This Not That: Easy DIY Makeup Brush Cleaners

This Not That DIY Makeup brush cleaner

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have never cleaned my makeup brushes. Not until today, that is. I didn’t even know brush cleaning was supposed to be part of one’s weekly beauty routine until recently. Even then, cleaning makeup brushes seemed unnecessary since I never share them and wipe them off with tissues afterwards. I thought: I should be good, right?

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However, a few minutes of research revealed that makeup brushes are secret storehouses for dirt, dead skin cells, bacteria, oil, and old makeup. This buildup can cause breakouts and even infections. Even though I have never personally experienced an infection, letting that dirt build up is like the time I went twelve days without showering on a backpacking trip; there was a layer of dirt on my skin that led me to believe I was really tan, until I showered and the “tan” scrubbed off. Not the best moment, I agree.

However, this leads me to to believe that this was the state of my makeup brushes. Yuck! Instead of spending up to $20 on makeup brush cleaners, however, I decided to test out these two easy DIY recipes.

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diy makeup brush cleaner olive oil dish soap
The first cleanser calls for dish soap and extra virgin olive oil.

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  1. Mix together 2 parts dish soap and 1 part extra virgin olive oil. (I used about two teaspoons dish soap and 1 teaspoons olive oil to clean one large makeup brush.)
  2. In a circular motion, swirl the bristles of your makeup brush through the cleaner.
  3. Rinse the brush in warm water, swirling the bristles around the palm of your hand.
  4. Hang to dry with the bristles pointing downward; if you store the brush upright, the water will soak into the glue that holds the bristles to the handle, and they will fall out. Michelle Phan suggests using a chip clip to hang the brushes to dry, and this worked well for me.


  • I had no idea that cleaning makeup brushes was such a simple process. At most, I spent two minutes cleaning my brush.
  • Olive oil conditions the brush bristles, and keeps them from getting stiff and brittle.
  • The dish soap rids the brush of bacteria and disinfects the bristles.


  • Don’t use too much oil or your brush will become oily, defeating the purpose of the cleanser.
  • Be careful not use water that is too hot, or it will ruin the bristles.
  • Each brush has to be cleaned individually, so this cleansing process can definitely be considered more time consuming.


baby shampoo and water diy makeup brush cleaner

The second cleanser calls for baby shampoo and water.

  1. Squirt a few dollops of baby shampoo into a bowl, and add warm water to create a sudsy mixture.
  2. Let the makeup brush sit in the shampoo mix for five to ten seconds.
  3. Rinse in cold water.
  4. Hang to dry with the bristles facing downward.


  • Again, I was surprised at how simple it is to clean makeup brushes! This cleanser took me all of a minute and a half to accomplish.
  • Baby shampoo washes gently and is safe to use around your eyes (even though the shampoo should all rinse out).
  • The baby shampoo method is an excellent way to clean several brushes at once.


  • Be sure your baby shampoo is antibacterial, or bacteria could linger on the brushes.
  • Not everyone keeps baby shampoo on hand, and although one could substitute dish detergent, that alone would not condition the bristles.
  • Do not soak your brushes for any longer than a few seconds, or the water will break down the glue that keeps the bristles attached.

Verdict: Use the dish detergent and olive oil cleanser! In combination with each other, they are more effective at cleansing brushes and keeping them sleek and smooth.

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How regularly do you clean your makeup brushes?

All images via Thinkstock




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