How To Clean Makeup Brushes
Jun 19, 2023

How To Clean Makeup Brushes

How To Clean Makeup Brushes

Now if you are anything like me, I didn't start experimenting with eye shadows and contouring until only a few years ago. I was always a 'slap it on and blend with the fingers' kind of gal. But the more I got my makeup professionally done for photoshoots and events, the more I wanted to recreate the stunning eye makeup looks created for me. 

makeup brushes

So I went out and invested in some makeup brushes. I was always in awe of the line up of makeup brushes my makeup artist would lay out - a far cry from the rubbery sponge eye shadow applicators I was used to playing with. I was enjoying learning about all these new makeup techniques and feeling pro AF with all the tools and brushes I now used to apply my makeup. But this also just added to something to be cleaned - just like hair brushes and tools. 

There are multiple methods on how to clean your makeup brushes and I will step you through 3 different products in this blog. 

makeup brush cleaning methods

Why Clean Makeup Brushes?

But first, why do you have to clean your makeup brushes? 

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests we wash our makeup brushes every week or so: 

"Dirty makeup brushes can cause an infection, such as a fungal infection, E. coli, or a staph infection, which can be very serious.To protect your skin and kill any harmful bacteria that lingers in your makeup brushes, it’s a good idea to wash your brushes every 7 to 10 days." 

Of course, this all depends on how often you are using your makeup brushes, how many brushes you have, and the type of makeup application you are doing. For instance, if you only have one eye shadow crease brush and you like to switch it up with vibrant colours regularly, then you may have to wash this brush after every use. Conversely, if you have a full line up of multiple crease brushes, you can use a fresh brush each time and clean them all together when you have run out of clean brushes. 

Warm, Soapy Water

The AAD instructs that the easiest way to clean your makeup brushes is use the warm, soapy method:


  1. Rinse the tips of your brushes under lukewarm, running water to remove residual makeup. Only rinse the tip, as submerging the whole brush head will eventually dissolve the glue that connects the brush head to the handle.

  2. Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and a tablespoon of either gentle shampoo or clarifying shampoo. Using plain soap and water can dry out the bristles. 

  3. Swirl each brush tip in the bowl. For a good lather, you can also massage each brush tip in the palm of your hand.

  4. Rinse the brush tips under running water.

  5. Continue shampooing and rinsing each brush until the water runs clear from the brush.

  6. Squeeze out excess moisture with a clean, dry paper towel.

  7. Lay your brushes flat to dry on a towel with the tips hanging off the edge of the counter. Do not dry your brushes upright in a container, as this will cause the water to run down the brushes, loosening the glue that connects the brush head with the handle.

warm soapy water method

This is a great basic method that doesn't require you to purchase any extra products, however, I have found that it isn't the most effective way to clean some types of brushes, remove stubborn makeup and uses a lot of water. 

Spray Brush Cleaner

There are many makeup brush cleaner products on the market and most come in a spray application form. Of course, not all products are made equal in this category but I have had some success with the Mecca Cosmetica Brush Cleaner and the Brush Clean and Condition from Designer Makeup Tools. 

  1. Spray brush cleaner directly onto bristles 
  2. Gentle rub the bristles back and forth on a paper towel, removing the makeup and until bristles are clean.
  3. No rinsing required - repeat if necessary.

spray makeup brush cleaner

I use this method as a 'lazy clean' option, I find that it is not as efficient on heavily pigmented products, but it does the trick if you are in a pinch or need to quickly clean a brush to keep using. 

Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner

This is one of those 'once you try it you never go back' products. I call this method the Ultra Brush Cleanse. I was first put onto the Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner product from my regular team mate and makeup artist Tina Sparks  (sometimes I step in to lend a hand when we are styling bridal parties and quickly clean her brushes between bridesmaids while my ladies are sitting in their curl sets).

cinema secrets brush cleaner

This product is rather unique in its chemistry in that it relies on the capillary action of the brush bristles to absorb the cleaning solution. You can purchase a 'cleansing tin' with the solution, but I use just a small glass. It also comes in a spray form similar to the above method, but you instead spray a patch of the solution onto a paper towel and wipe the brushes over it. 

  1. Pour a small amount of Brush Cleaner Solution into tin. This product evaporates fast so only pour out enough to a depth of 1/4 of the height your brush bristles. 
  2. Dip brush tip into liquid and remove immediately to avoid over saturation.  Bristles will draw liquid up into brush and dissolve away makeup.  For large fluffy or dense brushes, only dip 10% of brush tip and hold vertically for 5 seconds so liquid moves down into base.
  3. Wipe brush clean on paper towel by brushing back and forth. 
  4. Shape brushes and allow to air dry completely before use (which is only a matter of minutes). 

using cinema secrets makeup brush cleaner

Now the first time I used this product on some of my makeup brushes I was actually shocked to learn the true colour of the brush bristles! The other above mentioned methods can remove the makeup from your bristles but this is the only method and product (that I have used anyways) that actually cleanses the bristles and removes even the most residual of makeup.

cleaning makeup brushes

True story: I got lazy for a bit and did the quick 'spray and wipe' method for a few of my eye makeup brushes, then did a deep clean with the Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner and got a full rainbow of eye shadows come out on my paper towel from the past half a dozen uses! 

organising makeup brushes

Now, here is a little frugal tip I have for the order you clean your makeup brushes using the Cinema Secrets product. This stuff is not super cheap, but a little does go a long way, and to help it go further, I organise my brushes from cleanest to dirtiest. I clean the 'cleaner' or light makeup coloured brushes first and then finish with the saturated bristles. If you clean them in the opposite order (or with no order and just grabbing a brush as you see it) you will find that the cleaning solution will get cloudy quickly and may transfer some of the darker and bright pigments onto your lighter used brushes. I also find that it is best to do one small pour for the smaller brushes, and then a slightly larger pour for the bigger powder brushes as these will soak up more of the solution. 

cleaning makeup brushes

So, be honest - how clean are your makeup brushes? Which is your go-to cleaning method? Let me know if you are a Cinema Secrets lover as well! 

Renae xo 


This post includes affiliate links. I get most of my makeup brushes (and the Cinema Secrets) from Designer Makeup Tools, a great local Sunshine Coast small business - they have an extensive range of makeup artist quality brushes. I also have a few of their single eye shadows which I have created into my own custom eye shadow palettes. 


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