Best Makeup Brush Cleaners

How Often Should You Be Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes? Here's the Gross Truth

Way more often than you probably think.
By Kaitlyn Yarborough
April 30, 2021
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There are a lot of beauty chores that people can't help but regularly put off…and put off...and put off. We'd guess that cleaning makeup brushes sits very high on that list, right above organizing the junk drawer in the bathroom and plucking eyebrows. However, considering that they're used on the delicate facial skin on a daily basis, it might be time to promote it on your priorities. 

Why? Firstly, because these makeup brushes have been co-mingling with concealer, foundation, contour, liquid blush, highlighter, and more. That's like a kitchen sink cookie of bacteria-attracting, dead skin-collecting grossness. Secondly, dermatologists say so. According to dermatologists, your makeup brushes can cause breakouts and sometimes even rashes like dermatitis due to a build-up of dirt and oils that can lead to bacteria.

So, how often should you be washing your makeup brushes? 

For brushes used frequently with liquid formulas like foundation and concealer, you might be surprised: These should really be cleaned once a week. For other brushes used for powder blush and eye shadow, once every two weeks is preferable. (For any fellow procrastinators out there, please, please aim for at least once a month.)

What about your makeup sponges? 

Once per week. A handy trick some recommend for sponges, after cleaning, is to pop them in the microwave (with supervision!) for a few seconds to help kill bacteria. Make sure it's damp when you do this. 

Now that you're up-to-date on the ideal brush-cleaning schedule…

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes 

Besides how often you're cleaning your brushes, the most important thing is choosing a proper cleanser. You want something gentle and slightly foaming, so that it'll lather into the nooks and crannies of the porous brush bristles as you wash. Luckily, nowadays you can find cleansers specifically made for cleaning makeup brushes, and we'll flag some favorites to shop below. 

To clean, simply put a nickel-sized amount of cleanser or soap on the palm of your hand or a small bowl, mix with a little water, and then massage your brushes into the soapy mixture until it's thoroughly coated and cleansed. Afterwards, rinse with warm water, squeeze out any excess water, and lay flat on a counter with the head of the brush hanging off the edge, so that it's suspended in the air. This helps it to dry into its original form more easily. 

Here's a secret: In a pinch, dish soap works just fine for cleaning your makeup brushes, since it's designed to knock out oil. Just make sure to rinse it out thoroughly, and try to find an organic, natural formula like Mrs. Meyers, if possible.

Shop some of our favorite makeup brush cleansers below, and set a friendly reminder on your calendar to actually wash them more than, er, once every six months or so.

Best Makeup Brush Cleaners
Credit: Amazon

Best Multi-Use: Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser

This super gentle, slightly foaming formula is America's #1 facial cleanser for a reason. To keep things simple, you can use it on your face—and then your makeup tools! 

Buy It: $25; amazon.com

Best Makeup Brush Cleaners
Credit: Sephora

Best Antimicrobial: Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner

This particular formula has all of your bases covered: quick-drying, rinse-free, and it's a 99.99%-effective antimicrobial disinfectant. That loose powder and dried foundation doesn't stand a chance. 

Buy It: $24; sephora.com

Best Makeup Brush Cleaners
Credit: Ulta

Best for Sponges: Beautyblender Blendercleanser Solid

This travel-friendly cleaner is great for sponges—because you can rub and massage the product right into your dirty sponge before rinsing and drying. 

Buy It: $16; ulta.com

Best Makeup Brush Cleaners
Credit: Nordstrom

Best Quick Fix: Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser

For when you're feeling in need of a quick refresh before doing your makeup routine, this spray is easy and breezy. All you have to do is spritz, blot, and wait about 2 minutes before your brush is ready to use.

Buy It: $19; nordstrom.com