How Often Do You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

** UPDATE: **

A pin is going around on Pinterest that says to soak your brushes for 20 minutes in vinegar. I do NOT suggest this. Unfortunately someone pinned this with the wrong information that came from a readers comment on this post. This could potentially damage your brushes. You do not want to use anything besides shampoo that is formulated for makeup brushes. I hope none of you have been misinformed. Please read and follow my method below. This is the best and safest route to clean those brushes of yours! The best of luck and happy cleaning!

Cleaning your makeup brushes is one of the most crucial, yet overlooked, tasks that should be done regularly. Cleaning your brushes is important for multiple reasons. First of all, brushes are an investment. It has taken me years to build up my brush collection and we all know they aren’t cheap. Quality makeup brushes can range in price from $5 to above $50. It’s important to take care of them because they should last you years, maybe even a lifetime if you take care of them properly. Another important reason your brushes need cleaned regularly is because they collect bacteria. If you’re prone to acne this is especially true. If you don’t clean your brushes you are only continuing to spread bad bacteria that can cause breakouts. And finally, if you’re not cleaning your brushes you will not get the optimum results from them. A brush packed full of makeup isn’t going to do the job it was designed to do. Here are the steps to take when cleaning your brushes.

1. Find a makeup brush shampoo. I’m currently using Well-Cared For Brush Conditioning Shampoo by Bare Escentuals. I absolutely love this product because it conditions your bristles and is free of skin-irritants. It also removes every last bit of makeup from your brush. For a budget-friendly option, use a mild baby shampoo such as Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Next, add a quarter size amount of your shampoo to a cup of lukewarm water and swirl your brush around in the water for a few seconds. Be careful not to submerge the metal part (ferrule) of your brush into the water, which can loosen the glue of the brush.

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2. Rinse out your brushes with lukewarm water, squeeze out the excess water, and make sure they are smoothed out into their original form. Lay your brushes on a towel flat to dry overnight.

For some brushes, such as lip and eyeliner brushes, I will also clean them with alcohol and then shampoo them for extra cleanliness. Some people would tell you not to do this, but I like to make sure my brushes are extra clean. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to shampoo your brushes, another great product to use is Quick Change also by Bare Escentuals. This is a very quick-drying cleansing spray that removes the pigment out of your brushes and sanitizes them. It leaves your brushes smelling great too! If you’re a makeup artist, it’s a great product to use in between clients.

Makeup brushes that are used for personal use should be cleaned every 2 to 4 weeks. Make sure to follow these steps and you’re on your way to clean, better performing brushes that will give you optimum application results. You might even see a difference in your skin too!

Do you clean your makeup brushes regularly?

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136 comments

  1. Great post! I do try to clean mine regularly but this post reminded me that I’m overdue! :) I’m currently using the Sephora brush cleanser and it’s great.

  2. Actually, a tablespoon of white vinegar in a cup of hot water, and a 20 minute soak, followed by a hot, then cold rinse and pat dry will do it. Disinfects, dissolves grease/makeup, leaves no film, and inexpensive.

      1. Not at all, especially white vinegar. I usually let mine sit in for 15-20 or so, then splash ‘em gently around to make sure all the residue is shaken loose. Then the 2 rinses, and a towel blot. I should have credited this info to Dr. Oz…

    1. I tried this this morning, and it didn’t work. None of the makeup or residue was removed, and I still needed to use shampoo to clean them. r

      1. Hi Paula! What method did you use? In my article i have recommended using shampoo formulated for cleaning brushes but another commenter has suggested using vinegar, which I have never tried & don’t necessarily suggest because I’m not sure if it would be gentle enough on your bristles. I always use the shampoo method because I know that is what works. My brushes come out clean as a whistle! :)

      2. I’m not able to reply so it appears under your post. I tried soaking in the water and vinegar mixture, although not for 20 minutes. It did nothing to remove the makeup from the brushes.

