How to Clean and Care for Your Makeup Brushes: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to clean and care for your makeup brushes. As a professional makeup artist with years of experience in the industry, I understand the importance of maintaining clean brushes for flawless application and overall hygiene. 

In this article, I will share my expertise and provide you with practical tips and step-by-step instructions to ensure your brushes remain in top condition during their lifespan. Let’s dive in and discover the secrets to prolonging the life of your beloved brushes!

Beauty 101: How To Clean Makeup Brushes
Regularly cleaning your makeup brushes is essential for hygiene and performance.
Foundation brushes should be cleaned at least once a week to prevent bacterial buildup.
Use lukewarm water and mild cleansers to clean your makeup brushes. Avoid using hot water, as it can damage the bristles.
Lay your brushes flat to dry after cleaning to maintain their shape and prevent water accumulation.
Store your brushes upright in a brush holder or container to protect them and maintain their cleanliness.
Spot clean your brushes between deep cleanings to refresh them and remove excess product buildup.
Avoid sharing your makeup brushes to prevent cross-contamination and skin infections.
Check for signs of dirtiness, such as visual buildup or stiff bristles, to determine when your brushes need cleaning.
Trim any stray bristles on your brushes to maintain their shape and precision.
Incorporate proper brush care during travel by using brush guards or a brush case to protect bristles from damage.

2. Why Cleaning and Caring for Your Makeup Brushes is Important

several makeup brushes on a white surface

Properly cleaning and caring for your makeup brushes is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, dirty brushes can harbor bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells, which can lead to breakouts, infections, and skin irritations. By regularly cleaning your brushes, you remove these impurities, ensuring a clean canvas for your makeup application and promoting healthier skin.

Secondly, cleaning your brushes regularly helps to maintain the quality and performance of the bristles. Makeup products can accumulate in the bristles over time, causing them to become stiff, clumpy, and less effective in blending. By keeping your brushes clean, you ensure optimal performance and achieve better makeup application results.

Additionally, proper brush care helps to extend the lifespan of your brushes, saving you money in the long run. When brushes are not cleaned and cared for, the buildup of product and bacteria can cause the bristles to deteriorate and shed. With regular cleaning and proper storage, you can ensure your brushes stay in excellent condition and last for years to come.

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3. Understanding Different Types of Makeup Brushes

To effectively clean and care for your makeup brushes, it’s essential to understand the different types of brushes and their specific uses. Each brush serves a unique purpose in the makeup application process, and selecting the right brush for each task is crucial.

Table: Types of Makeup Brushes and Their Uses

Brush TypeUse
Foundation BrushTo apply liquid or cream foundation for a smooth and even coverage.
Powder BrushTo apply loose or pressed powder for setting makeup and achieving an even finish.
Blush BrushTo apply blush or bronzer for a natural flush of color on the cheeks.
Concealer BrushTo apply and blend concealer for covering blemishes and imperfections.
Eyeshadow BrushesVarious types for applying and blending eyeshadow for different eye looks.
Lip BrushTo precisely apply lipstick or lip gloss for a polished, defined lip look.

Understanding the specific uses of each brush will help you determine the best cleaning techniques and products suitable for different brush types.

4. The Dangers of Dirty Makeup Brushes

several makeup brushes on a table next to a teddy bear

Using dirty makeup brushes can have detrimental effects on both your skin and makeup application. Here are some dangers associated with not properly cleaning your brushes:

  1. Bacterial buildup: Makeup brushes accumulate bacteria from your skin, makeup products, and the environment. When these bacteria linger on the brushes, they can transfer onto your face, leading to breakouts and skin infections.
  2. Product buildup: Over time, makeup products build up in the bristles of your brushes. This buildup can affect the bristles’ performance and hinder the application of makeup, resulting in streaks, patchiness, and uneven coverage.
  3. Skin irritations and allergies: Dirty brushes can cause skin irritations and allergies, especially for those with sensitive skin. The accumulated dirt, oil, and bacteria on the brushes can trigger allergic reactions, redness, and itching.
  4. Unwanted color transfer: When using a brush that hasn’t been properly cleaned, there is a risk of color transfer between different makeup products. This can lead to unexpected color combinations on your face, ruining your desired makeup look.

