At Home DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner

Crystal Schwanke
Makeup brushes in cleaning solution

If you've run out of your store-bought makeup brush cleaner, you may be able to make your own with ingredients you already have around the house. DIY options can often be less expensive and you get to control the ingredients that come into contact with the bristles on your favorite brushes.

Using a DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner

In most cases, you'll just need a soap for cleaning the brushes and getting rid of bacteria, and an oil or conditioner to soften the brushes and keep the bristles from drying out. Use a cleanser at least once per week.

The oils and soaps or shampoos are interchangeable. For example, if you wanted to use dish soap with fractionated coconut oil or castile soap with olive or sweet almond oil, that would work as well. Use what you have on hand. If the soap you use does not have antibacterial properties, spritz bristles with the alcohol spray (white vinegar works as well) to disinfect them after washing.

Almond oil almonds and make-up utensils

Oil and Dish Soap

For this option, you will need:

  • 1 to 1.5 parts olive oil or sweet almond oil
  • 2 parts dish soap
  • A cup for mixing
  • Spoon or something to mix the oil and soap with
  • Towel or washcloth
  • Access to a sink

How to Make and Use

  1. Pour the olive or almond oil and dish soap into the cup and mix thoroughly with the spoon.
  2. Swirl the bristles in the solution, being careful to avoid getting it on the metal section of the brush, or the handle.
  3. Massage the bristles with your fingers or swirl them in the palm of your hand.
  4. Rinse the bristles in lukewarm water until the water runs clear. You may have to repeat the cleaning process with the soap and oil mixture before the water runs clear.
  5. Squeeze the bristles with the towel or washcloth to remove the excess water, reshape the bristles, and place the brushes on the counter so the bristles are hanging over the edge of the counter or sink. You want to make sure the air can circulate around all the bristles. If you leave them directly on the towel to dry, the bristles could be misshapen when dry or, worse, mildew.
    professional make up brushes drying

Fractionated Coconut Oil and Castile Soap

Here's a similar alternative, for which you'll need:

Creating and Using It

  1. Pour the fractionated coconut oil and castile soap into a cup and mix thoroughly with the spoon. It's important to make sure you have fractionated coconut oil and not regular coconut oil. The fractionated version is always in liquid form and will be much easier to remove from your brushes.
  2. Swirl the bristles in the mixture and use your fingertips to massage the solution into them in order to remove any old makeup that could be hiding between them.
  3. Rinse the brushes with lukewarm water with bristles angled down, continuing to massage them in order to get the shampoo, oil, and makeup residue out.
    Hand holding a brush
  4. Run the bristles across the surface of the towel or washcloth to remove excess water, reshape them, and place the brushes on their sides with the bristles positioned over the side of the counter or sink to dry.

Gentle Shampoo and Water

While you won't always want to use this option because the lack of moisturizing ingredients could dry the brushes out over time, you could use a couple of drops of gentle shampoo (like baby shampoo) and water. What you need:

  • Access to a sink
  • Baby shampoo or other gentle shampoo
  • Towel
  • Cleansing spray to disinfect (recipe below)

How to Use the Brush Cleaner

  1. Wet the brush bristles (not above them or you could loosen the glue that holds the bristles and ferrule in place) and then put a few drops of shampoo into the palm of your hand. Dip the wet bristles into your palm and swirl.
  2. Massage the bristles to loosen up old makeup and while holding the brush with the bristles angled down, rinse with lukewarm water until the water runs clear. Then run the bristles across the towel to dry them a bit and check for leftover color. You may need to repeat the process to get them totally clean.
  3. Reshape the bristles and let the brushes air-dry by leaving them on the counter with the bristles positioned over the edge of the sink or counter so air can circulate all the way around them.

Quick Cleansing Spray

Sometimes you don't have time to do a full brush-cleaning session and wait for them to dry. For spot-cleaning a brush or periodic disinfecting, you can use a spray. Deep cleaning with soap and oil is still more effective, but this spray will help kill bacteria and have your brushes ready to use more quickly in a pinch. You'll need:

  • 5 ounces of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol
  • 2 ounces of water
  • Spray bottle
  • Washcloth or towel

Usage Instructions

  1. Pour the alcohol and water into the spray bottle and shake it up.
  2. Spritz the spray directly onto the brush bristles but do not saturate them. Be sure to keep the mixture to the bristles and no higher.
  3. As if you're painting, drag the bristles across the towel or washcloth's surface in long, smooth motions in one direction. Once the color seems to have come out, spritz again and drag the bristles across the cloth in the opposite direction.

Caring for Your Brushes

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting your brushes helps keep your skin healthy and clear. Use the soap and oil (or shampoo and water) mixture at least once a week and disinfect with the spray between cleanings. Always reshape the bristles before you let them dry thoroughly before putting them back in their case or attempting to use them. Lie them flat to dry or, if possible, angled down with the bristles pointed toward the floor. While cleaning and rinsing your brush, avoid getting the metal ferrules into the solution or water, as this can loosen the glue and damage your brush. Hold the brushes at an angle with the bristles pointing down while you rinse them.

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At Home DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner