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NOW READING Why You Should Be Washing Your Makeup Tools + Some Super Genius Hacks
March 16, 2020

Why You Should Be Washing Your Makeup Tools + Some Super Genius Hacks

Spring’s here, so let’s get cleaning! A friendly reminder why you need to be cleaning your makeup tools and some super genius hacks to make the chore easier.


You know that you should sterilize your spatulas before and after use, and that you absolutely must wash your hands before touching your face, but how often do you think about the cleanliness of your makeup brushes and sponges? If you don’t have a regular cleaning schedule and routine for your makeup tools, it’s about time you did. I can walk you through the steps and hacks to get you to clean, sanitary brushes.



The why


Not so fun fact: A poll conducted in 2015 by cosmetic brush designer and manufacturer Anisa International found that 39% of women only clean their brushes once a month. And even worse, 22% never do. As in, not at all. These statistics are very believable. I have come across many people who pull out the same old beauty blender they have been using for the last three months and just go to town on their faces with foundation.


There are a number of reasons why you should be cleaning your brushes, the chief one of which is the increased possibility of skin irritation and infections thanks to dirt, oil, product residue, and bacteria. A test for bacteria yielded evidence of small colonies even on recently cleaned brushes, so you can imagine how much more would be on that sponge you used last week and still haven’t cleaned. Think about it this way: You’ve invested a lot of time, effort, and energy into building a skincare routine for yourself and improving the health and appearance of your skin, so why jeopardize it by using unsanitary tools that will only create more skin issues for you?


Not only is it a waste of money as far as all the skincare products you have already purchased and will need to purchase to combat imminent skin troubles, it’s also a waste of the money spent on all those brushes and sponges. A lack of adequate care can cause the hairs and fibers on your brushes to weaken and break down faster, meaning that you’ll be purchasing replacements a lot more frequently. You spent beaucoup bucks on that nice set of goat hair, mermaid handle, magnetic base brushes just so you could get the best foundation application and perfectly-blended eyeshadow. Protect your investment by caring for those babies properly so that they can serve you longer.



cleaning your makeup tools



And speaking of makeup application, another reason why you should be cleaning your brushes religiously is that product and dirt buildup prevents them from picking up pigment as much as they would when clean. The dirt and residue could also muddy up the look you’re going for by transferring on previously used colors. And when it comes to foundation or BB cream, a dirty brush can yield spotty application, giving you major patchface instead of the perfect #dewydumpling look you were going for. Clean brushes equal a flawless slay. So the next time you think about leaving your brushes dirty, remember how disappointed you’ll be by a makeup look done with grubby brushes.



The how


Now that you know why you should be cleaning your tools, let’s talk about how to get that done, as well as some tips and tricks to help.


The American Association of Dermatologists recommends cleaning your brushes every seven to 10 days in the following steps:


1. Rinse under warm water to remove residual makeup.


2. Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and add a few drops of a gentle clarifying shampoo.


3. Swirl each brush in the water, then rinse under running water.


4. Continue shampooing and rinsing until the water runs clear.


5. Squeeze out excess water with a paper towel, then lay flat to dry on a towel with the brush heads hanging off the edge of the counter.




cleaning your makeup tools
istock/Dmytro Pokulityl



These are a great set of guidelines, but as with everything, there are variations to make the task easier and more efficient. Before I run through my personal brush cleaning routine, here are a few things worth mentioning.





The 7-10 day rule recommended by the AAD is flexible depending on how often you use your brushes and assorted tools. I, for instance, only wear makeup a maximum of two days a week, and so I only shampoo my brushes once a month. Makeup sponges and tools like tweezers are the only exceptions to that rule.


I wash my sponges every time I use them and sanitize my tweezers, cosmetic scissors, etc. with alcohol after each use. For my brushes, I use a daily brush cleaning spray, spritzing it onto the bristles and rubbing softly on a face towel until no more residue comes off. It takes little to no time, which is great for busy people who don’t want to spend a ton of time every day cleaning brushes. There are a number of these brush sprays on the market, and so it should be fairly easy to find one. I personally prefer the Clinique one because it dries fast and cleans my brushes really well.


If you use your brushes daily, then it’s probably a good idea to do a deep clean once a week so as to properly remove lingering oil and buildup.


Cleaning hack:


If you have a lot of brushes and always get confused about which ones you have used when the time comes to do a deep clean, dedicate a jar for separation. I usually leave my dirty brushes on a paper towel on my vanity, and then after I clean them, I store them in a mason jar separate from the rest of my stash. You can do a little DIY project and spray paint whatever container you choose to use so that it stands out and provides a fun pop of color on your tabletop.



cleaning your makeup tools



Put your wallet away


You don’t need to spend a lot on fancy shampoos to clean your brushes and sponges. Something as simple as dish detergent works great for breaking down grease and dirt on your brushes. To counteract the drying out of your bristles by harsh soaps, you could mix in some olive oil in a 2:1 ratio (e.g. 2 tsp soap or shampoo to 1 tsp olive oil), and use that. The mixture of soap and oil makes for a gentler cleaner that is guaranteed to de-gunk your brushes. Feel free to use a cheap shampoo or a bar of soap in place of washing up liquid. Cleansing oils and balms also work wonderfully for cleaning your rubycell puffs and beauty sponges.