By regularly cleaning your brushes, you eliminate these risks, ensuring a hygienic makeup application and healthier skin.

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5. Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes

Now that we understand the importance of cleaning our makeup brushes, let’s dive into a step-by-step guide on how to clean them effectively:

  1. Gather your supplies: Before beginning the cleaning process, gather the necessary supplies. You will need a mild liquid soap or brush cleanser, a clean towel or paper towel, and a shallow bowl of lukewarm water.
  2. Wet the bristles: Start by wetting the bristles of the brush under lukewarm running water. Be cautious not to wet the entire brush handle, as this can loosen the glue holding the bristles in place.
  3. Apply cleanser: Pour a small amount of mild liquid soap or brush cleanser into your palm or onto a clean surface. Gently swirl the brush bristles in the cleanser, ensuring all bristles are coated with the product.
  4. Cleanse the bristles: Using circular motions, massage the bristles against your palm or on a textured surface, such as a brush cleaning mat, to remove dirt, makeup, and bacteria. Continue until the water runs clear, indicating that the brush is clean.
  5. Rinse thoroughly: Rinse the bristles thoroughly under lukewarm water, ensuring all soap residue is removed. Gently squeeze the bristles from the base to the tip to remove excess water.
  6. Reshape the bristles: While the bristles are still damp, gently reshape them with your fingers to restore their original shape. This will prevent them from drying in a misshapen form.
  7. Dry the brushes: Lay the brushes flat on a clean towel or paper towel and allow them to air-dry completely. Avoid drying them upright, as water can accumulate in the ferrule (the metal part that connects the bristles to the handle), compromising the brush’s integrity.
  8. Optional: Use a brush guard: To further maintain the shape and protect the bristles during drying, consider using a brush guard or a hair elastic to hold the bristles in place.

By following these steps, you’ll ensure that your makeup brushes are thoroughly cleaned, free of bacteria, and ready for your next flawless application.

Table: Cleaning Solutions for Different Types of Brushes

Brush TypeRecommended Cleaning Solution
Foundation BrushMild liquid soap or brush cleanser
Powder BrushMild liquid soap or brush cleanser
Blush BrushMild liquid soap or brush cleanser
Concealer BrushMild liquid soap or brush cleanser
Eyeshadow BrushesMild liquid soap or brush cleanser
Lip BrushMild liquid soap or brush cleanser

Different brush materials may require specific cleaning solutions or techniques, so it’s important to choose the appropriate cleanser based on the brush type.

6. Drying and Storing Your Makeup Brushes Correctly

Properly drying and storing your makeup brushes is essential to maintain their shape, prevent bacterial growth, and prolong their lifespan. Here are some tips for drying and storing your brushes correctly:

  1. Lay them flat: After cleaning your brushes, lay them flat on a clean towel or paper towel to dry. This ensures that water doesn’t accumulate in the ferrule and that the bristles dry evenly.
  2. Avoid direct heat: Avoid drying your brushes near a direct heat source, such as a hairdryer or radiator. High heat can damage the bristles and make them prone to shedding.
  3. Allow adequate drying time: Give your brushes enough time to fully dry before using them again. Depending on the size of the brush and its density, this can take several hours to overnight.
  4. Store them upright or in a brush holder: Once your brushes are completely dry, store them upright in a brush holder or container. This helps to maintain their shape and prevents dust and dirt from settling on them.
  5. Keep them away from moisture: Store your brushes in a dry area, away from humid environments like bathrooms. Moisture can lead to mold and bacterial growth, compromising the cleanliness of your brushes.
  6. Clean your brush holder: Regularly clean the brush holder or container where you store your brushes. This prevents dust, makeup residue, and bacteria from accumulating and transferring onto your clean brushes.
  7. Travel with a brush case: When traveling, protect your brushes by keeping them in a brush case or roll. This prevents them from getting damaged or contaminated during transit.

By following these drying and storage practices, you’ll ensure that your makeup brushes stay clean, organized, and in excellent condition for their next use.

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Table: Brush Drying and Storage Options

Drying & Storage OptionsDescription
Lay brushes flat on a clean towel or paper towelAllows even drying and prevents water accumulation in the ferrule.
Store brushes upright in a brush holder or containerMaintains the shape of the bristles and prevents dust and dirt from settling on them.
Use a brush case or roll for travelProtects brushes from damage and contamination while on the go.

Choose the drying and storage option that works best for your space and routine to ensure the longevity and cleanliness of your makeup brushes.

7. How Often Should You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

a person is holding a brush in front of a sink.

Regularly cleaning your makeup brushes is essential to maintain their hygiene and performance. The frequency of cleaning depends on how often you use the brushes and the types of products you use with them. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  1. Foundation brushes: Since foundation brushes come into direct contact with your skin and liquid products, they should be cleaned at least once a week. If you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, consider washing them after every use to prevent cross-contamination and breakouts.
  2. Powder brushes: Powder brushes, such as those used for setting powder or bronzer, can be cleaned every 2-3 weeks. However, if you notice that the bristles are becoming stiff or the application is patchy, it’s a good indication that they need a cleaning.
  3. Blush and contour brushes: These brushes come into contact with products that are applied to the cheeks and facial contours. Clean them every 1-2 weeks, or as needed, to ensure a seamless and even application.
  4. Eyeshadow brushes: Eyeshadow brushes should be cleaned every 1-2 weeks, especially if you use multiple eyeshadow shades in one sitting. Cleaning them regularly prevents color transfer and ensures precise application.
  5. Lip brushes: If you use lip brushes for precise lipstick or gloss application, clean them after each use to prevent color mixing and maintain precise application.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and you may need to adjust the cleaning frequency based on your skin type, product buildup, and personal preference. Observing the condition of your brushes and maintaining their cleanliness will help you determine when it’s time for a thorough cleaning.

8. Signs of a Dirty Makeup Brush

It’s essential to know the signs that indicate your makeup brushes need cleaning. Here are some telltale signs that your brushes are dirty and in need of a thorough cleanse:

  1. Visual buildup: If you can visibly see product buildup, discoloration, or residue on the bristles, it’s a clear sign that your brushes are dirty. The bristles may appear clumpy, misshapen, or have an uneven texture.
  2. Stiff bristles: When bristles become stiff and less flexible, it indicates dirt, oil, and product accumulation. This can affect the performance and blending ability of the brush.
  3. Patchy makeup application: If you notice that your makeup looks patchy, uneven, or less vibrant than usual despite using the same products, it’s a sign that your brushes are not effectively distributing the product due to buildup.
  4. Unpleasant odor: A foul smell emanating from your brushes suggests the presence of bacteria and old product residue. This is a clear indication that your brushes need a deep cleaning.
  5. Skin irritation or breakouts: If you experience increased skin sensitivity, redness, itching, or breakouts after using your brushes, it could be due to bacterial buildup. Cleaning your brushes can help alleviate these symptoms.

By regularly inspecting your brushes for these signs and addressing them promptly, you can maintain a clean, hygienic, and effective makeup application experience.

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9. Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Your Brushes

While cleaning your makeup brushes is essential, it’s important to avoid common mistakes that could potentially damage the bristles or compromise their performance. Here are some mistakes to avoid when cleaning your brushes:

Table: Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Makeup Brushes

Using hot waterHot water can damage the bristles and compromise their shape. Stick to lukewarm water for cleaning your brushes.
Soaking the entire brushAvoid submerging the entire brush in water, as it can loosen the glue that holds the bristles together. Only wet the bristles during cleaning.
Using harsh or abrasive cleansersHarsh cleansers can strip the bristles of natural oils and weaken the fibers. Stick to mild liquid soap or brush cleansers.
Scrubbing vigorouslyAggressive scrubbing can damage the bristles and cause them to shed. Instead, gently massage the bristles in circular motions to remove dirt and makeup.
Using an excessive amount of cleanserUsing too much soap or cleanser can be difficult to rinse out and may leave residue on the bristles. Use a small amount and add more if needed.
Skipping the drying stepProperly drying your brushes is crucial to prevent bacteria growth and maintain their shape. Never use wet or damp brushes on your face.
Storing brushes in a closed containerStoring wet or damp brushes in closed containers can lead to mold and bacterial growth. Allow them to fully dry before storage.