      3. “although not for 20 minutes”

        If you follow the directions as given, you will find that it will increase your chance of success. ;)

    2. Please don’t soak your brushes. Especially in hot water. All you’re doing is soaking the glue under the ferrule and causing it to break down. They will start to shed more and more and you will effectively ruin the brushes you were trying so hard to take care of. The bloggers method above is perfect, use your vinegar concoction that way but never, ever soak your brushes unless you want to replace them.

    3. I tried this method today and worked wonders couldn’t believe all the gunk in my brushes thank you for this tip =)

    4. This does not work. I followed all directions with the vinegar. The makeup did not come off and the brushes DO smell like vinegar. I’ll stick with brush shampoo.

    1. I think it’s a matter of how much oil/cosmetics are able to build up. If my skin were as oily as in my youth, I would probably give them a deep cleaning about every 2 weeks.

      [NOTE: I use a makeup brush to apply liquid foundation, and this is the one I am talking about cleaning daily. Dry cosmetic brushes will be ok with just the vinegar cleaning every other week.] My favorite daily brush cleaner in the bathroom is Ivory dishwashing liquid. Daily, when I finish w/makeup, I clean the brush with a small dab of cold cream to loosen stuff, then rinse in hot water, and use 1/2 t. Ivory to wash the cold cream out, and rinse well, pat dry. Now that I am older, I really only do the vinegar soak about every 3-4 weeks.

    2. I clean all of the brushes I use everyday. I use the e.l.f. Brand daily spray cleaner.. Quick and easy! Spray the brush, wipe it on a clean towel.. Let it dry. Easy and cheap. (And it smells good!) And then I use a shampoo on them once a week because I am very acne prone. Take care of your brushes and they will take care of you. (:

  3. I have MAC brushes (and MAC cleaner) and follow the same steps you do…but my brushes ‘shed’ horribly after. What am I doing wrong, or why is this happening?

    1. Hi Melisa!
      Does it feel like the glue has loosened around the base of the brush where it connects to the metal part? If so, you may need new brushes. I have a lot of MAC brushes too and I do notice some shedding with them. Shedding is actually normal and is going to happen regardless of how good/often you clean them. If you feel like your brushes are shedding excessively then I would actually take them in & they will return them for you. I worked for MAC & Nordstrom and when we would have this happen we would definitely exchange the customers brush for a new one if it was defective or falling apart. Let me know if you have any problems! Thanks for your comment! :)

      1. Thank you! They don’t feel like the glue has loosened…but they do seem to shed excessively. I purchased them at Nordstrom so I will pop back in and have them take a look :)

    2. Be careful not to PULL on the bristles as you wash or dry! They’re not meant to be pulled. Use any other motion you like, as long as you are gentle. (I ruined a great brush that way. :(

    3. In art school, a teacher told me that hot water would melt the glue in my paintbrushes. Maybe the same is true for makeup brushes? Just in case, I always use warm, but not hot, water.

    4. If you dry your brushes with the bristles up instead of laying them flat, the water will dissolve the glue and loosen the bristles. It is very important to lay them flat to dry.

    1. Haha, thank you! It’s literally taken years to build it, but I have also had some given to me from different cosmetic lines I’ve worked for. Otherwise, it would probably be less than half that size ;)

  4. Do you have to start over with a new container of water/shampoo for each brush? Normally when I do this, the mixture gets filthy when I put in the first brush. I feel like I go through a lot of cleansing agent.

    1. No, I usually do quite a few brushes until I feel like the water is starting to get pretty dark from makeup. Then I pour it out, add another quarter size amount of cleanser and repeat. I think using a lot of cleansing agent is fine! As long as your brushes are getting clean that’s all that matters! :)

  5. Do you feel like it’s better to clean brushes with a product such as “well cared for” or to clean them with vinegar? I’ve been cleaning my brushes by running them over a favourite bar of soap until they wash clean and then leaving them to dry. Just wondering if I could continue doing that or if it’s best to try a cleaner meant exactly for that purpose or if I should switch to vinegar? Thanks a bunch!

