How to Clean Makeup Brushes With Ease

Soiled makeup brushes spilling out of a bag

The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins - 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

Makeup brushes and Beauty Blenders help us contour and apply products to enhance our natural beauty. Just as with any tools like tweezers or eyelash curlers that touch our skin, they should be cleaned regularly. Cleaning removes any bacteria or embedded makeup and helps the brushes last longer and work more efficiently and effectively.

While there are commercial makeup brush cleaning solutions, you can make your own with just a few products you probably have on hand. Learn how to clean your makeup brushes the right way.

How Often to Clean Makeup Brushes

How often you use the brush and what type of products you are using determines how often the brush should be cleaned.

For brushes used to apply liquid products like concealer or foundation, it's best to clean them weekly. For brushes used to apply dry makeup products around your eyes like eyeshadow, clean every two weeks, and for brushes used to apply powdered makeup products like blush, clean monthly.

Before You Begin

The actual cleaning time for makeup brushes doesn't take long, but the drying time can take up to several hours. Plan well when cleaning the brushes so they have time to air-dry before you use them again. Using a wet brush, especially for dry makeup products, will not produce the results you desire.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 sink or small bowl
  • 1 to 2 microfiber towels


  • 1 bottle baby hair shampoo
  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid without bleach
  • 1 bottle distilled white vinegar


Overhead view of materials needed to clean soiled makeup brushes

The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

How to Clean Makeup Brushes With Baby Shampoo

  1. Flush to Remove Buildup

    Hold the bristles of a makeup brush under a running faucet of warm water to flush out residue in the brush. Do not use hot water or hold the entire brush under the stream. Hot water might weaken the glue that is holding the brush head to the handle.

    Closeup of flushing soiled makeup brushes under the sink faucet

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Fill a small bowl or sink with two cups of warm water and one tablespoon of baby shampoo. Stir to disperse the shampoo.

    Mixing a cleaning solution for soiled makeup brushes

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

  3. Clean the Brush

    Dip the brush in the shampoo water and swish to saturate. Use your fingers to gently massage the bristles and create a lather to lift away the makeup. Do not soak the entire brush.

    Cleaning off soiled makeup brushes with a solution

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

  4. Rinse and Repeat

    Hold the brush bristles under a faucet running warm water to rinse out the shampoo. Repeat the cleaning and rinsing steps until the water runs clear of color and no more suds are present.

    Rinsing off the makeup brushes under the faucet

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

  5. Remove Excess Water

    Use a lint-free microfiber towel to gently squeeze and absorb the excess water from the brush bristles. Do not twist or wring.

    Drying off the cleaned makeup brush

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

  6. Air-Dry the Brush

    • Place the brush flat on a dry microfiber towel to air-dry. Drying time will vary depending on the size of the brush. Turn the brush regularly to speed drying on all sides.
    • Do not dry the brushes upright in a holder. The excess moisture can damage the glue holding the head to the handle or damage the finish of the handle.


    Place the dry microfiber towel at the edge of the bathroom counter and lay the freshly cleaned makeup brush with the bristles hanging over the edge of the counter to encourage even airflow all around the brush head.

    Letting the makeup brushes dry after cleaning

    The Spruce / Sarah Crowley

How to Clean Makeup Brushes With Dishwashing Liquid

Dishwashing liquid works well on makeup brushes that have been caked with liquid foundation because the grease-cutting ingredients in the soap cut through the oily components. Mix a cleaning solution of one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and one cup of warm water in a small bowl. Follow the recommended cleaning steps.

How to Clean Makeup Brushes With Distilled White Vinegar

The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar helps to sanitize makeup brushes by killing bacteria. It can be used for cleaning or as a final rinse. The vinegar odor will dissipate when the brushes dry.

To use for cleaning or rinsing, wash brushes with the dishwashing liquid method first, then swirl the brush fibers in a vinegar solution containing two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar in one cup of warm water. Take care not to let the vinegar reach the ferule (the metal part) of the brush. Then tap the brush against the edge of a sink or other hard surface to dislodge excess moisture and lay flat to dry.

Tips to Clean Makeup Brushes and Keep Them Lasting Longer

  • Clean makeup brushes regularly.
  • Have two sets of makeup brushes on hand so that while one is drying after cleaning you can use the other set.
  • Store brushes upright in a holder to prevent the bristles from becoming misshapen. For an extra set, store them in a breathable fabric makeup brush roll to protect them from dust.
  • Do not store makeup brushes in direct sunlight. It can cause the bristles to become brittle.
  • Handle brushes gently when gathering product and applying makeup to prevent damage to the bristles.

When to Replace Makeup Brushes

Any type of makeup brush should be replaced if it is losing bristles, feels harsh on your face, or has an off-odor. A brush that has lost its shape should also be replaced because it will no longer give you the contours you want. Good quality brushes used for powdered makeup will usually last 2-3 years. Brushes used for liquid products should be replaced after 1-2 years.