By avoiding these common mistakes and following proper cleaning techniques, you can ensure the longevity and effectiveness of your makeup brushes.

10. Additional Tips for Makeup Brush Care

In addition to regular cleaning, there are a few extra tips you can follow to enhance the care and maintenance of your makeup brushes:

  1. Avoid sharing brushes: Sharing makeup brushes can lead to cross-contamination of bacteria and skin infections. Whenever possible, use your own brushes and avoid sharing them with others.
  2. Avoid excessive product loading: Dip your brushes into makeup products with a light hand to prevent excess product buildup on the bristles. This helps minimize the cleaning frequency and prolongs the lifespan of your brushes.
  3. Use brush guards during travel: When traveling with your brushes, protect them by using brush guards or rolling them up in a brush case. This prevents the bristles from getting bent or damaged during transit.
  4. Trim stray bristles: Over time, some brush hairs may become loose or stray. Use small scissors to trim any stray bristles to maintain the shape and precision of your brushes.
  5. Opt for spot cleaning: In between deep cleanings, incorporate spot cleaning using a brush cleanser or makeup remover specifically designed for quick cleaning. This can refresh your brushes and remove excess product buildup.

By incorporating these tips into your makeup brush care routine, you’ll keep your brushes clean, extend their lifespan, and ensure optimal performance during your makeup application.

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In summary, proper cleaning and maintenance of your makeup brushes are crucial for maintaining their hygiene, performance, and lifespan. Dirty brushes can harbor bacteria, lead to skin irritations, affect makeup application, and cause unwanted color transfer.

To clean your brushes effectively, wet the bristles, apply a mild cleanser, and gently massage to remove dirt and product buildup. Rinse thoroughly, reshape the bristles, and lay them flat to dry. Store the brushes upright or in a brush holder to maintain their shape and protect them from dust.

The frequency of cleaning depends on the type of brush and how often you use it. Foundation brushes should be cleaned at least once a week, while powder and eyeshadow brushes can be cleaned every 2-3 weeks. However, be sure to adjust this based on your own needs and preferences.

Avoid common mistakes such as using hot water, soaking the entire brush, using harsh cleansers, and scrubbing vigorously. Instead, stick to lukewarm water, only wet the bristles, use mild cleansers, and gently massage the bristles.

Additionally, avoid sharing brushes, avoid excessive product loading, and consider using brush guards during travel. Regularly check for signs of dirtiness and address them promptly. Trim stray bristles and incorporate spot cleaning for quick refreshment between deep cleans.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your makeup brushes remain clean, hygienic, and in excellent condition for flawless application.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources that provide more information on cleaning and maintaining your makeup brushes:

  1. Colorscience – How to Clean and Maintain Your Makeup Brushes – This blog post provides detailed steps and tips for cleaning and maintaining makeup brushes, as well as the importance of proper brush care.
  2. Allure – How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes – Allure’s guide offers expert advice on the proper techniques for cleaning makeup brushes, including recommendations on soaps and cleansers to use.
  3. Adore Beauty – Our Complete Guide on How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes – Adore Beauty provides a comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know about cleaning your makeup brushes, from frequency to different methods and recommended products.


Here are some frequently asked questions about cleaning and maintaining makeup brushes:

How often should I clean my makeup brushes?

It is recommended to clean foundation brushes at least once a week, while powder and eyeshadow brushes can be cleaned every 2-3 weeks. However, adjust the frequency based on your usage and personal preference.

What should I use to clean my makeup brushes?

Mild liquid soap or brush cleansers are commonly used to clean makeup brushes effectively. Avoid harsh cleansers that can damage the bristles.

Can I use hot water to clean my brushes?

No, hot water can damage the bristles and affect their shape. Stick to lukewarm water for cleaning your makeup brushes.

How do I dry my makeup brushes after cleaning?

Lay your makeup brushes flat on a clean towel or paper towel to dry. Avoid using them while they are wet or damp to prevent damage and bacterial growth.

How do I store my makeup brushes?

Store your makeup brushes upright in a brush holder or container to maintain their shape and protect them from dust. Ensure they are fully dry before storing to avoid mold and bacterial growth.