Cleaning brushes

Posted on Posted in Beauty, Brushes, Tools

Today’s post is all about getting those precious brushes clean! Yes, it’s important for your skin AND your brushes!!

Brushes are great tools for applying your make-up! Anyone who does any sort of make-up look will be hard pressed to not use a single brush in the process. There are many types of brushes, of course, but the same is true for all of them – they get dirty when used. And instead of chucking them back into wherever you keep them to only be pulled out the next time you apply make-up, you should stop and consider – when was the last time you cleaned them?

Do your brushes look anything like this?

It may come as a surprise but it’s extremely important to clean dirty brushes regularly. And by regularly I mean at least once a week (provided that you’ve actually used your brushes). However my recommendation is to clean any brushes you’ve used with liquid products after EVERY use.  Brushes will always perform better when clean – that is especially true for those liquid-soaked brushes. But it’s especially important because bacteria and dead skin cells accumulate in the bristles of the brushes. Think of it – you use those brushes with colourful powders or liquids, touching them to your face – which in most cases will already have some product (as well as natural dead skin cells) on it. That kind of mix is a breeding ground for bacteria! If you don’t clean your brushes in between uses, you can suffer severe consequences – from breakouts to infections and worse. So next time you are reaching for that brush, check whether it’s clean! If it isn’t, here are the things you can do.


Spot cleaning

If you want to use your brushes straight away, the best method for cleaning them is spot cleaning. This method works best on smaller brushes and brushes saturated with powder products, but in a pinch can be used sufficiently well on other brushes, too. All you need is a spot cleanser and some paper towels.


How it works

You can spot clean your brushes by spraying a rinse-free liquid brush cleanser onto your brush. Spot cleaning liquids make any product on the brush magically separate from the bristles, making it easy to wipe the residue off on a paper towel. You may need to repeat the process a few times to get the brush thoroughly clean which can result in making the brush look wet, but there is no need to worry about that. Spot cleansers are formulated to be quick-drying so within a few minutes your brushes will be ready to use again!

Spot cleaning is simple, quick and very effective

One thing to keep in mind with any brush spot cleanser is that the ingredients in these types of cleansers are harsh chemicals – and often alcohol, to provide that fast air-drying effect – so you should use them with caution. Only use them in well ventilated areas and try to avoid inhaling the fumes from the products. Also keep an eye on your brushes as alcohol can be very drying. If you notice your brush’s bristles breaking or becoming dull, use a brush conditioner (even light hair conditioner can do the trick!) and switch up your brush cleanser.


The best brush spot-cleaning cleanser on the market to my mind is the famous Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner. It is safe to use on both synthetic and natural bristles and is incredibly effective at dissolving any dirt or makeup on your brushes. Plus, it leaves your brushes smelling faintly of vanilla, making them feel very luxurious! Even though it is said to condition the bristles of your brushes, thus prolonging their life and counteracting the drying effects of naphta and alcohol, it doesn’t leave any residue on the bristles as opposed to some other spot cleansers that I’ve used. All in all I would definitely recommend giving it a try if you’re looking for a brush spot cleanser! Chances are you’ll never want to use another spot cleanser again! And don’t worry about the bright blue colour – it won’t stain your brushes.

This is a very effective cleanser for spot cleaning your brushes

This cleanser is a bit hard to get your hands on in the UK – it’s available on Sephora in the U.S., but currently there are no sellers in the UK. However, Sephora does ship internationally. Also, an Irish shop stocks Cinema Secrets and will ship to UK for a 4Eur shipping fee (which really isn’t that much). This cleanser will set you back anywhere between 13-55 EUR (or 8-39 USD from Sephora), depending on the amount of cleanser you choose to get.


Dry spot cleaning 

This is quite a unique concept and has limited uses, but can still be a life saver – especially to those of us that don’t have a multitude of make-up brushes! The company Vera Mona has come up with a sponge called Color Switch that you can use to spot-clean your powder brushes. It’s mainly meant for removing any powder eyeshadows when you want to use the same brush to apply a different colour immediately afterwards. And it really works well for that purpose! But it can equally be used to clean any eyeshadow brushes after you’ve finished applying your make-up. Just keep in mind that this is not going to clean your brushes as well as the other methods do, so you shouldn’t rely on this to keep your brushes clean long term.

Sponge for cleaning your eyeshadow brushes on the go


How it works

It couldn’t be simpler! All you need to do is swirl your brush around on the sponge and all powder residue from your brush will remain on the sponge. It’s quite handy that the sponge is black as you can clearly see most powders that have gotten transferred to the sponge. It’s useful for avoiding wiping your brush in the same place twice as that could contaminate your brush with any colour that’s on the sponge already. Surprisingly this sponge works really well even with dark eyeshadows.

