How to clean your makeup brushes and beauty sponges

TOP 10 tips for cleaner brushes

I might be the only one on earth who enjoys cleaning her makeup brushes. For me, there’s something oddly therapeutic about putting on some music or YouTube, grab my used brushes and sponges, and get on with cleaning them! If you love cleaning your brushes too, give me a shout in the comments! 🙋‍♀️

I’d recently purchased a number of new synthetic brushes, which I had scored at Lalavla for ₩17,000 for the whole set and was keen to find better ways of cleaning than before. I only buy synthetic brushes because I don’t see the necessity to bother with animal hair by the way. If you’re a fan of animal hair brushes, let me know in the comments and convince me otherwise.

But back to the topic on hand. Here are my top tips for cleaning brushes if you’re living a frugal lifestyle:

1. Use Dish Soap instead of Fancy Brush Cleaners

Dish soaps are meant to degrease and break down particles. Use this to your advantage and let simple dish soap do its magic.

I have stopped disinfecting my brushes altogether and have never experienced any breakouts or sensitivities in spite of the fact that my skin is sensitive and acne prone.

I have shelled out lots of money for professional dish cleaners and even Bronner’s in the past but none of them work as well as liquid dish soap – think dishwash liquid such as Pril, preferably unscented.

2. Add Tea Tree Oil to Disinfect

If you are feeling nervous about bacteria, try adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the dishwashing liquid to kill germs. 🌳 I got 100% tea tree oil from, they ship to Korea for free by the way.

3. Presoak, then Wash 2x

As mentioned, my skin is pretty sensitive and acne prone. To get all makeup out, I presoak my brushes and sponges briefly in warm soapy water to get the surface dirt off. I then proceed to clean them thoroughly until the water runs clear and then repeat the process once more just to be on the safe side.

4. Use a Silicone Tool to Help You

I used to just swirl brushes on my hand to distribute the liquid detergent. To get those brushes really clean however, I decided to invest the princely sum of ₩1,000 (ca US$ 1) at Daiso and get a silicone tool. These are available at many beauty shops and swirling your soapy brush along the ridges really helps get all the gunk out!

In a pinch, a rice spatula might work too:

5. Waste Not, Want Not

If you have any unloved face cleansers or brush cleanser samples lying around, now might be the time to break out those bad boys. This one by filliwilli (Olive Young’s house brand) was not great, I just used it up so as not to waste it.

6. Rinse and Dry Thoroughly

Now that your brushes are nice and clean, you want to rinse them until the water runs completely clear. Next, you can take a few clean (!!) towels and use them to absorb excess moisture from your brushes.

Once your brushes are towel dry, get your hair dryer. You don’t want any moisture to remain on your brushes as it’s prime bacterial breeding ground.

Air dry your brushes until pretty much dry on the warm or cold setting, after which you could either hang them from a fancy brush stand or just lay them flat in the sun if at all possible. Wait a day and you should be golden.

7. Store your Brushes Properly

Put them somewhere cool and dark, preferably with a brush guard on, to protect the bristles. I keep mine inside a closet in a ziplock bag, each with a brush guard on. I got mine from some Daiso knockoff.

8. Don’t use Olive Oil

I made the mistake of following Michelle Phan’s advice from a few years back and used olive oil and dish soap to clean my brushes once. BIG mistake! All of my brushes had a waxy film that just would not wash off, and some of them started shedding to the point where I had to chuck them. 🤬

9. Don’t Wait too Long

I replace my face brushes every 3-5 uses and I change sponges and eye makeup brushes daily. This prevents massive buildups, so getting gunk off the brushes is not too bad simply because there is not much product on it in the first place.

10. Be Creative, Make Up Your Own Rules

So many times, we get marketing speak shoved down our throats. Makeup should be fun and enjoyable. If you have another technique or cleanser, use that instead of expensive cleansers and disinfectants.

For example, I saw that a few years ago, a lady wrote on a now defunct blog that she used rubber bands to tie her brushes upside down to her laundry rack while they were drying, so that the glue holding the bristles together would not dissolve. Another time, my favourite blogger Paris B of My Women Stuff wrote about how she used silicone oven mitts and pot holders in place of a brush cleaning mat – genius!

What I’m trying to say is – make up your own rules.

Final Thoughts

Brush cleaning can be fun and effective. If you have any more tips and recommendations, do share!

© 2019 The Empties Diaries All Rights Reserved

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