Learn how to clean makeup brushes, sponges, and beauty blenders and eliminate dangerous bacteria, so they work well without damaging your skin.
Dirty makeup brushes don’t work well. They leave traces of old cosmetics and face oils, creating a muddied look and contributing to acne. Worse yet, dirty makeup brushes breed bacteria, some of which can be very dangerous.
That’s what a 27-year-old Australian woman learned when she lost the use of her legs and feeling in her lower body. The culprit? Her friend’s dirty makeup brush gave her MRSA.
How To Clean Makeup Brushes Naturally
Fortunately, it’s easy to clean makeup brushes and keep them in practically new condition.
When cleaning your makeup brushes, use warm but not hot water. If the water’s too cold, it won’t loosen facial oils and makeup residue. But, if it’s too hot, it will dissolve the glue that keeps your brush bristles in place. So, use water around the temperature you’d use to wash your face.
You will need:
- Clean washcloths
- Two wide-mouthed jars
- Castile soap (I use unscented Dr. Bronner’s for this.)
- Warm water
- Fill one jar halfway with warm water and add one teaspoon of Castile soap, which is non-toxic and oil-based, so it helps dissolve facial oils and makeup residue.
- Dip brushes into the soapy water one at a time, swirling vigorously for 30 seconds or so. Try gently pressing the bristles against the side of the jar to “scrub” them and loosen more residue.
- Rinse the brush under cool, running water while twirling the bristles against your fingertips to continue removing grime. Continue until the water runs clear.
- Tap the brush against the edge of the sink to shake away excess moisture, then gently blot the bristles with a clean cloth. Do NOT pull — the glue is very fragile right now. (If the brush leaves makeup on the fabric when you’re doing this step, repeat the above steps.)
- Once the brush is clean and blotted, prop it handle-down in the second jar to dry. Allow your makeup brushes to dry at least 12 hours then fluff them with clean fingertips before use.
How to Clean Makeup Sponge Applicators
Sponge makeup applicators, like those that come with eyeshadow, aren’t easy to clean without damaging them. They also tend to soak up a lot of oil, which leaves a hard film on your makeup. (Related: Know Your Makeup Expiration Dates.)
It’s easiest to keep a stash of sponge applicators on hand since they are super inexpensive. If you’d rather clean yours, here’s how.
You will need:
- A small bowl
- Warm water
- Castile soap
- Clean white washcloths
- Add 1/4 cup warm water and 1/4 teaspoon Castile soap to the small bowl.
- Dip the sponge end of the applicator into the soapy water. Using your fingertips, gently squeeze the makeup sponge repeatedly to clean it. Do NOT allow the sponge to soak, or you’ll damage the glue holding the sponge in place.
- Quickly rinse the sponge under a gentle stream of warm water and then tap it against the edge of the sink to remove as much water as possible.
- Carefully press both sides of the sponge with the washcloth. Take care not to pull or wiggle the applicator while you do this since the glue will be very fragile at this point.
- Lay the applicator flat on a clean washcloth and let it dry at least 12 hours before use.
How to Clean Beauty Blenders
Beauty blender sponges soak up a lot of makeup and facial oils, so they’re prime breeding grounds for bacteria. It’s very easy to clean them, though.
If you haven’t cleaned yours in a while — or if you can’t even tell what color it was originally — don’t put off cleaning your beauty blender any longer. Do it today!
You will need:
- Several clean washcloths
- A jar with a lid
- White vinegar
- Castile soap or dishwashing liquid
- Warm water
- Spread a clean cloth on the tabletop and rub your beauty blender across it repeatedly. Don’t press too hard — you’re just trying to remove surface grime a bit.
- Fill one-third of the jar with white vinegar. Add an equal amount of warm water. Stir or shake these together.
- Now, add 1-2 drops of Castile or liquid dish detergent to the jar — not too much! Stir (don’t shake) the jar’s contents and add your beauty blender to it.
- Use your fingers to squeeze the sponge, so it soaks up liquid. Add warm water to fill the jar and put the lid on, then give it a few good shakes.
- Let the beauty blender soak for 10 minutes then remove it from the jar. Dump the jar’s contents. Squeeze the blender sponge repeatedly under warm running water until it stops releasing suds and looks clean.
- Use a clean, dry cloth to blot your beauty blender and let it air dry overnight.
It’s a good idea to wipe your beauty blender with a clean, dry cloth after each use to remove surface oils and leftover makeup. Then, clean it weekly using the above steps. (Related: How to Get Makeup Stains Off of Towels.)
How Often to Clean Makeup Brushes and Blenders
Ideally, you should tap out powders and wipe away liquids from your makeup brushes and blenders after each use and clean them using the steps above weekly. For some of us, even a monthly cleaning would be an improvement.
The important thing to remember is that your skin will pay the consequence of letting your makeup brushes build up too much oil and bacteria. So, if you’ve been battling breakouts but don’t know why, try cleaning your makeup brushes more often and see if that helps.