5 Cheap Ways to Clean Makeup Brushes

    What’s the one part of Spring that we don’t look forward to? That’s right: cleaning. For some reason, Spring is the designated season to get rid of stuff that’s been sitting in the back of our closets, power clean our kitchens, and start with a fresh slate. Let’s start a little smaller by cleaning our makeup brushes, shall we?

    Now, granted, this is something you should be doing on a weekly basis. Makeup, dead skin cells, oils and bacteria can all be trapped on your brushes, which you re-apply to your face with each use. Yuck-o! While washing my makeup brushes isn’t my very favorite activity, it’s a must. You don’t need to spend money on any fancy cleansers to give them a good wash. Here are 5 great products you can use to clean your brushes that you already have in your home.

    5 Cheap Ways to Clean Makeup Brushes

    1. Bar Soap
    You’ll want to use an unscented bar of soap, or something natural that is face-friendly. Completely wet your brush with lukewarm water, then swirl it onto the soap bar, working up a good lather. Rinse completely.

    2. Dish Soap
    Squeeze a bit of dish soap onto a sponge (the soft side) or into your palm. Mix your brush into the dish soap. You will most likely see the soap turning dark with makeup residue. Thoroughly rinse the brush with lukewarm water. Make sure you’ve rinsed all the soap out of the brush’s bristles— if it feels slippery, keep rinsing!

    3. Olive Oil

    Olive oil works wonders on those brushes that are stiff with makeup residue. Not only does it break down the makeup, but it also conditions the bristles to be super soft. Try this on brushes you’ve used in gel or cream products that have hardened on the bristles. Pour some olive oil into your palm or onto a paper towel and swirl the dry, unrinsed brush into it. Then, clean the brush using another cleanser as usual.

    4. Shampoo

    This is probably my most used product for cleaning my brushes (I always have shampoo to spare, since I use conditioner more quickly)! Work the shampoo into the brush with your fingers, then rinse clean. I treat my brushes like I treat my hair, and shy away from shampoos that contain sulfates. Sometimes, I may even add a tad of conditioner to keep them soft after the shampoo process.

    5. Face Wash
    I trust my face wash to clean my face, why not my brushes? A purifying cleanser works great to remove dirt, oil and makeup. The only downside to using your face wash as a brush cleanser is that you may run out of it more quickly.

    When washing your brushes, try to avoid getting water up into the barrel of the brush. Since the bristles are most likely pulled together by metal, you won’t want to cause any rust. After rinsing your brushes completely, place them upside-down in a towel-lined bowl. This lets all of the remaining water to drip out and away from the barrel. Use a wet wipe over all of your brush handles to keep them clean, too!

    During the week and in between washes, I like to spot clean my brushes immediately after using them to prevent buildup. For the past two years, I’ve used the Sephora Daily Brush Cleaner (and I mean I’m JUST finishing up my first bottle… the one I bought two years ago!) Needless to say, it was $15 well spent.

    Have you found any other thrifty ways to keep your brushes clean?


    • Great options. I use a clarifying shampoo particularly on those foundation brushes or brushes that have white bristles a La MAC 217 and it works wonders. Great post!!

    • Noelle

      Hahaha I’m doing a post on this next week. These are great ideas! 🙂

    • I usually just use shampoo too. I do have a cleaning spray that I use in between washes.

    • Nidia Doherty

      A while back, Nouveau Cheap recommended Dr. Bronner’s soaps for makeup brush cleansing, so that’s what I’ve been using. I love the Citrus and Lavender scents the best for that. I try to do it every Sunday.. try.

    • Which spot cleaning spray do you use?

    • YoKasta Martinez

      I use either Dr. Bronner’s Lavender soap or Sephora’s eye makeup remover to clean my brushes. Dawn dishwashing liquid and Johnson’s Baby shampoo work like a charm as well.

    • Yeah, the original Blue Dawn is a go to for me! I stock up at the dollar store 🙂

    • OOO Olive Oil! I never thought about that one!

    • Kat D

      I use dish soap and face wash [unscented] to clean my brushes. I think I’ve tried everything except bar soap……will have to give that a go one day.

    • thanks for the tip with olive oil!

    • beautybymissl

      Olive oil sounds very interesting. I have been using moisturising shampoo mostly so far 😛

    • I just use shampoo for most stuff, and olive oil followed by shampoo for foundations and cream products.

    • I like the colander + towel trick. I usually just use shampoo, but sometimes when the ELF brush shampoo is on mega-sale I get that.

    • Ange

      I always use my face wash!!

    • Cosmetic Sanctuary

      Great tips! I usually use my son’s baby shampoo!

    • Great tips! I found a cleanser called “The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver” at my local Michaels. They always have a 50% off one full priced product so I end up only paying like $5. I have a full review of it on my blog. Thanks for the bowl tip, I don’t know why I have never thought of that before…..LOL! I have been just using a rolled up towel on my counter to lean my brushes up against.

    • Kelly R

      Great info!

    • I have actually used cleansing oils 😀

    • I just use the mist brush cleaner that Sephora makes. It’s pretty cheap and I just spritz and wipe with dry paper towel.

    • Love this post!!! Thanx!!!

    • Amber

      I use the Sephora spray for an in between cleaning too. I’ve tried lots of ways to clean my brushes, and my favorite thing to use is good old Dawn soap. It seems to work the best for heavy duty foundation and concealers! 🙂

    • Great post! I’ve used all of these but my favourite routine now is coconut oil and baby soap!

      The beauty beat

    • Nice list!! When I run out of my BB cleanser I will try face wash!

    • Justina

      I always use my face wash!

    • FabZilla_Kath

      I use shampoo as well.

    • Anastasia

      I use shampoo or face wash 🙂

    • I always use a bar of soap and occasionally condition my brushes when they need some help!

    • YoKasta Martinez

      Any Dawn will work, but personally I prefer using the antibacterial if I have to use the Dawn – a sanitary brush equals a sanitary face!

    • I normally use MAC Brush Cleanser but really I’ve found dish soap does a better job. I also love the soap from EnKore that Phyrra recommended!

    • I’ve used dish soap with olive oil and love how good it cleans and softens!

    • Betzy Carmona

      I’m going to try cleanser ! I normally use brush shampoo or the dr boost from target I believe it’s called.

    • Good tip! I’ll pick that one up next time 🙂

    • I saw her recommend that! I’ll be on the lookout.

    • Olive oil is great, you just have to be careful about limiting how much you use so they don’t get all greasy!

    • Haven’t tried the elf shampoo!

    • That’s awesome! I’ll have to stop by my Michaels.

    • I had my eye on the EnKore cleanser– he’s so awesome 😛

    • My secret weapon of choice is Dove beauty bar. It gets my white brushes so clean!