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How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes and Sponges the Right Way

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes and Sponges the Right Way

Posted by Alan Singh on

Applying makeup is fun, but cleaning your makeup brushes can feel like a chore. All too often, makeup lovers put off this task for as long as possible. But when your brushes are dirty, they can spread bacteria around your face and cause breakouts—and no one wants that!

Sometimes, you can easily see product build up in your makeup brushes. It might be the sparkles in your blending brush's bristles or the discoloration in your makeup sponge. But other times, your tools might look clean, hiding the fact that bacteria is lurking. You won't see the bacteria accumulating on the inside of your makeup sponge, but it's there! Product buildup can also affect how well your brushes work, so that's another reason to keep them clean.

Not sure how to properly go about cleaning your many makeup tools? No problem! Here’s everything you need to know on how to clean your makeup brushes and sponges.

How Often Should You Clean Your Makeup Brushes and Sponges?

Ideally, you should clean your brushes at least once a week to ensure they are always clean when they touch your face. Not only does cleaning your brushes stop bacteria buildup, but it also improves your makeup application. Dirty brushes won't blend smoothly, and you'll be left with streaks.

If you aren't cleaning your eyeshadow brushes in between uses, your eye looks will suffer. For example, let's say you're dipping your blending brush into a brown eyeshadow one day for an everyday makeup look. The next day, you may want to do something more adventurous. You don't see the remnants of the brown shadow on the brush, so you use the same blending brush to apply yellow eyeshadow. But even if you couldn't see the brown shadow, it's still there. The brown and yellow will muddle together on your brush and then on your eye. No one likes a muddy eyeshadow!

As for your makeup sponges like the Makeup Sponge from Dermacol, you should clean them after each use. This may sound daunting, but makeup sponges collect the most bacteria. You pat them all over your face, including your breakout-prone areas. Typically, you also use your sponges more aggressively than your brushes, so they pick up more bacteria. Your makeup sponges will actually end up with your skin cells inside them over time.

What About Replacement?

Makeup brushes are not meant to be replaced frequently. If you are caring for them and cleaning them properly, your brushes should last you several years. In most cases, if you're paying for high-quality brushes like Dermacol's Set of 12 Professional Brushes, you can expect to use them many, many times. However, if you opt for cheap, poor-quality brushes, they will wear out fairly quickly. You'll know it's time to throw out your makeup brushes if you see any of the following:

  • Deformed brush shape
  • Shedding bristles
  • Frayed bristles

Makeup sponges are a different story. If you buy a package of cheap makeup sponges (think of the white wedges you can buy in a multi-pack for a dollar), you should only be using them once before tossing, and you won't need to worry about the clean-up. On the other hand, if you're buying a blending sponge like the Makeup Sponge from Dermacol, you can reuse your sponges. These sponges will also have a shorter lifespan than your makeup brushes, though. You should only use them for three to four months before replacing.

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes


1. Get the Right Products

You don't need a bunch of expensive products to clean your makeup brushes. Although you can find makeup brush cleaners at makeup and drug stores, you can also use a dish or hand soap. Makeup brush cleaner comes in a variety of formulas. Some types will be a liquid in a spray bottle while others will be a liquid soap in a squeeze bottle. You can also buy brush cleaner in solid form, which resembles bar soap. The key is to use a gentle soap that won't be too harsh on your brushes' bristles. Harsh soaps can dry out the bristles on your brushes, which decreases their lifespan. Even shampoo is a great choice, especially if you are using natural hair brushes.

2. Wet Your Brushes

Start your brush cleansing process by wetting the bristles of your makeup brushes. Use lukewarm water for best results. You can put these brushes directly under your running water in your sink or fill a container with water and dip your brushes in that.

3. Add Soap

Massage your cleaner of choice into the bristles of your brushes to create a good working lather. You don't need much soap. As you wash, be careful not to get too much soapy water on the base of your brush's bristles. That is the area where the bristles have been glued to your brush. If this part of the brush gets too much soapy water, the glue will lose its stickiness, and your brushes may start shedding bristles.

4. Rinse

Wet your brushes again either by using the container or putting them directly under your faucet. Keep massaging the bristles and rinsing until there are no more suds and the water coming off the brushes is clear. You may need to redo steps two and three if the water coming off your brushes is still dirty. If you want some extra help with this step, invest in a silicone brush cleaning glove or mat. With either of these products, the silicone bristles will help you really get to the heart of your dirty brushes. They efficiently massage the bristles to get rid of product build-up, but they’re still not too harsh and won’t damage your brush bristles.

5. Reshape the Brush Heads

Gently wring out your brushes to get rid of any excess water. You can dab them onto a washcloth or paper towel if you’re having a hard time getting rid of the water. Some of your brushes might easily maintain their shape, but others will lose theirs as you clean. If your brushes lose their shape, you will need to reshape them with your hand.

How to Clean Your Makeup Sponges

Your beauty sponges require slightly different care. It’s harder to get to the center of these products where the bacteria collects. You can actually use a kitchen appliance to help you kill off bacteria! 

1. Microwave Your Sponge

Put your beauty sponge (wet or dry) on a paper towel or in a microwave-safe container. Then put it in the microwave (yes, the microwave!) for thirty seconds. Be careful as you remove the sponge. It will be hot!

2. Add Soap and Water

Next, you can finish cleaning your makeup sponge in much the same way that you cleaned your makeup brushes. Submerge your sponge in warm water. You can use the same cleaner you used for your brushes—a gentle dish or hand soap or makeup brush cleaner. Add a drop to your makeup sponge and lather it up. If you’re using a solid brush cleaner, wet the bar of soap to create a lather and rub it around your makeup sponge. Don’t just limit the lather to the outside of the sponge. Work it into the inside of the sponge as well.

3. Rinse

Rinse your makeup sponge with water until the water coming out of the sponge is clear. Just like with your brushes, you may need to add more soap to get all the product out of the sponge.

4. Allow Your Sponge to Dry

Squeeze the sponge to get rid of excess water. Be careful because your sponge may more easily break than your brushes would at this stage. You may also need to dab your sponge with a washcloth or paper towel. Allow your sponge to air dry entirely before you use it again. If you clean your sponges and don't let them dry, you run the risk of mold growing on the inside. If you're ever curious if this has happened to your makeup sponge, try cutting your sponge open. You may see mold growth.

Unlike your brushes, makeup sponges usually stain. So, it’s not uncommon for you to see foundation stains and discoloration in your makeup sponge. As long as you are properly cleaning your sponge with the microwave technique and soapy water, you shouldn’t worry.

Go Clean Your Makeup Tools!

The first step to great makeup application is using tools that are high-quality and clean. If you follow these guidelines on how to clean your makeup brushes and sponges, you’ll get the most out of all your makeup tools! Your tools will last longer, your makeup will apply better, and you’ll experience fewer breakouts.