Beauty Tips: How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Once you’ve made the investment in brushes, take care of that investment by regularly washing and cleaning your brushes. Regular maintenance of your brushes will provide you with years of use, but it will also keep your makeup, brushes, and routine more sanitary. It is particularly important to regularly wash face brushes if you are acne-prone — it is best to do so after every use, especially with brushes that have been used in cream or liquids.

You can use any of the following:

  • Brush Cleanser (by MAC or any other brand)
  • MAC Cleanse-Off Oil (to remove stains)
  • Baby Shampoo (by any brand)

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Hi Christine,

You use the MAC brush cleaner undiluted?

Kinda new to brush cleansers as I only use baby shampoo to clean them 🙂 But I guess the brush cleanser is good for me when I go traveling and need to bring my MU brushes around 🙂


I’ve always been absolutely OCD about using clean brushes every time I apply makeup. I basically have 5 of all my favorite brushes. Enough to go a couple of days before I need to wash my brushes. I use Daybreak Lavender Farms Facial cleansing oil to remove any creams or dark stains (put some on a paper towel and gentle rub bristles until stain or cream is removed). I use MAC brush cleanser or Aveda Shampure. I put a drop or two on an old flocked sponge in a small bowl with about 1/2″ water. I gently rub bristles against the sponge until they come clean, then rinse. This method give a quick dry time. When you don’t saturate the brush with soap its easier to rinse and dries quicker. One of the reasons I’m so OCD about clean brushes….is a comment a doctor friend of mine once made. He said all makeup, even minerals can become contaminated by facial oils and bacteria unless you use a clean brush every time ….no double dipping. He also said if I did I’d be able to use most makeup except mascara indefinately. When I asked how long he meant….he said unless the oils go rancid you can keep using it forever. I mainly use minerals now, but the creams and gels I do use last a very long time. Gel eyeliners don’t dry out as quickly either when they’re not contaminated. Love all your tutorials, I always get new ideas and like seeing new looks and colors!

Thanks for posting this quick how-to! It’s really important to have clean brushes and I routinely use baby shampoo once to twice a week, and use the MAC cleansing solution everyday. I put a spray top directly on top of the bottle of the MAC bottle(Sephora’s spray top from it’s brush cleansing spray fits perfectly) and use that to apply the solution to the brush or a tissue for wiping clean. I just purchased some white bristled brushes, so maybe when my pockebook allows, I’ll invest in some Mac cleansing oil.

I use shampoo(currently Aveeno)or Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser to wash my brushes. For brushes stained by pigment, or to remove waterproof makeup, I first clean them with Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover. That stuff gets off anything! Next, I clean them like normal with shampoo. Works like a charm and makes my brushes super soft.

Hey, I hope this doesn’t sound contrary or unctuous or anything, but I have a little bit of information to add.
I’m no makeup goddess, but I know brushes as I’m a fairly active multimedia visual artist.

Please, avoid squeezing the hairs of your brush while it is wet! This is one of the ways that it’s possible to force water into the ferrule, which can eventually case rusting, or the weakening of the glue that holds your brush together.

Instead, to ensure that all the makeup is out of your brush, gently massage the hairs of the brush with your fingers while running water over the brush. To remove excess water from your brush before drying, you can blot it on something absorbent like a towel, re-purposed old t-shirt or a paper towel. Re-shaping the bristles to dry should be a gentle coaxing.

It’s not that anyone will destroy their brushes if they squeeze them when wet, but avoiding that action will help ensure a longer life.

Thanks for the tip! I don’t find that anything absorbs excess water as much as squeezing does, unfortunately 🙁 Do you know what the pros/cons of having excess water in the brush itself?

You’re totally right, it takes more time for a brush to dry if you don’t squeeze the water out of it, but assuming that the brush was well washed, there shouldn’t be any icky bacteria to grow. *However* growing up in Colorado, I’ve always been accustomed to things drying quickly (low humidity).

