How to Wash Makeup Brushes

Friday, October 05, 2018
In a prior post I shared my entire makeup brush collection with you all, but that got me thinking about brush care. I have decided to craft an easy to follow and inexpensive how to wash makeup brushes tutorial to teach you everything that you need to know to be a washing superstar. Makeup brushes breed bacteria and deposit it onto your face, which can result in blemishes. Also, proper cleaning extends the life of your brushes and enables them to continue to work at high performance. By the end of this tutorial you will know how to properly care for your brushes, what products that you need, and will come to understand that the process does not need to be expensive or a burden.

What You Will Need

  1. Brush cleaning soap
  2. Dirty makeup brushes, sponges, and tools
  3. Sink with running water
  4. Cleaning palette
  5. Paper towels or rag
  6. Drying rack
In the body of the post I will talk about how you can minimize this list even more and still get a good brush washing!

Supplies for washing makeup brushes
Supplies for washing makeup brushes

Scrubbing brushes

Before I get into the steps on how to wash makeup brushes, I want to discuss tools that make washing faster and more effective. I prefer to use a silicone scrubbing tool, such as this palette from Real Techniques, but this one is rather pricy for what it is. Scrubbing tools are becoming very common in stores now a days. Discount stores like TJMaxx and Ross are inundated with them, with most being around the $5 mark. Walmart even sells a small tool for around $3 in the health and beauty department. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some suction to the bottom of your sink so that the water can beat down on them. Others slide over your fingers like a mitt. The Real Techniques palette has a band that slips over my entire hand. The best thing that you can do is find a tool that works for your needs. You can even go without a tool if you prefer. I used to swirl dirty brushes in the palm of my hand before I bought this palette. I do find that palettes provide a deeper clean and enable you to actually wash all of the makeup and soap out, and I highly recommend that you purchase one. I think that they even speed the process up a bit, which is great because makeup brush washing definitely takes a chunk out of your day.

Real Techniques brush cleaning palette
Real Techniques brush cleaning palette

Soap

The best brush cleaning soap is one with two-fold abilities. The soap should be able to cleanse the brush and also condition to keep the bristles soft, the same way that conditioner softens your hair. There are plenty of brush cleaning soaps on the market. I have used e.l.f.'s and Real Techniques' versions and they work fine. However, my favorite and most economical soap is actually Dawn Platinum dish soap. It is my most trusted soap for all cleaning purposes, but it effectively cleans my brushes, sponges, and tools on the first try. This soap also leaves my brushes as soft as the day that I bought them. I get these mini bottles at Dollar Tree. The one time that I bought a full-sized bottle it literally took me years to use it up. I say go for the cheap option that really works!

Dawn Platinum dish soap
Dawn Platinum dish soap

Step 1: Wet brush

The first step to washing your makeup brushes is incredibly obvious, but you need to wet your brush! From this point forward, as long as the brush is wet it must stay facing down. The reasoning here is that you do not want the water to work its way up the shaft of the brush into the glue that holds the bristles in place. This will ruin the brush. Simply wet the brush and you are ready to go.

Also note that water temperature is extremely important. You will want to use warm water. Cold water is not going to clean well, and hot water can be damaging to the bristles and the glue that holds them in place. Use your fingers and your best judgement for safe water temperature.

Wetting a makeup brush
Wetting a makeup brush

Step 2: Apply soap to palette

The Real Techniques palette is divided into three sections for small, medium, and large brushes. If your palette is like this, apply a dime-sized amount of soap to the correct area.

Applying soap to brush cleaning palette
Applying soap to brush cleaning palette

Step 3: Add splash of water to palette

Next, add a splash of water to the soap to give it something to work with. When I say a splash, I mean just a little bit! If you make the soap too watered down, it will not work well.

Applying water to brush cleaning palette
Applying water to brush cleaning palette

Step 4: Swirl brush on palette

This is the fun part! Swirl your brush in circular motions over the palette and try to give the bristles a good scrub. The brush should foam up and start to look cleaner.

Scrubbing a makeup brush on the cleaning palette
Scrubbing a makeup brush on the cleaning palette

Step 5: Rinse brush

There is a two-part method to how I rinse the soap from my brushes. First I put the brush and the cleaning palette under the running water and continue to scrub the soap out as the water beats down on the two. After I rinse the brush by itself under the water until the water running out of the brush is no longer soapy. Rinsing on the palette first helps make it so much faster to get all of the soap out.

Rinsing a makeup brush
Rinsing a makeup brush

Step 6: Squeegee excess water

Before it is time to allow your brushes to dry, you want to work the excess water out of the bristles. I use my fingers like a squeegee to do this. Be careful to not tug on the bristles as you work the water out. All I do is give the bristles a gentle squeeze as I work my fingers down the brush. At this point in time you may want to reshape the bristles a bit if it loos like the brush needs some assistance. Most brushes will return to their normal shape once dry, but a few brushes need further help.

Squeezing excess water out of a makeup brush

If your brush still looks dirty after following these steps, you will want to complete steps two through six again until the brush is fully clean.

Dirty makeup brush
Dirty makeup brush

Drying the Brushes

It is important to remember that your brushes are still wet and must not be placed upright. The safest way to dry them is by hanging them upside down, or laying them on their side to dry. The good news is that drying racks are becoming more common in stores and are not terribly expensive. I found mine in the health and beauty department of Walmart for $5, and I have also seen them at discount stores like TJMaxx and Ross. With just a few pieces the racks assemble and disassemble quickly. However, you do not need a rack at all. You can simply use a rag or paper towel and lay your brushes down. I get my white rags from Dollar Tree. Be sure to allow them to fully dry before turning them upright and/or using them.

Makeup brush drying rack
Makeup brush drying rack

Makeup brush drying rack assembly
Makeup brush drying rack assembly

Makeup brush drying rack assembly

Makeup brush drying on drying rack
Makeup brush drying on drying rack

Makeup brush drying on towel
Makeup brush drying on towel

Wash Other Tools

While this is a how to wash your makeup brushes tutorial, this is a great time to accomplish washing your other tools! From eyelash curlers to beauty spatulas, a little bit of dawn and warm water will clean them all. For dirty blending sponges I first wet the sponge under warm water and squeeze it a bit to help it become saturated. Next I apply dish soap all over the dirty areas. Then I rub the sponge in between both of my hands, using friction to work the soap into the sponge. I find that this works the best to get all of the makeup out of the sponge.

Applying soap to dirty makeup blending sponge
Applying soap to dirty makeup blending sponge

Finally I rinse my sponge under warm water and squeeze it continuously until no more soap comes out of the sponge. Be gentle when squeezing your sponge, especially if you have long nails like mine. It is easy to tear the sponge up with your nails.

Rinsing dirty makeup blending sponge
Rinsing dirty makeup blending sponge

At the end of this how to wash makeup brushes tutorial I want to take some time to talk about daily brush maintenance and how often that you should wash your brushes. Makeup blending sponges should be washed after each use for sanitary purposes and to keep them working well. Makeup brushes should be washed roughly once per week. I like to wash my brushes on the weekend because I typically do not apply makeup at that time. This allows my brushes plenty of time to fully dry before their next use. On the daily basis I give my brushes a quick clean by using e.l.f.'s daily brush cleaner. The handy spray disinfects and removes excess color so that you can use your brushes day after day without color transfer. Simply spray your brush a few times and wipe the bristles over a rag or paper towel. It is my hope that at the end of this tutorial that you will approach brush cleaning with a sense of ease and certainty, and that you have come to understand that brush cleaning does not have to break the bank. Until next time, continue to let your true beauty shine.

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