How To Wash Your Makeup Brushes

September 27, 2012

No one ever really taught me about the in’s and out’s of makeup. Like those other things that slipped through the cracks– “Brush your teeth Annie,” “Go to bed Annie“– “Wash your makeup brushes, Annie” was a phrase not uttered in my household. It took a while longer than the first two tasks mentioned, but eventually, I figured out that if I wanted to clean the brushes I damn well better figure out how it’s done.

I admit freely that my initial forays- and a bit after that- into the world of makeup were filled with really dirty brushes. Seems I had it in my head that there was some delicate science to it all, that by washing I might disturb the precarious chemistry of brush hair to makeup ratio. That I needed some “special” soap, suddenly devaluing any other cleaning agent’s ability to clean.

Then one day I stumbled upon the holy scriptures of makeup, which prescribe only that a “gentle” soap be used to clean your washes, along with some water, along with frequent repetitions of this routine. Guys, it’s so easy! Hoo-rah! Clean brushes for all!

Below I have demonstrated the LS preferred methods for makeup brush cleaning– and yes, that’s method(S) plural, because I hope to provide you with the instruction I was never given, and because I REALLY AM THAT THOROUGH.

Option 1. Sink+water+soap+hand

Step 1. Wet the brush. Avoid wetting the brush past the actual brush hairs.

Step 2. Squeeze a small amount of soap into your palm (I use a standard baby shampoo cause I figure if it’s gentle enough for a human baby, my brush better be able to withstand it or there are some other issues that need addressing).

Step 3. Swirl your wetted brush around in the palm of your hand, so it gets all mooshy-gooshy with the soap (that pretty much just means comes into contact with).

Step 4. Rinse the brush under the tap, waiting until all the color has run out of the brush and the water in the sink is clear. THAT’S IT.

Option 2. Bowl/ dish+ water+soap

Step 1. Squeeze a bit of soap into your bowl of water.

Step 2. Submerge your brush head into the soapy water, swirling it around, and allowing it to soak for a minute or two if you like.


Get ’em all in there, why not? When you feel the makeup has run out of the brushes, take them out of the bowl and rinse them under the tap.


Option 1 & 2 Conclusion

Whichever method you choose to get you from dirty to rinsed clean, finish the process by squeezing the excess moisture from your brushes, reshaping them, and then lying them on a towel to dry.



I recommend doing this at night so that the brushes have a chance to dry before you need to use them in the morning. If you have enough, you can also alternate brushes, cleaning one bunch, using the other, and then swapping. ETC.

When the brushes have dried, return them to their respective homes– storing upright is preferred.


In closing, while this post may seem epically simple, that’s because it is. But I happen to know for a fact that there are far too many bitties out there who don’t show their makeup brushes the appropriate amount of affection in the form of proper and regular grooming. My hope is that, by illustrating for you just how easy it really is to wash those suckers, I’ll inspire you to stop being totally gross and finally get to cleaning your own.

Smiles all around!



Annie Traurig was born with the ability to see order through clutter. As a child, she spent playdates organizing friends’ closets and packing their duffle bags for summer camp.

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  1. Monica on September 27, 2012 at 6:52 am

    I never thought of baby shampoo…good tip! – Monica

  2. Drew Elizabeth on September 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you for this because it totally reminds me that I need to wash my brushes! They harbor so much bacteria that I try to always stay on top of it. Great tutorial 🙂

  3. Kola on September 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    i usually use option 2. i tend to do it in the mornings though and just use the damp brushes to apply my makeup. surprisingly, they work pretty much the same as when they’re dry. who knew?

    • livesimplybyannie on September 30, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Who knew indeed? I guess I won’t fear the damp-effect from now on.

  4. Alix on October 4, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Great tip on using baby shampoo! I bought expensive MAC cleaner and using baby shampoo instead will be much better on my wallet! I use a combination of 1 and 2. I use method 1 for brush that I use to apply eye shadow since they tend to get cleaner faster. I use method 2 on brushes that I used for any thick makeup: concealer, fondation, gel liner, mascara brush, lipstick, etc. I find soaking them for a few minutes makes then easier to clean.

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