How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

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Gather Your Materials

Salvatore Ferragamo - Backstage - Milan Fashion Week FW16
Matteo Valle / Getty Images

Begin by gathering your makeup brushes, two clean hand towels, and whatever shampoo you have on hand. Bring everything to your sink and lay it out. Keep in mind that you will be washing your brushes, but even if they have natural bristles you will not be using conditioner, only shampoo.

There are also a variety of shampoos made specifically for makeup brushes available on the market today. They’re a great option if you are looking for a gentle cleanser that will remove all traces of dirt and bacteria. You can also use castile soap, like this one here, if you are very sensitive to any ingredients or chemicals found in the shampoo or soap.

Check out a couple of my favorite makeup brush shampoos available on

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Wet the Brushes

Castile Soap
Dr. Bronner

Turn your faucet on to cold, and take one brush and run it under the water. Make sure you clean the bigger brushes one at a time, but you can combine some of the smaller brushes together when washing. Run your fingers through the brush, lightly massaging it so you can ensure everything gets wet before cleansing. The brush needs to be wet throughout before applying the shampoo or castile soap

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Apply Shampoo

Add a few small drops of shampoo or whatever you've chosen to clean your brushes with and gently massage it into the brush, spreading it through the whole area. Once incorporated, flip the brush downward and rub the brush in the palm of your hand, using a circular motion. This helps evenly distribute the shampoo through the bristles, making sure it gets a thorough clean. Makeup and bacteria can get stuck in bristles and stay put, so this is key when wanting to get everything out of the brush hairs. Wash each brush in this way for 1-2 minutes, rinsing slightly during the process until the suds and brush look clean.

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Rinse the Brushes Well

It is very important that you rinse the brush well. If you don't rinse them well you can leave behind soap residue and traces of makeup, not to mention bacteria. Begin by rinsing the brush under cold water, while gently massaging the bristles with your fingertips. Natural shedding of hair is normal through time with makeup brushes, but if you notice a lot of hair coming out, this isn't a good sign and means you might have a cheap brush. Do not pull on the hairs while rinsing and make sure you rinse from base to tip. Continue rinsing with cold water until all traces of soap are gone and the water runs clean.

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Remove Excess Water and Towel Dry

Once the brush is accurately rinsed, begin removing the excess water by squeezing the brush from base to tip. After you remove the excess water, take one of the hand towels, fold it in half, and gently tap the brush onto the towel. Making sure extra water is removed is imperative because it can leak through the handle and loosen the glue holding it together. 

If the brush is still very saturated, then fold the towel over the brush and gently squeeze the water from the brush. Remember to move in the same motion as before, starting at the base and going to the tip. If you need to do this, remember to be gentle so you don't pull the hairs out of the base of the brush.

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Lay the Brushes Out to Air Dry

Allow the brushes to sit overnight to dry. Do not stand them upright, make sure they are flat on the towel so that nothing once again leaks through the handle and softens the glue holding the bristles in. Once morning comes, your brushes should be dry and ready for use. Check each brush before you use it, and make sure they are completely dry. If the brushes are still damp, make sure they continue to completely dry before using them and be sure not to use any source of heat on them for quick drying such as a hairdryer.