I believe that if you lay the brush flat to dry it, or if you clip it so that it’s hanging upside down, some excess water in the hairs should be OK, because it’s out in the air where it can dry.

I like to dry my brushes upside-down. The super easy way to do this is to just use normal clothespins – close them around the end of the middle of a brush, and then balance it on the edge of a shelf (clothespin on shelf, brush hanging upside-down).

i use Woolite, as another commenter mentioned above. after i do my last rinse and squeeze, i then pour a little rubbing alcohol over each brush and squeeze again. i didn’t get this from anywhere, so i’m not sure if i’m harming my brushes or not. just seemed like a good idea to get rid of any icky bacteria that may be hanging around after a rather bad breakout and i’ve just continued to do it ever since. an added benefit is my brushes do dry quicker than just using the Woolite.

i assume eventually it will have a drying effect, but i’ll condition with an organic conditioner when that happens.

Once I used olive oil on my really really soft versace powder brush after I watched a video of a really good guru that I really like on youtube. The oil did not come off easily so I had to wash it really thoroughly. The brsh is no longer soft, it opened up like a fan while drying and it’s completely ruined. Whatever you do do not use olive oil for the brushes. Use whatever is more gentle. Now I’m all about baby shampoo.

i actually used regular liquid dish soap (palmolive, fairy, or whatever) for years and years on my brushes and they are all prfectly fine…that said, i recently started using a l’oreal shampoo for frizzy hair, and that works too, but i don’t find it really seems to get the brushes as clean (or maybe it’s just overly moisturising).

none of my brushes have rusted, it hasn’t made them lose hairs or anything. the only thing is that the numbers eventually wash away, but they aren’t really that important once one is familiar with the brushes!

A great tip for preserving the writing on a makeup brush is to add a thin layer of clear nail polish over the writing after purchase. It will stand up through washing and use for quite some time. If it eventually comes off, you can just paint it again.

I’m all set with baby shampoo now 🙂 I have a question though; do you use the same technique on your powder/blush brushes?

Thanks for the great site and information. For makeup newbies, your site is priceless!

Im only 16 but am really into makeup, my brushes are like my holy grail especially my mac 182 🙂 amazing brush. Although what i learned when deep cleaning it you cant press to hard or else the bristles fold under and create these hole-like gaps, I use a pantines shampoo and condition that has extracts of vitamin E and aloe, it works great and keeps my brushes soft. But of course there is always MAC brush cleanser for spot treatments 🙂

Great tips. I think I will pickup some of the mac cleaner for a fast dry.

I use a few methods as well. I have a brush cleaner from Bare Escentials that I use in the same way you show for baby shampoo. Once a month I will use a light conditioner on my brushes, it still gets them very clean. If I have a stubborn colour on a white brush I use my Clinque brush cleaner spray, works very well.

if it is really stubborn I will spray 2 times on each side of the brush and set it aside to sit while I clean a few of my other brush then come back to it. If that doesn’t work try it one more and 2nd time is always a charm.

Great tutorial. I’m ashamed to say I’ve probably washed my brushes about twice this year. Now I know some better methods I’ll be doing it more often. Ok.. off topic and a long time since you did the vid but your skin looks gorgeous in the video, especially the cheeks, do you use some sort of glow cream or something to get it looking so radiant?


I love your tutorial videos
and they have been a huge help to me because im going to this flight attendant job interview and your advices and tips has been amazing..
.you are yourself so beautiful with flawless skin.

Thank you for this amazing site and your help!!!


I just saw this tutorial and I have a question. Using the MAC Brush Cleanser: after dipping the brush, wiping off the colour on a paper towel, after-you don’t rinse the brush with water before leaving it to dry?

I use baby shampoo for deep cleansing as well – that’s once a week, and a brush cleaner for spot cleaning.. Never had the need to de-stain my brushes, though. The 217 is the only white brush I have, and i don’t own any staining eyeshadows…

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