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The Ultimate Guide on How To Clean Makeup Brushes

The Ultimate Guide on How To Clean Makeup Brushes

Makeup brushes are essential tools to help apply products perfectly on our skin. However, since they’re used every day, they’re also the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria that can cause breakouts.

Cleaning your brushes is vital to keeping them working properly and making sure they don’t harbor bacteria and built-up product that could clog your pores and cause skin irritation.

Let’s talk about how to get your vegan makeup brushes clean without damaging them or using products that could harm your skin. 

Why is it important to clean my makeup brushes?

Makeup brushes are only effective if they’re clean and in good condition. When brushes become laden with product, they aren’t just ineffective—they hold bacteria you don’t want anywhere near your skin. 

You’ve heard the stories of people developing infections from dirty brushes that were used on multiple people, but it can happen with your brushes, too. Your makeup brushes probably live in your makeup bag or under your bathroom sink, where it’s dark and usually damp. 

If you expose your brushes to moisture (like when you use a cream shadow or lip color), this creates the perfect opportunity for your brushes to grow bacteria—ew. 

Even if you don’t use water or liquid product on your brushes, the natural oils on your skin and any residual moisture left behind from your lotions and serums can also make your brushes damp, which helps to breed germs. 

Fungal infections, E. coli, and staph have all been found on makeup brushes and beauty blender sponges, so it’s important to take it seriously and wash your brushes and sponges at least every seven to ten days. 

The good news is, once you make it a routine, you can keep your brushes clean and avoid infections and breakouts with ease. Here’s how.  

How do I clean my brushes?

You’ll need a few materials to get your brushes clean and kill any bacteria that may have already developed inside the bristles or pores. If you’re cleaning your brushes for the very first time, it will usually take a little longer this first time than it will when you clean your brushes regularly. 

Assemble your materials

Grab some microfiber towels, paper towels, and a drying mat. Make sure the surface of the drying mat is clean, or you’re working on a clean and sanitized counter surface. You’ll also need a mild cleanser, a source of water, and of course, your brushes and sponges. 

Choose your cleanser

Many of us think we need to use facial cleanser to cleanse our makeup brushes, but this is not true. Your cleanser is designed to cleanse your skin. Although it might work on your makeup brushes, it’s honestly just kind of a waste of good product. 

Mild dish soap, hand soap, or castile soap will work just fine. Baby shampoo is also an option, just be sure it’s vegan and cruelty-free. It’s surprising, but many baby shampoos can contain harsh chemicals if they aren’t from clean brands. 

If you still decide to use your facial cleanser to clean not your face, make sure it isn’t exfoliating. The exfoliating granules could damage your brushes and sponges, not to mention you will never (we repeat never) get all the granules out of the fibers. You’ll also want to double-check to make sure any oils in the cleanser are safe for the brush hairs. 

Oils can help product slide off the bristles, but the manufacturer will note for sure if it’s safe to use. 

Use lukewarm water

Lukewarm water is best for brushes and sponges. Extremely hot water isn’t necessary, and it could potentially harm the fibers of your brushes. Vegan brushes are made from synthetic fibers, which can melt if exposed to extreme heat. 

If the water temperature is comfortable on your wrist, it’s perfect for your brushes. 

Put product onto your cleaning surface

Put a small drop of cleansing product onto the surface of your mat, or onto a sanitized counter covered in a paper towel or clean cloth. 

Don’t put the product directly on your brush; the fibers of your brushes can cause the product to lather more than you expect, so you only need a small amount. It’s also nearly impossible to wash out the cleanser if you place it directly on your brush. 

Rub your brush into your cleaning product

With gentle, circular motions, swirl the dirty brush onto your cleaning surface. You’ll immediately begin to see the color of your cosmetics come pouring off the brush onto the cleaning surface. Continue to rub the brush back and forth for several seconds to get the majority of the product off the brush.

Be careful not to scrub or press your brushes into the surface of your cleaning pad because it could potentially harm your brushes. 

Run water over your brushes until it runs clear

Once you’ve rubbed your brushes into the cleanser, hold them under running, lukewarm water until they rinse clear. You can gently squeeze the water out of the brushes, which facilitates getting the remaining product out of your brushes. 

Again, be gentle, don’t pull or press the bristles, or you could damage them. 

Shape the bristles

Once you’ve thoroughly washed your brushes, they’ll be heavy with water and probably a little misshapen. Gently reshape the bristles on a flat, clean, absorbent surface. You can lay the brushes flat on a paper towel or cloth and reshape them so that as they dry, they will return to their original shape. 

Skipping this step is a big no-no. If you allow your brushes to dry in a strange position will make them less useful. The reason your brushes are as perfect as they are at creating dramatic lines and flawless layers of foundation is because of the shape and integrity of the bristles. 

Let them dry

If your brushes are super wet, you can gently squeeze them between two paper towels to release excess water. Don’t be aggressive; just one gentle squeeze will get out enough water to make sure they dry properly.

Let your brushes air-dry overnight. Don’t sit them in direct sunlight or outside to speed up the drying process. Extreme temperatures and sunlight can damage brushes. 

What about beauty blenders?

Beauty blender sponges are some of our favorite tools, and you’ll normally dampen them before using them to apply your products. This can make them more likely to harbor bacteria and old makeup. 

You should clean your beauty blenders at least once every few days (sooner than your brushes, especially if you use them daily). Also, avoid storing your beauty blenders in your makeup bag. It’s better to rinse them after each use and allow them to air dry on the counter. 

You can clean your beauty blender by applying cleanser directly to the sponge and squeezing it under warm water. You can even use mild bar soap. Work the soap into a lather and rinse with lukewarm water until it runs clean and all the cleanser has been removed from the sponge. 

Leave the beauty blender on a clean towel or cloth to dry overnight. 

How often should I clean my makeup brushes?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends you clean your makeup brushes every seven to ten days. However, you may need to clean them more frequently if you use them multiple times a day or use them with lots of liquid primers, concealers, or foundations. 

Liquid product buildup in the bristles gets a little funkier than the powdered product buildup, so it’s important to remove the excess product to make sure the brushes last as long as they should. 

Squeaky clean!

Clean makeup brushes are what separates the novices from the pros. Clean makeup brushes help you master your application techniques and create flawless looks you’d never be able to achieve with your fingertips alone. 

It’s easy to build brush-cleansing into your beauty routine and stick to it once you understand the importance of cleaning your brushes and how to do it correctly. Just spending five to ten minutes a week to clean your brushes can save you from developing breakouts or infections that could sideline you for weeks. 

You can try out the latest vegan brushes (and seriously amazing vegan and cruelty-free skincare and makeup) by signing up for the Kinder Beauty Box. Each month, you’ll get clean, high-performance products sent right to your door that are animal and environmentally friendly. 

That’ll keep your brushes and your conscience squeaky clean. 

Sign up for the Kinder Beauty Box today. 



Model Contracts Eye Infection from 'Dirty' Makeup Brush | Live Science 

How to clean your makeup brushes | 

Microbiological study of used cosmetic products: highlighting possible impact on consumer health | SFAM 

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