How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes And Sponges

It’s everyone’s dreaded Sunday task — cleaning those makeup brushes and sponges. We’ve gathered some pro tips to make the process easier.
Expert Opinion
Written by Amber Katz
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How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes And Spongesfreestocks/Unsplash

It’s everyone’s dreaded Sunday task — cleaning those makeup brushes and sponges. We’ve been known to rewrite it onto our to-do list for, well, too many weeks. Our latest game-changing find is Makeup Eraser The Sponge, which is — get this — machine washable, making it easy enough to toss into the laundry with your weekly towel loads. You simply snap it into the vented ball it comes with before washing.

But what about your go-to non-machine washable sponges and brushes? How often should we be washing our makeup tools and what are some hard-earned tips and tricks from top makeup artists? Here, we tapped ophthalmologist Nicky (Shetal) Shah, MD, and makeup artists Ashleigh Ciucci and Ricky Wilson to get best practices on everything from how often to exactly how to clean our makeup tools.

How Often You Should Clean Makeup Tools

If your face is the only one your makeup brushes are touching, Ciucci says you can get away with cleaning them once a week. “For foundation, concealer, powder, blush, and brow brushes, clean once a week with a liquid brush cleanser like Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner,” she says. “If you’re using different shadows from day to day, clean them daily with the same cleanser.” Once a month, opt for a deep clean with a solid cleanser (more on that below).

When it comes to sponges that are used on your face, Ciucci recommends more frequent washes. “If you use a reusable sponge, clean it every other day with a solid cleanser to prevent breakouts,” she urges.

Needless to say, the eye area is among the most sensitive on the face. Dr. Shah says that makeup brushes and sponges that are used around the eye should be cleaned every one to two weeks, depending on how dirty they are. “Many companies offer recommendations on how often the brushes and sponges should be cleaned, based on their own micro-testing,” Dr. Shah says.

Using contaminated makeup brushes and sponges in the eye area can cause irritation like dry eyes. It can also lead to clogging of the lashline oil glands, which will impact eyelash health, she adds. In addition regular cleansing, Dr. Shah advises looking for makeup brushes with fibers that have been pre-treated with preservatives, “since this can help delay, but not prevent, contamination.”

How to Wash Your Makeup Tools

It should come as no surprise that makeup artists are experts at thoroughly cleansing the tools in their kit. “Even before COVID-19, I was super OCD about cleaning my makeup brushes and tools,” Wilson says. “It is vital to clean brushes after every use for artists, however, for people at home, I would say once a week or, at minimum, twice a month.” With that in mind, it’s important to know that there are different ways to clean your sponges and brushes depending on the circumstances. Below are pro tips for both quick cleaning and more thorough bathing.

For a Quick Refresh

If you are looking to quickly disinfect your tools, Ciucci likes to pour a bit of Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner into a small cup, dip her smaller brushes into the solution, and swirl lightly on a lint-free towel until clean. “Once you’ve cleaned your smaller brushes, pour the remaining liquid onto your towel and swirl your large fluffier brushes into the towel until clean,” she says.

This process is ideal if you need to use the same tools for different purposes. “Cinema Secrets contains alcohol, so they will be disinfected and dry quickly — great if you want to use the same brush in the same sitting,” Ciucci adds. Since they’re not dripping wet, you can dry them standing up or laying down, she says.

For a Deep Clean

Even if you are following Ciucci’s advice and quickly cleaning tools every few days, she suggests a deeper shampoo once a month with a solid cleanser to remove any product build-up and excess debris. When it comes to a full-on sink wash, she likes the Beautyblender BlenderCleanser Solid to clean brushes and sponges. “It gets sudsy easily, so it doesn’t go to waste like a liquid cleanser might,” she says. Her technique? Swirl your wet brush into the silk and massage gently with your fingers. Rinse, gently squeeze out excess water, and lay flat on a towel to dry. For sponges, she says to wet and swirl into the solid cleanser. Massage gently between your palms until the suds run clear, squeeze out excess water, and lay on a towel to dry.

If you prefer a liquid soap, Wilson has you covered. Pre-COVID, he opted for Dawn dish soap and warm water. Now, he’s using Dial Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap and warm water, for added germ and bacteria fighting. Wilson turns the lid of a Tupperware upside down and fills it with warm water and a few drops of Dial to make some suds. “I prefer the shallow depth of a lid versus a bowl, which can drown the brushes,” he says. An added benefit? “The groove on the inside of the lid also doubles as a brush scrubber,” he notes. After scrubbing, Wilson rinses the brushes in warm running water to remove suds, reshapes them, and leaves the brushes flat on the countertop to dry overnight.

The Takeaway

Just as you need to pay attention to the shelf-life of your skincare and makeup products, you need to pay attention to how often you are cleaning the tools that help you apply them. Failure to do so can lead to clogged pores, breakouts, and other skin sensitivities. While a quick daily cleanse will go a long way, you should plan for a thorough bathing at least once a month. If you can’t remember the last time your tools were cleaned, add to it your to-do list ASAP (for real this time!).

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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AMBER KATZis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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