How-To Clean Makeup Brushes

While living in Singapore my makeup brushes have gotten extremely dirty. The combination of the extra sweat and humidity, along with my own personal laziness, has not been a healthy combination for my skin. Usually I clean my brushes using baby shampoo, but I did not bring any with me and for some reason I can only find economy size bottles in the stores here. Sure it’s only $10-15, but I can’t bring myself to buy a gallon of baby shampoo if I’m only going to use a couple of ounces. So I went in search of alternative methods. There are a couple of different options out there, but I settled on one that used dish soap and olive oil, because it was super simple. Plus I already had them in the house and the theory behind the process made perfect sense. The soap is used to obviously clean the brush and the olive oil is used to condition the bristles to keep them from getting dry and brittle. So far I am pretty happy with the results, but please be sure to rinse your brushes thoroughly. I am not sure I rinsed them as well as I should have and think I may have left a little residual olive oil behind. However, so far I don’t mind it, because it gives my skin a little glow. I will keep you posted if I break out or have some horrible reaction. So far so good!


  • Dish soap
  • Olive oil


Use equal parts dish soap and olive oil. (About a teaspoon of each to start – add more as needed) Mix soap and oil in a bowl and swirl brushes in the mixture and watch as the makeup starts to flush out. Squeeze suds from brush and repeat swirling motion. (Repeat as necessary. Like I said, my brushes were super dirty so I did this about 4 times. I even rinsed and used fresh soap and olive oil for round 3 and 4.)

Rinse with lukewarm water to remove all remaining soap. Continue to rinse until water runs clear. (Make sure NOT to get water in the metal part at the top of the bristles. It will ruin the integrity of the brush)

After washing all of your brushes, gently reshape and lay flat to dry. (Brushes usually need to dry overnight.)

Notes: You should clean your bushes about once a month. I don’t even want to tell you how long it had been since I washed my brushes. It was waaaaaay to long. Let’s leave it at that.



  1. Patricia dlG says:

    I used to be a freelance makeup artist and thought I’d give my 2 cents (okay more like 46 cents)…

    When in a bind, consider using regular shampoo. A 2-in-1 (shampoo+conditioner) or moisturizing shampoo work well. If your brushes are natural hair, then it’s pretty safe to assume that most products designed for the hair on your head will do the trick. And it works just as well on synthetic bristles.

    Although the notion of using olive oil sounds deliciously appealing (pun intended), I recommend avoiding oils as they can trap moisture and bacteria (think of how it floats on water). No bueno! 😉

    I have used olive oil or baby oil to break down lipstick and glosses from lip brushes, but follow up with a degreaser (most liquid dish soaps) to remove any oil residue.

    I love that you mention not getting water into the barrel of the brush. It’s a mistake that over time will result in breaking down the adhesive and the bristles falling out. Be sure to remove as much moisture as you can – use a paper towel or cloth to gently squeeze out water. Never stand brushes bristle-up to dry, as moisture will drain down into the barrel. If at all possible use a drying rack (like a cookie cooling rack) to allow air circulation around the brushes, reduce drying time and prevent mold (eew!).

    If mildew does grow (you’ll know immediately due to the narly smell), you can swish them quickly in a bit of diluted vinegar. Once dry, follow up with a clarifying shampoo and moisturizing conditioner (again human hair products that rinse out work well). You can also skip the vinegar and just use a clarifying sulfate-rich shampoo. This also works well on moldy hair (thick, wet hair that’s repeatedly pulled up and never allowed to fully dry can mildew).

    If your a professional makeup artist or seriously anti-germ, you might want to consider traveling with a mini disenfecting wand (Nano brand is about $75 online). One less liquid to travel with and no need to wait for your brushes to dry (although NOTHING beats a clean, fluffy blush brush)!

    Hope you find this helpful!

    • Wow Patricia! Thank you so much for your info. It was very helpful.

      I probably should do an UPDATE about this post, because to be honest, I am not super happy with the results so far and was thinking of washing my brushes again sans olive oil.

      On one hand I am happy I used the olive oil, because it made me do some research and realize how good it is for you skin and hair. You can use it to moisturize and even to cleanse your face every now and then. However, it is not the best thing for your brushes as you just pointed out. Although I originally loved the glow my skin got from the slightly oily brush, I have noticed a quicker buildup of makeup and dirt and all the other gross stuff brushes collect. GROSS!

      I will definitely be doing a rewash today with some shampoo. Thanks for the guidance!

      – EGG

  2. Patricia dlG says:

    BTW I love your blog…as you can probably tell by my random splatter of comments. You also reminded me that I used to have a blog on here that I abandoned long ago. Maybe I need to get back to it…

    Looking forward to reading more!

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