    1. Personally, I really like the Well Cared For because I know it’s formulated for makeup brushes & it also conditions the bristles. I think that’s really important for extending the life of your brush. I may use the vinegar method for ones that get extra dirty! I do think both methods are going to get your brushes clean though!

  6. I also have used regular shampoo to clean makeup brushes (as long as they are natural bristles). I figure if it works on my hair, it will work on my sable and goat hair brushes!

    1. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it because hand soap can be harsh & stripping, but I think your brushes definitely will be fine if you’ve only done it a couple times & from now on just use something more mild. :)

  7. This is great to know. I usually just clean my brushes in warm water, but this sounds waaaay better. Doing it tonight! Thanks for the tip :)

  8. I use Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap first, rinse well, and follow with a swirl in water mixed with Suave conditioner. I then rinse that off, and set aside to dry. It works well to clean and condition my brushes and I know I am not allergic to the ingredients. I made the mistake of using a commercial brush cleanser and had a bad reaction to it. =\

  9. I respectfully disagree about soaking them for 20 minutes… they’ll age your brushes by rotting the wood under the ferrule and loosening the glue faster from the base.
    I saw this happen in our M.A.C. store since our personal M.A.C. brushes in our makeup belt were being used and washed on a daily basis. The MUAs that soaked their brushes had to replace them A LOT sooner that us to ‘followed the rules’.

    Using a moisturizing shampoo (and conditioning with your conditioner every-other-use) for your cleaning does just fine for left-over, tough makeup *and* for disinfecting!
    (Unless you are a makeup artist and need to get a disinfecting between clients in which case there are plenty of disinfectant brush cleaners.)

    Immediately removing your brushes from the soapy water, rinsing, (gently) squeezing excess water, and laying flat to dry on a fresh towel/paper towel will allow you a decade of use for your $40 brushes!

    This is M.A.C. brush care 101 taught to us by corporate that we teach to all of our clients!
    Sorry to disagree, but this was/is practiced on my babies (my brush collection) every day.

      1. Yay! I loved my time at the M.A.C. store! The artistic freedom and opportunities (fashion shows, body painting, etc.) that became available to me were awesome. I would have loved to climb up the ladder but I’ll just talk the positives here and leave why I left for another day!

        Just be careful, b/c there is a pin going around on pinterest telling people the “soak for 20 minutes thing” and thought, “Hey! Misinfo!”
        I followed it here, and see that *you* have it all under control! ;)

        Good luck on your blog and career!

    1. Same thing. I saw the incorrect pin on Pinterest and my makeup artist brain started screaming in protest. I went around trying to correct it on my friend’s pages until Pinterset told me I was a spammer. I’m just pained that people are now thinking a 20 minute hot water soak is a good thing and are ruining their brushes in the process.

      1. Ugh, I know. It’s frustrating how one person can get the wrong thing going on Pinterest and then It spreads like wildfire. I’ve spent so much time trying to let people know do NOT soak your brushes! Thank you so much for trying to get the correct info out there! Much appreciated! :)

  10. How long does it take the brushes to dry after they’ve been washed? I want to get into the habit of washing my brushes, but I only ever think of it just before I have to do my makeup. doh!

    1. Hi Johannah!
      You definitely want to let them dry overnight. It seems to take mine at least 8 hours. Sunday night is a good night to do it, so they’re all ready for you on Monday morning :)

  11. This info is great, how do you know you have all the soap removed? I never feel confident that my brushes are free of soap residue??? any suggestions?

    1. Hi Josie!
      I rinse mine out for probably about 10 seconds and kind of gently run my fingers through the bristles. I would say after rinsing for this long you shouldn’t have to worry about any soap residue being left in the brush. Thanks for your comment!

