How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes (And Why You Need to ASAP)

I’m not sure who needs to hear this today, but you should probably wash your makeup brushes. If you’re anything like me, you might not remember the last time you washed them. Perhaps you’re living in denial, wondering why your 19-step Korean beauty skincare routine isn’t working, while refusing to accept the inevitable: the brushes might be (read: probably are) the culprit.

First, let’s touch on why it’s important to wash your makeup brushes on the reg.

Why you need to wash your makeup brushes regularly

Makeup brushes collect oil, dead skin, product residue, and makeup, creating a breeding ground for bacteria within the bristles, day after day. Grossed out yet? Good, because disgust is a great motivator (I say, surrounded by piles of laundry and chaos). To protect your skin from congestion or infection, it’s recommended by dermatologists to wash your cosmetic tools every 7-10 days (American Academy of Dermatology).

Aside from the skin benefits, clean brushes apply makeup more smoothly and last longer — all wins.

How I wash my makeup brushes

(There are affiliate links below. You can purchase through them at no cost to you and a tiny benefit to me, or you can just take the inspo and buy the items from any store you prefer.)

First, I gather:

  • Those trusty-but-grime-ridden brushes and beauty sponges
  • Brush cleanser (I use this one)
  • A clean hand towel
  • Drying rack (I use this one and it includes a mat)
  • Rubber nubby mat (mine came with the drying rack above, but this is the same concept)


I start by placing the nubby mat in the sink, turning the sink to a lukewarm temperature, and wetting my first brush, starting with the fluffiest brushes and my beauty blender sponge since they take the most effort.


For the sponge: I thoroughly wet it, then apply a drop of cleanser, spreading it around while squeezing the sponge between my palms to distribute the lather. Once the sponge is lathered up, I rinse and repeat until the makeup is all removed and the squeezed sponge water runs clear. It usually takes three rounds of lathering and rinsing to get it all cleaned up. My sponge has its own little rack it goes on any time I’m not using it, which helps it dry quickly and not grow mold.


makeup sponge pic

For the brushes, I squirt a drop of cleanser onto the rubber mat in the sink and start swirling the wet brush across the mat gently – using enough pressure to separate the bristles and loosen the residue without damaging the brush. You can use your hands for this, but either way, keep the bristles facing downward.

I’ve tried using dish soap, hand soap, and my regular facial cleanser, but the actual brush cleanser makes a huge difference in how easily the makeup comes out. I could never get my beauty sponge this clean before.

I continue swirling the brush on the mat and rinsing with water several times until the water runs clear. Then I squeeze the excess water from the brush and place it upside down (with the bristles facing down) in the drying rack. This keeps the water from pooling in the head of the brush, which can damage the integrity of the brush and cause shedding, as well as lead to mold growth. I put the hand towel under the rack to capture any dripping water.

As I move onto smaller brushes, I hold and wash several at once to save water and time.

That’s it! I make sure to wash my brushes when I know I won’t need to apply makeup with them for at least 10 hours, because it can take a long time for them to dry fully.


Once they’re dry, I gently fluff up the bristles and return them to their cup.

I hope this tutorial was helpful, or at least effective in motivating you to shame-wash your cosmetic utensils. That’s what I’m here for.



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