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How to Wash Your Makeup Brushes


How to wash makeup brushes

After all of the parties and get-togethers over winter break, I’ve arrived back at school with a bunch of dirty makeup brushes. So, for this week’s post, I decided it would be both necessary (for me) and useful (hopefully, for you) to share an inexpensive yet effective way to easily clean your makeup brushes!

Now, let me start by debunking a myth: Most people think that you need to buy an expensive brush cleanser from Mac, Sephora, or Ulta to get your brushes really clean, but honestly, if you have olive oil and dish soap, you can clean your brushes just as well.

Now, you may be wondering, “um, why would I ever put dish soap and olive oil onto a makeup brush? Well, the dish soap cleans and disinfects your brush, while the olive oil seals in moisture and smooths the brush hair! (Think of it as a shampoo/conditioner mix!) It may sound a bit odd to mix the two together but seriously, don’t worry – your brushes will be just as clean and silky as they were when you first purchased them!

Here’s an easy step-by-step guide as to how you can easily and efficiently clean your dirty makeup brushes.

Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes in 5 Steps

Step 1: Gather all of your brushes that need to be cleaned.

Dirty makeup brushes

Step 2: Grab your olive oil and your dish soap.

Makeup brush cleaning supplies

Step 3: Mix the olive oil and soap in a bowl. Swirl a brush in the soapy concoction.

Cleaning brushes

Step 4: Rinse your brush under COLD water. (Make sure the water is cold – hot water can loosen the bristles in the brushes and cause them to fall out!)

Brush under water

Step 5: Repeat the process with each brush, pat dry with a clean towel, then leave your brushes out on a towel to dry overnight!

Clean makeup brushes final

And you’re all done! Yes, it’s that easy.

This soapy, olive oil-y mixture works really well to clean any kind of brush from any makeup brand! I wash all of my brushes this way, it doesn’t matter if it’s a face or eye brush – it cleans them all! It also doesn’t matter where you purchased the brush- I use this mixture to clean all of my brushes, from Mac to Sigma to ELF.

Also, using this method, your brushes will not get misshapen or lose bristles! As your brushes dry, they will take their original shape- not the semi-deformed one that they temporarily have due to their wet bristles. And as long as you rinse your brushes really well under cold water and pat the handle dry before setting it down to dry, the bristles will not fall out!

Your thoughts?

I hope this was helpful- I know I was thrilled to find out that I could effectively clean my brushes without having to spend too much money! Do you have a different technique as to how you clean your brushes? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on on January 22, 2013 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , , , , , ,

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61 Responses to “How to Wash Your Makeup Brushes”

  1. 1
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    What? I’ve been spending all the money for nothing!!? Thank you! I needed this.

  2. 2
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I wash my brushes with a cheap 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner.

    I’m going to give this a try in the next few days. :D

  3. 3
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Brilliant! I so need to clean my brushes and knew there was an easier way that buying a special brush cleaning solution! But what kind of olive oil/dish soap ratio do you use? Is it just 50:50?

  4. 4
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I badly needed this, thanks for posting! But do you think I could use coconut oil instead of olive oil? :)

  5. 5
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Megan – Hmmm, I’m actually not sure about that! I would use olive oil just in case. I know that coconut oil is extremely thick and I would worry that it wouldn’t wash out as easily!

  6. 6
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Natalie – Yes! 50:50!

  7. 7
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Kelsey – Awesome! Let me know how it works out for you!

  8. 8
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Lizzie – That was my reaction, too!

  9. 9
    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    I would add that to make sure the water doesn’t settle down in the metal part and loosen the glue, to leave them dry tilted up at a slight angle, bristles down. For example, fold a towel over a to half way and rest the brushes with the handles on the folded bit. :)

  10. 10
    January 22nd, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I used to do this for my brushes, but another friend warned me it ruins them. I switched to washing them with Johnson’s baby shampoo. It’s the perfect one-step alternative!