  12. i use bare mineral brushes they last longer and when soaking do not submerge the base of the bristles

  13. OMG NOOOOOO don’t soak you brushes you will be buy they all over again in a month or so!!! don’t do this shes nuts she must have tons of money and can by new brushes my friend did this one month later all her brushes were useless and shedding sooooo bad!!!

  14. I’m embarrassed to say that I have NEVER cleaned any of my makeup brushes. I have purchased new ones to replace the old ones that get out of hand. Thanks to your step by step instructions with pictures I think I’ll give it a try! Thanks!

  15. Hello,
    I took your advice and cleaned ALL my brushes today which took quite some time no biggie like yourself it took me a few years to get to where I need to be. Now my one question to you is ALL my brushes are MAC which are at least $45+ for each one so i’d hate to have to throw one out but my main foundation brush I must of misplaced it and haven’t cleaned in at least 8-10 months and its now really hard I cleaned it along with the others ones but that one seemed to still be a little hard even though the brush was completely cleaned so I decided to put a little drop of conditioner rinsed it out and put it out to dry in your opinion should I toss the brush bc its beyond reparable or once it dries wait to see if it softens up?
    Thank you,
    Samarra

    1. Hi Samarra!

      Definitely let your brush dry out and see if it softens up. If it doesn’t, try squirting a quarter size amount of brush shampoo directly into the palm of your hand & rub your brush into the shampoo, then rinse. Let it dry. If this doesn’t soften it up then I would say you probably need a new brush. I hope this helps! Thank you for your comment! :)

  16. I am SO overdue. Have a project on my hands for tonight. Thank you so much for the instructions. My boss and I have been looking for a good method for months…because we forget. Not any more!

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I’m so happy I could help! Your brushes will seriously feel so much better. It’s almost like the feeling of getting new brushes all over again! Happy cleaning! :)

  17. silly question, do you clean your powder/blush brushes too or just like the foundation ones? i have always cleaned my foundation ones just never my powder/blush ones…

    1. Hi Megan!
      I clean every last one of them. They all end up carrying bacteria, so it’s good to give them all a good cleaning at least once a month. The foundation brushes tend to get the worst, but it’s definitely best to clean them all! Hope this helps :)

  18. HI! So I just washed my eco friendly brush. I did normal suave shampoo but indeed saw all the dirt get off immediately. Then I rinsed it with warm water, I also dabbed a bit of baking soda through it and rinsed out again. Did I totally ruin my brush? I’m waiting for it to dry.

    1. No, you definitely didn’t ruin your brush! As long as you rinsed it out well, you should be fine. Let me know how it turns out though! Clean brushes are the best! :) Thanks for checking out my blog!

  19. Mine look amazing now, thanks! I’ve never cleaned brushes properly before and my foundation/power brushes took about 10 washes to get them back to their former glory. Glad I started with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo as I used a lot of it, but now they’re all clean I will probably invest in a proper cleaner. Thanks so much for your post!

    1. I am so happy to hear this! Glad you have clean brushes! I remember the first time I washed mine, they were so gunky and disgusting. My brushes were so stiff it was hurting to use them, haha! :)

  20. Soaking your brushes is the fastest way to ruin them and vinegar doesn’t cleanse them. Try a mild soap like dr bronner’s under running luke warm water and rinse until there is no soap left. Just please don’t soak them.

  21. Agree with not soaking…yikes! I would just politely suggest never use baby shampoo on brushes and would stick to a moisturizing kind of shampoo that you would use on your own head. Baby shampoo is one of the harshest on the market and is only good for stripping out excess color. (I would never ever put it on my actual baby!) At work where I wash loads of brushes nightly, I use a squirt of peppermint castille soap in a container with a bar of moisturizing soap and water. I swirl gently on the bar and then in my hand to loosen the gunk. I really like that friction but you don’t have to have it.

    Sadly today’s MAC brushes are c.r.a.p. and they all shed and die way too soon. Now… the ones I have from 10-15 years ago are still amazing. Such a shame :(

    1. Hi Nicole,
      I really haven’t had any problem with my MAC brushes thus far. Granted I’ve only had most of them for a few years. As long as I wash and dry them properly, I hope they continue to hold up well. What is your favorite brand of brushes?

