how to clean make-up brushes

Do you know how to clean make-up brushes?  Did you even know you’re supposed to clean them?

makeup brushes

You totally are.

Between all the make-up that ends up on the brushes, that gross cold you were fighting back in December, and the oil from your face, your make-up brushes need to be washed fairly often.

Every couple of weeks at least.

make-up brushes

I’ve been washing mine with a combination of hot water and shampoo for years, but the make-up artist on the set of all the photo shoots and commercials I’ve been working on introduced me to her method of cleaning.

And I like it.

makeup brushes

What you need:

  • rubbing alcohol {she uses 99% alcohol, ordered from her pharmacy but I just buy the regular stuff from the grocery store}
  • tissues or old washcloth
  • spray bottle for alcohol
how to clean make-up brushes

Step 1:

Spray the alcohol onto the bristles of the brush until it’s thoroughly saturated.  Try to spray down, opposite of what I’m doing in the picture, so the alcohol doesn’t drip down into the handle of the make-up brush.

Step 2:

Swipe the make-up brush back and forth on the tissues or rag until you see colors appear.  You might need to spray it again a few times and repeat the process until the brush is clean.

how to clean makeup brushes

Step 3:

Squeeze out all the extra alcohol and reshape the brush with your fingers.

makeup brush

Step 4:

Like so.

make-up brush

Step 5:

Once you’ve cleaned all the brushes in your possession, lay them out to dry on a counter or table for a few hours.

That’s it. That’s all she wrote.

Now you have clean, disinfected brushes.

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Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!


  1. Polish Mama on the Prairie :

    Oh, wow, I do that after washing with shampoo and I thought I was the only one to use rubbing alcohol on my makeup brushes! I do it because I have found my makeup applies easier, smoother and with less product if I keep the brushes clean. Also, I have sensitive skin and if I don’t, my skin lets me know that it’s time…

    Maybe I should try without the shampoo first. Thanks for the tip!

    • Allison :

      I’d do JUST the alcohol and see how you like it. I think my brushes are smoother, honestly. And so clean.

  2. JourneyBeyondSurvival :

    Um. Yeah. Consider me doped. I had no idea.

    Kinda embarrassing.

    Then, it’s a fabulous revelation! Thanks for sharing!

    • Allison :

      You totally need to, just to be clean and sanitary. Plus, your colors work out better when applying makeup!

      Not embarrassing at all.

  3. Andy :

    Mac makes a great brush cleaner. But I clean in between with baby shampoo. I’ll have to add the alcohol trick in there for quick in between clean ups.

    • Allison :

      I just don’t want to pay for it. Plus, I already have this in my cupboard.

  4. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom) :

    I’ve been nagging myself to wash my brushes… it’s been far too long. I’ve only ever used shampoo, so I’ll try this.

    • Allison :

      It’s so quick and easy Susan. Easier than shampoo and water.

  5. Katrina :

    Just as simple as that!
    Did you see my super simple post today?
    Yummy Italian Soda :)
    I felt guilty write about something so easy, but it is SOOOO good…

    • Allison :

      The simplest things are usually the best.

  6. Emily MG :

    This is great! Can I run this — attributing you and the site, of course — in my MOPS newsletter this week? It would be distributed to about 90 women in Dallas, TX. If you’re not familiar with MOPS, it’s Mothers of PreSchoolers. More at


    • Allison :

      As long as you attribute credit and only use one photo, you’re golden, thanks for asking!

      • Emily MG :

        Sweet! You’re amazing. Cheers!

  7. Leadia@TheBreeder'sDigest :

    Yikes – I’m not sure I want to see what lurks in the heart of my make up brushes. Truth be told, it only took me about 41 years to take an interest in makeup, so the brushes still have hope!

    • Allison :

      It’s pretty, uh, illuminating. They do really need to be cleaned though, and it’s super easy.

  8. Cara :

    I’ve run across a couple of my friends who didn’t know they were supposed to clean them! I normally use Yes to Baby Carrots (baby) shampoo and water to clean my brushes, but this looks super easy!

    • Allison :

      Try this, see if you like it. If you don’t, you can always go back to Yes To!

  9. Liz :

    What a great idea! Why the heck have I been shampooing AND conditioning my brushes?? This is so much easier!

    • Allison :

      It is, and it’s so sanitary you can’t even handle it.

  10. Savvy in San Francisco :

    I have the Bare Escentuals brush cleaner that I pullout every couple of months and STARE at it on my bathroom counter. I always feel like I remember too late in the evening and then the brushes won’t dry the next day in time to use. But who am I kidding..I barely wear makeup these days. I SO NEED TO DO THIS ASAP! So gross that I have let it go so long.

    • Allison :

      These dry way faster than your regular shampoo cleaning because the alcohol evaporates. Poof! Done.

  11. becca :

    thanks for sharing this!!

  12. Anna-Lisa (The Sister) :

    Great article. I have been shampooing mine as well. At least we’ve been cleaning them right? I love this idea. Keep the insider tips coming.

  13. juli :

    but won’t alcohol dry the bristles out and ruin the brush?