  11. 11
    January 22nd, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I’ve used this method before and I loved it! It left all my brushes clean and soft :)

  12. 12
    January 22nd, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    SO relevant. I’m always surprised at how few people know this trick. Great post! :)

  13. 13
    January 22nd, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Emily- So glad to hear that!

  14. 14
    January 22nd, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you, Jenna!

  15. 15
    January 22nd, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Tif- I will have to try that out!

  16. 16
    January 22nd, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Laura- Thanks for adding that! I actually do the same thing!

  17. 17
    January 22nd, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    My sis and I use baby shampoo when washing our brushes. It has a soft formula that isn’t harsh on the bristles. Awesome tip on rinsing with cold water! I’ve ruined plenty of brushes, makeup and otherwise, buy rinsing with warm/hot water. :-/

  18. 18
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    This is perfect! I already have olive oil in the bathroom (I wash my face with it at night, it’s the ONLY thing that got rid of my cystic acne!) I was just about out of baby shampoo so thanks for this cheap trick.

  19. 19
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I use baby shampoo

  20. 20
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you for this!! I’m totally trying this out tonight, I hope it works for my brushes as well :) ?

  21. 21
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Johanna- It will most definitely work for any brush!

  22. 22
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Mariam- I will have to try that out!

  23. 23
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Casey- You’re so welcome! Let me know how it goes for you!

  24. 24
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Miah- I definitely need to check out baby shampoo to clean my brushes! I have heard so much about it.

  25. 25
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    I didn’t have olive oil so I used canola oil (it’s made in the Canadian prairies where I’m from). My brushes are just drying now but the canola oil seemed to do the job just fine. Do you think all kinds of oil (minus coconut) would work for this?

  26. 26
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    My face is disgustingly allergic to olive oil. Is there an alternative?

  27. 27
    January 22nd, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I always just used hand soap…oops… this seems to be a lot more thorough in the cleaning dept, and moisturizing as well.

    Casey… Do share!
    I’d love to know your face washing routine. Im fighting my own acne battle right now. Thanks.

  28. 28
    January 22nd, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I actually used to use this method. I found in on youtube, and it worked great the first time I did it. The second time I did it, it completely ruined a few of my larger, powder brushes. :( I think you have to be really careful with the dish soap- it can really dry out the bristles and tangle them up!

  29. 29
    January 22nd, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Just what I was looking for!! Thank you!!

  30. 30
    January 22nd, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    You’ve shown a lot of essence of beauty brushes would you recommend that brand?

  31. 31
    January 23rd, 2013 at 1:45 am

    I read in Bobbi Brown’s “Beauty Rules” never to dry your make-up brushes laying flat on a towel, but to hang them with the bristles pointing down taped from the edge of a table. I forgot why though! Anyone else do this? Is there a difference?

  32. 32
    January 23rd, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Eva – I think it’s to prevent water from running up the bristles, which may loosen the glue that sticks the bristles together and cause them to fall out. I’ve never heard of anyone taping their brushes to a table though! As long as they dry pointing downwards somewhere, it should be fine!

  33. 33
    January 23rd, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Laura- I would first try out the other oils on your inexpensive make-up brushes (if you have any), that way you don’t risk ruining your brushes that are $10 or up!

  34. 34
    January 23rd, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Jess- Someone tried out canola oil and said it worked just as well! Others have ditched the idea completely and just do the process with baby shampoo!

  35. 35
    January 23rd, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Tahtyanah- Trust me, I was doing the same thing…until I discovered this routine!

  36. 36
    January 23rd, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Jessica- I think it may also depend on which dish soap brand you use!

  37. 37
    January 23rd, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Annie- You’re welcome! Let me know how it goes!

  38. 38
    January 23rd, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Jennifer- I really do love the essence of beauty brushes- they blend eyeshadows very easily and efficiently.

  39. 39
    January 23rd, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I though it was suppose to wash with a neutral soap or shampoo…

  40. 40
    January 23rd, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    I think it’s already been said, but baby shampoo is an awesome brush cleaner. I’ve never had tangled or brittle brush hairs after using it. Old Johnsons Baby Shampoo works the best, it’s very sudsy and cleans out waxy/oily makeup like nobody’s business.