Make sure to rinse your brushes properly to get rid of residual soap that could be lingering within the bristles. It’s also important not to rub too vigorously, as it could deteriorate the hairs, leading to shedding. And for the love of all things holy, do not just dump your brushes in the sink or soak them because that will loosen the glue in the ferrule (the metal part that attaches the bristles to the handle), and your bristles will fall out.


Cleaning hack:


Do you find cleaning your makeup sponges hella tedious? There’s a super-easy way to get them clean in a minute. Simply pop your sponge in a mug with some water and a couple drops of dish soap. Microwave it for about a minute, let it cool, rinse it off, and what you’ve got is a clean sponge!


cleaning your makeup tools


Set up a schedule


In the same way that you set up a routine for your skincare (e.g., sheet masks every other day, AHAs once a week, etc.), it’s important to schedule routine cleanings for your makeup brushes, sponges, puffs, and other tools. An easy way to make sure you don’t forget the daily clean is to set your brushes in a place where you’ll see them when you are tidying up your space and putting things away at the end of the day. You can even clean your brushes while you sheet mask in front of the TV to make it go by quicker.


Set up a recurring reminder on your phone on every last Saturday or Sunday of the month for a deep cleaning. Creating that specific time in your schedule is a great way to form the habit of regular deep cleanings, as well as being a nice little exercise to prepare you for a brand new month. Play a little music while you’re in there, and before you know it, you’ll be done.



My makeup tool cleaning routine


If you’re a person like me who is very particular about organization and cleanliness, cleaning your brushes and sponges can be a soothing experience. This is what mine looks like.



Unsplash/Plush Design Studio



Every last Sunday, I simply pick up the jar of brushes I have used throughout the month and take them into the bathroom for a little brush bath time. I like to use a silicone cleaning pad to really create a lather and work the soap into the bristles. My current brush shampoo of choice is the A’Pieu No Dirty Brush Cleansing Soap.


I simply wet the brush bristles under some running water, rub on the bar of soap, and use the cleaning pad to get in between the fibers. Sometimes, when a brush is really dirty, from say, foundation or dark eyeshadow, it takes a couple of washes before the lather is white and it rinses clean.


I’ve found that using the pad for rinses doesn’t always get the suds out, so I like to use my fingers to make sure the brush is rinsed clean. After squeezing the excess water out gently, I lay them on the counter with the head hanging off the edge, to let air circulate. For the same reason it’s a bad idea to soak your brushes, it is not advised to dry your brushes standing up. The water will sit in the ferrule and loosen the glue, leading to you-know-what.


So tell me, how often do you clean your makeup tools? This is a safe space so no judgment! We’re all here to learn after all. Do you have any cleaning hacks or tips?



Karachi discovered K-beauty in 2015 and fell wallet-first into the fray. When she’s not binge-watching a TV series or losing herself in a book, she’s creating wish lists of new stuff to try and reading posts by her favorite bloggers. Learning has been a lifelong hobby for her and she truly enjoys geeking out about the amazing things different ingredients can do for skin.




Having to work with stage makeup for the years I have, it's pretty shocking how long it took before I put myself into a routine of cleaning my brushes and tools once a week. Having a daily spray is so helpful, though, so I need to look into your suggestion!


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Great tips! Dirty brushes are a good way to cause unnecessary breakouts! I love picking one evening per week to give the brushes a bath. Sundays are great, because we are usually prepping for the week that day, and I recommend washing your pillow cases the same day because that also helps with acne. In between washes, you can spritz brushes with a little rubbing alcohol and towel dry after each use to keep bacteria at bay.


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I know I don't clean my brushes as often as I should but wow what a difference it makes having freshly cleaned brushes. Makeup goes on so much smoother. Clean brushes can improve your skin too less breakouts.


I was really shocked.I don't really use a lot of brushes, but I still use shadow brushes, but I don't think they stay clean.I was surprised because I never thought it was bad for my skin.You need to keep your skin clean while also taking care of the brush's cleanliness.If you can improve your skin even with a little effort, you must do it!


Mom Pro Tip,
Teach your 5 year old to help wash your brushes!It's super fun to play with bubbly soap, splash about and have some tactile fun. In the current world situation, all time together can be fun.


I give my makeup tools a good wipe down every week! This works well for me because it helps with resetting the day and keep my acne drama far away too


I realized how important cleaning my makeup tools is! It's my least favorite chore but I guess I need to do it now hahaha


This is very informative! I love the hacks you shared in-between the article too!


I once saw a hack on youtube where they throw in all of their brushes and sponges together in hot water. It's so important to not follow every hacks out there, I love how this articles teaches how to clean but not damage


I usually let mine soak over night and it works amazingly! Recently I realized that this was a big no because the glue that was holding my brush together came off booo..