Every few weeks, I get a text from a friend asking me how to clean makeup brushes. “Do I just use soap?” or, “I read somewhere that [insert random food item] can be used to clean them?” or, “Do I even have to clean them?” (Ugh, YES.) And then I launch into a long conversation about how exactly you wash your makeup brushes and Beauty Blenders, and around and around we go.
Clearly, there’s a bunch of confusing information out there, and even more clearly, makeup brushes are not getting cleaned the way they should be (or at all, which is too horrible to think about…all of that harbored bacteria…). So instead of leaving you to your own devices with a possibly crappy DIY recipe, we broke down the five best ways to wash your makeup brushes, from the very basic soap and water, to an insanely expensive automated machine. Scroll down to find your favorite method, and then get those brushes clean.
1. Soap. Water. Hands. Done.
This is my personally preferred method for brushes and Beauty Blenders, because #easy, but you can’t just squeeze any ol’ soap on your precious brushes—you need to either use Dawn (the gentlest of antibacterial soaps) or none. Or, I guess you do have a third option, which is to use any generic soap and watch the bristles of your brushes gradually dry out and fall apart. Yay!
2. With a fancy, ribbed silicone mitt or mat.
If using your hands doesn’t feel thorough enough for your deep-cleaning desires, then no worries—we’ve got you covered. You can slip on the Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Glove or set the Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Palette in your sink, both of which have an insane amount of rubby nubby patches to really wash away grime in the grooves of your brushes. The only caveat: You have to wash the matt and mitt after each use, too, to prevent bacteria from trying to set up shop.
3. Baby shampoo and a bowl.
Hey, if baby shampoo works for the world’s most-sensitive, delicate creatures, then it’s definitely going to work for your makeup brushes. The upside to using baby shampoo over regular dish soap is that it conditions your brush’s bristles while removing gunk, without any stiff, starchy residue. The downside is that you won’t get the same bacteria-killing benefits, which may be a deal-breaker for some.
4. With a cleansing balm.
Makeup-brush cleansing balms, like Japonesque Solid Brush Cleaner, are basically a cross between a bar of soap and baby shampoo. They’re generally formulated with a mix of oils (or, in Japonesque’s case, goat’s milk, olive oil, and palm butter) that are solidified in a little jar and lather lighting when you rub your brushes against them. The result: clean, soft, conditioned brushes.
5. With a hi-tech, brush-cleaning machine.
We’ll be the hundredth person to say that the Lilumia brush-washing machine is absolutely unnecessary for cleaning brushes, especially for $160, but it’s totally an option for people who just really, really hate cleaning their brushes. How it works: Insert six small brushes into the slots of the machine (pointed downward so the bristles rest in the reservoir of soap), close the egg-shaped lid, turn it on, and that’s it. The machine agitates the bristles back and forth in soap, then drains, and then does two rinse cycles—basically like a washing machine for your brushes. Does it work? Uh, kinda. Is it loud and bulky and expensive? Uh, yes. Check out this beauty blogger’s review, here: