How to Clean your Make-up Brushes

DIY Cleansing and antibacterial sanitiser for your makeup brushes. Plus tips on how to use the same products to clean your tweezers and manicure tools.

When was the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes?

Last week, last month… Never?

I will put my hands up and admit I have never cleaned my make-up brushes which I’ve had for a good year or so. I rarely use them and so it has never crossed my mind that they might be harbouring nasties. Until I had *the worst* breakout just before Christmas. I couldn’t pinpoint the cause, at first, I hadn’t changed products, I wasn’t stressed (any more than usual at least!) and I wasn’t hormonal.

Then it dawned on me: I’d been playing around with my brushes, trying different applications, the night before.

When choosing a brush cleansing product and/or method, it’s important to consider not only what will kill the bacteria but also how it will affect the longevity of the brushes. I noticed a lot of DIY recipes call for oil, but I find this leaves a residue. So I decided to create something more similar to the brush cleanser available in cosmetic stores and found that the key ingredient is Isopropyl Alcohol – also known as ‘rubbing alcohol’, Isopropyl Alcohol has a range of uses as a sanitizer to kill off bacteria.


Isopropyl alcohol is your new best friend: see which products I use it with to make a brush cleanser that works.

DIY Brush Cleanser

Warm Water

Isopropyl Alcohol

Gentle Shampoo

Combine the ingredients in a shallow bowl and have an old, clean towel on hand.

I don’t use exact quantities but as an approximate, aim for 2 parts water and 1 part alcohol with just a squirt of shampoo. You might find that the alcohol has a branded name at the chemist so check that the main ingredient is Isopropyl Alcohol.

Baby shampoo is nice and gentle but I prefer to use Aesop Calming Shampoo which I know is gentle on my scalp, so it’s perfect for the brushes.

Cosmetic brush cleanser

Dip your first brush into the water, making sure not to submerge the whole brush head (i.e. where the bristles meet the handle) as over time this will wear away the glue that is holding the bristles in place. Swirl the brush until all of the product has been removed from the bristles.

Dry Makeup Brushes Flat

Pat dry with a towel and lay flat to dry.

I found that the brushes using thicker liquid based products, such as foundation and concealer, needed something a bit stronger to remove the product, so in a small shallow bowl I poured some Micellar Cleanser – which is the makeup remover I use on my face – and I swirled the brush until clean. I then dipped it into the alcohol and water mix to sanitise it.

Micellar Water used as brush cleanser

To keep your brushes clean, I recommend making your own sanitising spritz that you can use after each use so that a deep clean is only need on your brushes every fortnight or so. Just combine 2 parts distilled water and 1 part Isopropyl Alcohol into a spray bottle and lightly mist over the brushes after each use, laying them flat to dry.

Bonus tip!

Isopropyl Alcohol is also great for cleaning your metal beauty tools, such as tweezers, nail clippers and scissors etc.

Rubbing Alcohol used to sanitize beauty tools

If you haven’t cleaned them for a while, I suggest soaking them in a bowl, in enough alcohol to cover the parts that come into contact with your skin. Dry with a tissue.

Once you have given them a deep clean, after each use dab a drop of the rubbing alcohol onto a tissue and wipe over them.

Try to form a good habit and make these cleansing tasks part of your regular routine. I like to do mine on a Sunday, after the day’s makeup has been applied of course!



ps. this is why you should be using Micellar Cleansing Water

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