The drawback of this sponge is that it’s quite a small piece and you can only clean your brush off so many times. And the more pigment has to come off, the faster will the sponge become dirty. Plus, you really don’t have enough space to properly clean any face brushes – you’ll have to clean those otherwise. You can use all available surfaces of the sponge (flipping it upside down and even using the sides!), but soon it’ll all be covered in powders. The good news is you can easily wash the sponge with mild non-scented soap and re-use it as many times as you’d like! But you’ll have to wait for it to dry first.

You can get your hands on this sponge on Amazon for 18 GBP.


Deep cleaning

Most brushes saturated with liquids will need to be deep cleaned. This cleaning method is also recommended for any large or dense brushes and make-up sponges. In fact, I like to give all of my brushes a deep cleanse every once in a while, even those that I’ve spot cleaned in between. This is because there simply isn’t anything else as effective as a deep clean!


How it works

Deep cleaning is essentially washing your brushes with water. You should thoroughly wet the bristles with water and then use a shampoo (liquid) or soap (solid) like brush cleanser on the bristles to clean them of any make-up residue. Finally, you should rinse the brush with running water. You may have to repeat the process a few times to get all the product out – just keep lathering and rinsing until the rinsing water runs clean.

Lather the bristles well, keeping the rest of the brush dry. You can see plenty of powder washing out of the brush

The main downside of this method is that brushes will take a long time to dry and you won’t be able to use them anytime soon. It is also easier to damage brushes whilst washing them than it is at any other time (bar travelling and improper storage). Despite these drawbacks, it is still the best way (and sometimes the only way!) of thoroughly cleaning your brushes. Chances are you won’t be able to escape deep cleaning your brushes occasionally so it’s best to master this method early. There are some very important things to note about washing your brushes – it’s easy to damage your brushes by accident so you should handle your brushes as the delicate tools they are.


Washing brushes safely

You should be aware of the anatomy of a makeup brush before setting out to wash one. Make-up brushes generally consist of three parts: bristles, ferrule and handle. The bristles are contained within the ferrule, which in turn is attached to the brush handle.  The ferrule contains glue to hold the bristles in place as well as to attach it securely to the brush handle. Unfortunately make-up brushes are made with water-soluble glue so it’s important to avoid any water getting into the ferrule of the brush. When washing or drying (!!) brushes, you should always keep your brushes with bristles facing downwards at an angle so that the water within the bristles does not leak inside the ferrule. Also, make sure to keep the top of the ferrule (the part that touches the handle) clear of any water!


Make sure to keep the brush downwards and not let any water touch the top of the ferrule

Just like hair bristles become more fragile when wet and can be damaged easily. (This is especially true for natural bristle brushes!) Be gentle when lathering up the bristles and make sure you do not handle the bristles forcefully, tugging on or bending them awkwardly. Don’t disturb the general shape of the brush too much as it can affect the shape of the brush when dry.


When you’re done rinsing the brush, you can very gently squeeze any leftover water out in a downwards motion. General rule of thumb is that it’s better to leave the brush wetter than it is to squeeze and tug too much. Afterwards you should use a towel, paper towel or cloth to once more gently squeeze the bristles, taking away any excess water. You can also gently shape the bristles with your fingers to resemble the shape of the brush. Then lay your brush flat on a folded towel to air-dry so that the bristles don’t rest on any surface. This is important to allow the brush to dry to its natural shape. Ideally that the ferrule and bristles should be slightly lower than the handle so that no water can seep into the ferrule during the drying process.

Angle the bristles slightly downwards and make sure they don’t rest on any surface

Never dry your brushes upright with bristles facing up, as over time that will loosen the glue holding your brush together and you’ll start experiencing bristle fallout – or your brush may completely fall apart!


My favourite cleanser that I use for deep cleaning all my brushes, beauty sponges and even my Vera Mona Color Switch sponge is the BeautyBlender blendercleanser Solid. It’s very effective at removing any oils, make-up residue, dirt and germs yet is gentle on both synthetic and natural bristles.

Excellent soap cleanser for deep cleaning your brushes

I’ve used it for four years now and it hasn’t caused any bristles to get become dry or fragile. It is unscented, but will remove any smells from your brushes in the washing process. You can get it easily in the UK through various stockists as well as from the brand itself for around 14 GBP.


I hope I’ve convinced you to clean your make-up brushes regularly. Your skin will thank you for it!

What is YOUR favourite method of cleaning your brushes?


What are your thoughts?

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