      1. That’s a really good question actually. All of my really wonderful, reliable brushes are at least 10 years old and they are by MAC, Sephora and Bobbi Brown. I have a BB eyeshadow brush that is the nicest one I’ve ever seen and if it died on me I would be completely handicapped. Seriously! The newer brushes I have in all these lines (especially MAC) lose hair, seep dye and generally get all gnarly after a few washes. Some nicer brushes I’ve purchased recently were from Japonesque but I’m not in love with them. My favorite foundation brushes are from CVS and are cheap. They are awesome. I’ve started using small flat, synthetic brushes from the art store for eyeliner because I blow through them so quickly. So…I keep looking for something new that rocks and in the meantime, I take care of those old ones with love and gentle soap :)

        I like your blog, btw. Keep on keepin’ on!

  22. i got a mary kay blush brush in high school while i was on drill team and am still using it 8 years later and to be honest , i havent kept up with it as well as i should! i need to buy some shampoo! i always use dawn dish soap with olive oil! i read about it on pinterest and is supposed to condition your brushes for future use as well but i am still eager to try the shampoo method!

  23. I tired the vinegar method because I currently have no shampoo… Worked great! I’d like to get my hands on some shampoo, but until I do the vinegar works just fine!

  24. My Bare Escentual brushes are the best ones I have found. I have had some 4 or 5 years – some 1 or 2. I clean them regularly but probably should more often and I use baby shampoo, (or little hotel shampoos) and /or Bare Escentual’s brush cleaner. They still shed occasionally as do all brushes, but they are great – especially the eye brushes. In my opinion.

    1. NIkki,
      I clean my foundation sponges by spreading some baby shampoo on it, gently rubbing the surface, and running it under some warm water while squeezing. I normally have to repeat it a few times to make sure all of the product is out of it, and then I rinse it a few more times, squeeze out the excess water, and then towel dry it and leave it out to air dry overnight. I use the Beauty Blender sponge, and the baby shampoo ends up cleaning it wonderfully!

      Anyway, I too pinned this with the vinegar method as the caption.. imagine my surprise when I followed the pin and found a method other than what it said! I have a mixture of Eco Tools bamboo brushes and some MAC brushes in my collection, and I look forward to getting them sparkling clean! Maybe that will help with my occasional, painful breakouts! ): Thanks!

  25. I for several years everytime MAC has there mini brushes on sale I buy them. I can’t afford to buy the regular size brushes but they are the same just shorter. I absolutely love everything MAC puts out. Anyway I’m rambleing my questions is I clean my brushes not like I should and when I clean them I have a couple of times let them soak but I put them in a glass with the MAC cleaning solution standing straight up only the bristles are in the cleaner. My bristles are actually breaking in half some of them look like they have split hairs. Did I cause this by the way I cleaned them ? I bought a different brush set about a month ago and I hate it. The bristles are stiff and it just sucks. My question is is there anyway to save my original brushes I LOVE them and nothing has compareed

    1. I would try using a good conditioning brush shampoo and do not let your brushes soak. It can dry out the bristles and cause breakage! Your brushes may still be salvageable. Try this before you throw them out. Hope this helps!

  26. I just tried the vinegar soak,and then read all your comments, because the vinegar soak did not work at all. I ended up using a gentle soap and rinsing with water. I hope I have not ruined all my brushes with this one soaking. Ticks me off that the pin was put out with incorrect information.

    1. It ticks me off too! I hope most readers came to my site and read the article before they soaked their brushes! Brushes are such an investment and the wrong info going around on Pinterest is so frustrating!

  27. This reminds me to wash my brushes more. I always forget to wash them but I do agre it is important to do frequently.

  28. When you make it, can you clean more then one brush? Or do you have to make it for each brush. Cause it does not say how many you can clean with one dish of the shampoo and water.

    1. Hi Katrina! Use the water until it gets dirty and you can’t see through it. It really depends on how dirty your brushes are and how many brushes you have. It usually make the concoction twice and my brushes turn out great!

    1. I use Dawn original dish soap, and have for years. After I wash them I dip them in alcohol to kill the germs and have not had any problems. Just a cheaper alternative and thought.

  29. I’m so glad I finally read this post! I had pinned the pin with the incorrect info and I’ll definitely be picking up some brush shampoo (or Johnson’s baby shampoo). And I updated my pin, too, so that the information is correct!

    1. Hi Jennifer! I’m glad you finally read it too! ;) And thank you for changing the info on your pin. Hopefully people come to the site vs. just reading the pin! Thanks for reading!

  30. OMG I can’t tell you what kind of lifesaver you are. I had tried a cheap cleaner on my brushes sometime back and while most were ok, some became unusable. The brush cleaner had actually left my favorite foundation brush gewy and regardless of how often I cleaned it or left it to dry, the gunk on it wouldn’t wash out and the brush wouldn’t dry. I was about to throw it and several others I thought were lost causes away when I found this page. Since I had baby shampoo in my house I decided to give it a try and WOW! My foundation brush is completely clear of that gunk and it’s honestly like brand new. Went ahead and cleaned all my brushes with it and they are amazingly clean and soft. Thank you for saving me from having to buy new ones!

  31. Hi Rachel. I have not read through all the comments to see if someone already mentioned this, but I wanted to ask…
    Currently, when I get around to cleaning my brushes (I should do it more often I admit) I use EVOO on the bristles to loosen up the old residue and then wash with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. What are your thoughts on this?

  32. I’m using Michelle Phan’s method. Extra virgin olive oil paired with anti-bacterial soap dish. Then I dry them with Brush Guard. The brushes look like brand new again, soft, clean & perfect shape.

  33. Great post! I’m always so nervous cleaning my brushes, I’m always reading these sort of posts to make sure I’m doing it right:)&I love your blog! It’s wonderful, so helpful!:) And you have so many comments, it took about five minutes to scroll to the bottom:L
    ~Loll X

  34. I use my face soap to wash my brushes. I put a dot in my hand & swish the bristles well then rinse well & let dry.

  35. That worked great! I got a travel sized bottle of baby shampoo from Walmart for something like 47 cents and have it in my makeup bag for traveling etc. Great alternative to buying a bottle of white vinegar (if you’re like me and would never use it for other things) and 14 dollar brush shampoo.

  36. I just realized the spots I’m breaking out in are where I use my blush brush (I’ve never broken out there before.) I’ve NEVER cleaned my brushes before. I always mean too, but somehow I forget. Now that I know I need to clean them, I’m a little confused about what cleaner to get. I have sephora pro brushes. Do I need to get a sephora brush cleaner? Or can I use another brand? What’s the difference in formulations for cleaners, and how do they affect brushes differently?

  37. This is an awesome article on the importance of cleaning your make up brushes and how to do it correctly! I will be cleaning mine tonight! Thanks for the reminder!

  38. I have horrible acne and never thought my brushes could be contributing! Thank You for this and I will comment on every Pinterest post that says to soak the brushes, telling them not to, and WHY. Thank You!

  39. I have used your recommendations for cleaning my brushes but I can’t get all the makeup out it just keeps coming out, suggestions

    1. Just keep cleaning them until you get all the makeup out. Months, or even years of build up can take multiple washes. Once the water is no longer cloudy, you’ve probably gotten everything out. Hope this helps!

  40. I am CHEAP and would love to find a less expensive solution for cleaning my brushes but I would just like to point out that in lab test when they are trying to see how long it will take a pill to dissolve they use white vinegar. That’s because white vinegar acts very similarly to stomach acid. It does disinfect very well but i would worry about it dissolving the glue and the brushes falling apart. Even if not immediately a break down over time seems almost emanate.

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