  41. 41
    January 24th, 2013 at 7:05 am

    I use Johnson’ s baby shampoo it’s safe and gentle and sooo soft after u clean them

  42. 42
    January 24th, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Bre- I definitely need to try that!

  43. 43
    January 24th, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Christine- I have heard so much about that I should totally use it!

  44. 44
    January 25th, 2013 at 12:46 am

    very very helpful.

  45. 45
    January 25th, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Shilu- Thank you!

  46. 46
    January 26th, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    I did this last night and it worked amazingly!! Thanks for posting!!

  47. 47
    January 27th, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I disinfect mine with vinegar and lukewarm (about room temperature) water, and then use gentle shampoo to wash them (It’s a sulfate-free color safe shampoo that I always have laying around, so it’s handy) . I have very sensitive skin that’s prone to breakouts, and the vinegar helps to remove any bacteria that might cause a breakout. I actually need to wash mine tonight, as I think my current round of breakouts is being helped along by my dirty brushes. My vinegar/water mixture is usually eyeballed, but it’s about 25/75, and I just swish them around for a couple minutes to kill bacteria and loosen the makeup on the bristles before I lather up some shampoo and rinse them out. Just rinse well, or they smell like vinegar, even after they’re dry! In addition to helping prevent damage to the bristles, drying at an angle also seems to help them dry faster.

  48. 48
    January 29th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Danielle- I’m glad it worked!

  49. 49
    January 29th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Lish- I will totally try this out!

  50. 50
    February 10th, 2013 at 7:11 pm


    Sorry I didn’t return to this sooner! I mix olive oil and a bit of castor oil and massage it into dry skin (it’s fantastic for removing makeup too) then get the water really hot and run a washcloth through it and lay it on my face until it gets cold and repeat once or twice more. Then just wipe the excess off with the washcloth. The oil mimicks your natural skin oils and moisturizes, and oil cuts through oil it also helps fight bacteria. In the morning I use a mild cleanser with my clarisonic and regular moisturizer. The oil method is called the hot oil treatment. I found it online and figured my skin could only get better not worse and it worked fabulously!

  51. 51
    February 24th, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    I just did this and it worked brilliantly! Thank you so much!!

  52. 52
    August 7th, 2013 at 6:23 am

    I have been washing my makeup brushes with either dish washer or hand wash liquid, and I disinfect with Dettol and I have been doing this for years and I have never had a reason to regret it. I do strongly recommend that you hang them like you would hang clothes to dry so the water drips out of the bristles, not leaving any moisture in the metal hadle that holds the bristles so it prevents fallout later on. I have never had any inclination to buy any expensive cleansers for my brushes. That’s just bogus lol! Why spend that money when I can use it to get more makeup or more brushes lol? I have never tried the olive oil. Will try it soon. Thanks.

  53. 53
    September 5th, 2013 at 2:20 am

    This includes you towels, facial sponges, and even your make-up brushes.
    Use a mattress pad between the mattress and the bottom sheet to
    absorb moisture. o Light haired folks will need to go one or two shades darker than their hair.

  54. 54
    October 25th, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I wash my brushes using shampoo only and it is ok for me :)

  55. 55
    January 31st, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I’m already aware of the tip of using olive oil and soap, but always used warm water before. Thanks for the tip! No wonder my MAC foundation brushs’ bristles kept falling out.

  56. 56
    August 5th, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Try also drying them upside down with a rod and some hair ties. Put the hair tie around the rod and slip the brushes in!

  57. 57
    November 20th, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Thank you for this! I was just wondering: Does dish soap cause breakouts? I just finished this procedure and I’m a bit worried if the dish soap would cause any acne?

  58. 58
    February 17th, 2015 at 5:46 am

    I had no idea that I can use olive oil while cleaning my brushes. I thought that this product will make them oily and I wouldn’t be able to clean them. Thanks for the advices! Regards! Cambrisge Heath Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

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