto the other brushes.

Beauty Basics : Cleaning Makeup Brushes & Tools The Easy Way!


All your other brushes , rinse first with water, then dip into the soap dish. You will want to rub the bristles of the brush in order to break up all the pigment and other ingredients. You can either do this with your fingers, or you can rub them into a makeup brush cleaning mat. This is helpful if you have 10 or more brushes and you don’t want to spend half your beautiful Sunday washing them. Rinse, and repeat until the water runs clear.

Now back to the oil soaked brushes and sponges. Rinse with warm water, squeeze out, then repeat the same soaping/rinsing process as you did on the other brushes.

Beauty Basics : Cleaning Makeup Brushes & Tools The Easy Way!


Other tools, such as tweezers and eyelash curlers just need a quick swish with the antibacterial soap and a good rinse. Lay on a towel to dry.


Drying Makeup Brushes

Ok, now this part is important, because you want your makeup brushes to dry while retaining their shape, but you also don’t want to rot your wood handled brushes by allowing them to sit wet for too long. I roll my brushes gently in a paper towel to absorb as much moisture as possible, then allow then to dry laying flat on the counter or a towel. I do not recommend you putting them back into a makeup brush cup or holder to dry. This holds the bristles upright, and lets any remaining moisture work down into the handle. Not great for the long term use of the brush.

Another option? Make a DIY makeup brush drying rack! Try this easy brush drying hack from Instagrammer #midnightwink. Use hair ties and a towel rack to dry your brushes upside down!

So that’s it! Again, I like to clean all my brushes at least once a month. But if you notice your makeup application getting streaky or uneven, your skin breaking out more often than usual,  or your tools just plain look gross and gunky, do it sooner. Because friends don’t let friends use dirty makeup brushes. (And we’re friends now, right? :))

Cleaning makeup brushes is easy, inexpensive, and necessary. And if you are still using those silly little brushes that come in your drugstore makeup, stop. Run right now to your nearest beauty supply store and buy some reasonably priced decent makeup brushes. Nothing will make more of a difference in your beauty routine, not even high end makeup! But, that’s another post!

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Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates & Steve Bates (co-owners) – Woodard Bates Media LLC consisting of three blogs:, and

Kathy Bates’ previous writing credits include:

Former home decorating expert for Lifetime TV, Galtime and Country Woman Magazine.

Her book spent time at #1 on Amazon’s Home & Garden Topseller List in 2002.

Published or featured in numerous national publications, including:

Country Sampler’s Decorating Ideas magazine, Woman’s Day magazine, HGTV, The Wall Street Journal, CBS Marketwatch, Decorating Solutions magazine, Decorating Ideas magazine, The Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, Kansas City News, The Oklahoman, Akron Beacon Journal, Pensacola News Journal and The Telegraph.


  1. Jamie
    October 22, 2019 / 7:22 pm

    I’m embarrassed to admit I have no idea when the last time was I cleaned my brushes. I really need to deep clean my makeup brushes! This is a great step-by-step guide on how to clean makeup brushes! This was a very informative post and gave me a better idea about cleaning my brushes! Thank you!

    • Kathy Bates
      May 5, 2021 / 10:30 am

      You are welcome!

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