How to clean makeup brushes — washing and sanitizing will prolong its life and protect your skin

Learning how to clean makeup brushes the right way will step up your beauty routine for life

White makeup brushes on white background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're a beauty lover, it's essential to know how to clean makeup brushes the right way to keep them in good condition. Not only are dirty makeup brushes harder to use, they may also harm your skin. 

It's important to keep your makeup brushes clean to rid them of any bacteria that may be making itself at home in the bristles. This can cause breakouts and irritation around the eyes and skin.

We asked the cleaning professionals how to wash makeup brushes at home to make sure they're sanitary. Using the best cleaning supplies, you can get to scrubbing your brushes, ASAP. 

How to clean makeup brushes

Calling all beauty lovers — when was the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes? If you're struggling to remember, it's probably time to break out the soap. Residual product builds up in the brushes as well as body oil. 

"Makeup brushes accumulate all kinds of germs and bacteria. This can lead to acne, rashes, or even fungal infections," says Angela Rubin, a cleaning expert from Hellamaid. 

We investigated the best way to clean makeup brushes at home, with step-by-step advice. Once your brushes are squeaky clean, you can find some new makeup storage ideas to display your collection.

Makeup brushes in sink

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1: Remove residual makeup

Prep your makeup brushes for washing by removing excess makeup trapped in the bristles. 

"First rinse your brushes under lukewarm, clear running water in the sink," says cleaning expert, Karina Toner. "Too much product on the brush will make scrubbing them more difficult later so it's best to rinse off any extra power or cream makeup before washing with soap." 

Rinse until most of the makeup is washed off. or the water is somewhat clear. 

Step 2: Wash in soapy water

Fill a bowl with warm (not hot!) water and mix in a few drops of mild dish soap. You can use a special makeup brush cleaner such as the EcoTools Makeup Brush and Sponge Shampoo available on Amazon, or baby shampoo for a more gentle product. 

"You can even use your own shampoo or face wash if you have sensitive skin," says Angela.

Dip the bristles into the bowl, making sure not to get the handle wet as this can damage wooden makeup brushes. "Swirl the brush around and use your fingers to massage the bristles of the brush to loosen debris," says Karina. 

You can use a silicone cleaning mat with ridges, such as the highly-rated MR LION cleaning mat from Amazon, to help scrub the brushes for a deep clean.

Woman washing makeup brush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 3: Rinse and squeeze

Once you've cleaned the bristles thoroughly, rinse until the water runs clear and all makeup residue is gone. Then squeeze the excess water out of the brush before drying. 

"Use your hands to gently squeeze the bristles of the brushes together, avoiding a wringing motion. You want to remove as much water as possible or else it may leak into the brush handles, damaging the glue that connects everything together," says Angela.

Step 4: Lay flat to dry

Don't dry your brushes standing up in a jar as this will crush the bristles and they may dry misshapen. You also don't want to stand them up handle-side-down as the water will run down into the handle and glue. Instead, lay them flat on a clean towel to dry. 

The brushes should be dry in a few hours, but ideally, leave them to dry overnight. 

If you need to give your brushes an extra deep clean, you can spray with and wipe down the handles with rubbing alcohol, like this Amazon Basics Isopropyl Alcohol, to sanitize them. Always sanitize your brushes if used by another person.

How to clean makeup sponges

Cleaning makeup brushes is mostly the same process as cleaning makeup brushes. 

"Dunk your makeup sponges in a bowl of soapy water and allow to soak for a few minutes," says Karina. "Massage the sponge in your hand until all the product is removed, then rinse under lukewarm water. Leave to dry upright for a few hours."

How often to clean makeup brushes

How often you need to clean your makeup brushes will largely depend on how often you use them. "If you use your brushes every day, clean them every week or about every 10 days," says Angela. "For less frequent users, I'd recommend every two weeks or so." 

Once your brushes are under control, it's time to take a look at your makeup collection. Makeup doesn't last forever so it's always a good idea to have an audit and declutter makeup that's expired. 

After shrinking your collection down, it will be easier to organize makeup in a small bathroom for easy access.

Emily Lambe
Deputy Editor

Hey! I’m Emily and I’m the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. I’m here to bring you the latest decor trends, inspirational ideas, informative how tos, the latest celeb homes style and the best budget-friendly buys. I live in a rented apartment, making the most of small spaces and using accent pieces to make things pop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing yoga, eating chocolate or working on my skincare routine.