This article was co-authored by Katya Gudaeva. Katya Gudaeva is a Professional Makeup Artist and the Founder of Bridal Beauty Agency based in Seattle, Washington. She has worked in the beauty industry for over 10 years and worked with companies such as Patagonia, Tommy Bahama, and Barneys New York and with clients such as Amy Schumer, Macklemore, and Train.
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If you want your skin to stay clear and healthy -- and your makeup to go on as flawlessly as possible -- you must wash your makeup brushes regularly to get rid of old makeup residue, bacteria, and other germs. But that doesn't mean you have to buy an expensive brush cleaner from the store. You can make your own at home with ingredients that you probably already have. Make a basic version with just two ingredients, use all-natural ingredients for a gentle cleanser, or whip up a spray that you can actually use to spot clean your brushes every day.
- 2 parts antibacterial dish soap
- 1 part olive oil
- ½ cup (118 ml) witch hazel
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) liquid castile soap
- 1 cup (237 ml) distilled water
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) nourishing oil, such as olive, jojoba, or almond
- 2 ounces (59 ml) distilled water
- 5 ounces (148 ml) isopropyl alcohol
- 10 to 15 drops essential oil
Method 1Method 1 of 3:Preparing Basic Brush Cleaner
- 1Mix the soap and olive oil. On a small plate, combine 2 parts of antibacterial dish soap with 1 part of olive oil. Swirl the two together with a spoon until they’re fully mixed.XResearch source
- The antibacterial soap will kill any germs or bacteria on the brushes, while the olive oil will help break down stubborn makeup so the brushes rinse clean.
- Don’t use a paper plate for mixing the cleaner. The oil will seep through paper.
- 2Wet your brushes. Take the brushes that you plan to clean and run them under lukewarm water. Run your fingers over the bristles to ensure that they’re all completely wet.XResearch source
- Be careful to hold the brushes with the bristles facing down when you wet them. If water gets inside the brushes’ ferrell, the part of the brushes just below the bristles that holds them to the handle, it may loosen the glue so bristles start falling out.
- 3Dip the brushes in the cleaner and work it through the bristles. Coat all of the brushes’ bristles with the soap mixture. Next, run the brushes back and forth over the palm of your hand to work the cleaner in. Keep moving the brushes over your hand until the suds are no longer colored with makeup.XResearch source
- For extremely dirty makeup brushes, you may need to wipe off the suds and dip the brushes in the cleaner a second time.
- 4Rinse the brushes and air dry them. Once the soapy residue is no longer colored, run the brushes under lukewarm water until no suds come out of the bristles. Gently reshape the wet bristles with your fingers, and lay them flat to air dry.XResearch source
- If possible, lay your brushes flat on the edge of a table or counter so the bristles hang over the edge. That will keep any moisture from seeping into the ferrule.
Method 2Method 2 of 3:Creating Natural Brush Cleaner
- 1Combine all of the ingredients in a container. Add ½ cup (118 ml) of witch hazel, 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of liquid castile soap, 1 cup (237 ml) of distilled water, and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of nourishing oil, such as olive, jojoba, or almond, in a mason jar or other container. Put a lid on the container, and shake it well to thoroughly mix all of the ingredients.XResearch source
- The witch hazel in the cleaner is antibacterial so it kills any germs on your brushes. The castile soap removes makeup residue and other dirt. The oil also helps break down makeup and helps condition the brushes too.
- Because the oil may separate from the other ingredients, always shake the cleaner before using it.
- 2Dip the brushes into the cleaner and allow them to soak. When you’re ready to clean your brushes, pour some of the cleaner into a small bowl or cup. Place the brushes in the cleaner, and let them soak for 5 to 10 minutes.XResearch source
- If you prefer, you can put the cleaner in a spray bottle, spray some on the brushes, and then rub the bristles over a towel.
- 3Rinse the brushes and let them dry. After the brushes have soaked for several minutes, remove them from the cleaner. Run them under lukewarm water in the sink to rinse them, and carefully shape the wet bristles with your fingers. Set the brushes out on a counter or table to air dry.XResearch source
- Be sure not to dry the brushes with the bristles up in the air. Water can drip back into the brushes’ ferrule, which can cause bristles to fall out.
Method 3Method 3 of 3:Mixing Up Daily Brush Cleaner
- 1Pour the alcohol into a spray bottle. Add 5 ounces (148 ml) of isopropyl alcohol to a clean plastic or glass spray bottle. Make sure that there is enough room at the top of the bottle to mix in the water and oil.XResearch source
- For the best results, use 70% isopropyl alcohol in the brush cleaner spray. The alcohol doesn’t just serve as a disinfectant for the brushes; it also helps the cleaner dry more quickly so you can spot clean your brushes and use them right away.
- Your spray bottle should hold at least 8 ounces (237 ml).
- 2Add the water and oil. With the alcohol in the spray bottle, pour in 2 ounces (59 ml) of distilled water and 10 to 15 drops of your favorite essential oil. Shake the bottle well to ensure that all of the ingredients are fully mixed.XResearch source
- The essential oil is meant to cover the alcohol scent of the cleaner, so you can use whichever fragrance you prefer. However, you may want to use an oil with antibacterial properties, such as eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender, or tea tree oil.
- Because the oil may separate from the other ingredients, always shake the spray well before using it.
- 3Spray the brushes with the cleaner and rub on a towel. To use the cleaner, lightly spray the bristles of the brushes. Run the brushes back and forth over a towel or piece of paper towel. Allow the brush to air dry for a minute or two, and then use the brush as you normally would.XResearch source
- Feel the brushes’ bristles before using them after cleaning to make sure that the cleaner has dried completely.
Community Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article?Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow
- QuestionWhen do you clean dirty makeup brushes?Katya GudaevaKatya Gudaeva is a Professional Makeup Artist and the Founder of Bridal Beauty Agency based in Seattle, Washington. She has worked in the beauty industry for over 10 years and worked with companies such as Patagonia, Tommy Bahama, and Barneys New York and with clients such as Amy Schumer, Macklemore, and Train.
Professional Makeup ArtistProfessional Makeup ArtistExpert Answer
- QuestionCan I use coconut oil instead of olive oil?Top AnswererYes, you can! In fact, I would recommend using coconut oil over olive oil. It's fine to use around the eyes and on the skin and it does a much better job of removing makeup.
- QuestionCan I use a face cleanser instead of baby shampoo to wash my brushes?Community AnswerYes, you can. Face cleansers have the additional benefit of disinfecting your brushes.
- QuestionCan I substitute vegetable oil for olive oil to clean my brushes?Community AnswerYes. Using vegetable oil will clean the brushes, but might not make them as soft as the olive oil would.
- QuestionCan I use almond oil?Top AnswererI have never tested this out as I'm allergic to nuts. I would test it out on your skin first. Rub some on your wrist to make sure you don't have a reaction. If you're fine, try using it to remove eye makeup. I say eye because you want to know if it irritates your eyes. See how well it removes your makeup directly from your face because if it doesn't do a good job at that, it surely won't clean your brushes!
- QuestionMy brushes still have oil on them after drying. What can I do?Community AnswerAfter washing the brushes with soap and water, soak them in toothpaste overnight, then wash them again. That should do it.
- QuestionWhere is the best place to leave brushes?Community AnswerThe best place the leave your brushes is on a brush rack. If you don't have one, you can just use a little jar and let your brushes rest in there upright. This keeps them clean and protects their shape.
- QuestionAny other ideas?Top AnswererYou could just use makeup remover, olive oil, jojoba oil or coconut oil. Or you could just go out and buy brush cleaner.
- QuestionWill this work on all types of makeup brushes?Top AnswererIt should work on all types of brushes, but brushes are either synthetic (plastic bristles) or natural hair (real animal hair), so check to make sure which you have.
- QuestionCan I use extra virgin olive oil?Top AnswererYou can use olive oil as a deep cleaner for your brushes. Oils melt and break down makeup, though not instantly. Clean your brushes with olive oil and let the oils set in your brushes for 2 - 5 minutes, then wash it out. It way take a couple washes with just water because oil and water separate.
- It’s important to wash your makeup brushes regularly to get rid of bacteria and germs that can cause acne, skin irritations, and infections. Deep clean your brushes at least once a week to keep them clean.
- The daily brush cleaner spray is ideal for quick cleaning when you’re in hurry. It’s also an effective way to remove one color from your brush when you’re ready to switch to another.
Things You'll Need
Basic Brush Cleaner
- A small plate
- A spoon
- Running water
Natural Brush Cleaner
- Mason jar or another container
- Running water
Daily Brush Cleaner Spray
- Spray bottle
- Towel or piece of paper towel
About This Article
To make your own makeup brush cleaner, try using dish soap and olive oil. First, combine 2 parts dish soap with 1 part olive oil in a small bowl. Then, dampen the bristles of the brush you want to clean with warm water. Once all of the bristles are wet, run the brush through the mixture in the bowl. Use the palm of your hand to work the cleaner into the bristles until the suds are no longer colored with makeup. Finally, rinse the brushes in cool water and let them air dry. For tips from our Beauty co-author on how to make an alcohol-based cleanser, keep reading!