How to Clean Makeup Brushes, Sponges and Hairbrushes

Chances are you have at least one hairbrush and possibly a collection of makeup brushes and sponges. If you use these regularly, it’s natural for oils, residue, dirt, and bacteria to build up over time.

A build-up of these things can be catastrophic for your scalp and skin. Your pores and follicles could become clogged, you could experience acne breakouts, get styes, irritated skin, and redeposit dirt onto the scalp with repeated brushing and generally prevent the care you’re trying to accomplish.

This can be prevented with regular cleaning of these brushes and sponges. Maintaining your makeup and hair tools also helps them last longer, saving you money in the long run. Our guides on how to clean makeup brushes, how to clean sponges and how to clean hair brushes will get you started:

How to clean makeup brushes - cleaning common beauty products
Source: Adobe Stock

How to clean makeup brushes 

Makeup brushes go through a lot. Keeping them clean is the key to smooth makeup application and healthier skin. Dirty brushes can cause fungal infections, staph infections and even E. coli infections.

A good rule of thumb is to give your brushes a good, thorough clean every week.

There are a lot of products and machines out there to aid in this. Some are electric, and some cleaning slabs can be purchased, usually made of silicone, but they are also easy to make at home if you want. And if you’re budget-conscious, it’s easy to clean your brushes at home with easy-to-find products.

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Make your own DIY cleaning slab for cleaning makeup brushes:

Grab a plastic clipboard or plate, and using a hot glue gun, make various patterns and groups of dots on one half, some squiggly lines or zig zags and some swirls. The different patterns help loosen up product build-up.

How to clean makeup brushes by hand

  1. Start by rinsing the tips with lukewarm water to remove any leftover makeup. Just the tips, because if you run the water at the end of the brush, it could compromise the glue holding the bristles to the handle.
  2. Then fill a bowl with lukewarm water and a tablespoon of gentle shampoo (again, baby shampoo is fantastic for this) or a specially purchased brush cleaning product.
  3. Swirl each brush tip in the bowl. You can use your hand to lather the water or use your diy cleaning slab.
  4. Rinse the tips under running water between swirls and lathers until the water runs clear.
  5. Use paper towel to squeeze out any excess water.
  6. Lay your brushes flat on a towel to dry with the tips hanging just over the edge. Don’t stand them up by the handle because the water will drip down to the glue.
  7. You can use some string and pegs/clamps or a sock/underwear hanging dryer to hang your brushes, tips down, over the sink if you want to keep them away from pets or little hands. You can also buy makeup brush holder/dryer racks that sit on your benchtop.

How to clean makeup sponges

Like makeup brushes, sponges are often well-used with an abundance of products. These need to be washed more often because, like kitchen sponges, they soak up the oils on our skin, and product build-up up which can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

In a perfect world, it’s best to clean blenders/sponges after every use. But aim for once a week, especially if you use the same sponge/blender every day. These babies need a good deep clean on the regular. Luckily, cleaning them is less challenging than you might think.

How to clean makeup sponges
Source: Adobe Stock

The ingredient list is basically the same as if you’re cleaning brushes – hair or makeup – and the method is very simple.

  1. Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and your preferred product like bi-carb and vinegar or a gentle shampoo. It’s also possible to use an antibacterial but gentle dish soap.
  2. Now here you can either squeeze and rinse with clean water until it runs clear or squeeze a few times and let them soak in the water for 5 minutes to a day, depending on how long it’s been between cleans.
  3. Once the rinse water runs clean, squeeze as much liquid out as you can and lay flat to air dry. You can use a rolling pin to really squeeze out extra water if you want.
  4. If there are stubborn stains and you don’t or can’t afford to replace your blender/sponge, you can used micellar water to give it a deeper clean by soaking it in the micellar water, massage it in and rinse; repeat until water is clear.

mum centralTOP TIP:  If you have a lot of sponges or just don’t want to do it by hand, you can use the washing machine. Sponges/blenders are pretty durable. Just throw them in a mesh laundry bag, add detergent and sanitiser (optional) and run the washing machine on your preferred setting. You can then throw them in the dryer to cut down on drying time.

How to clean a hairbrush

Keeping your hairbrush clean is super important to your scalp health. Especially if you use styling products, dry shampoos, hairsprays, etc. These products can stick to the bristles of your brush which makes it easier for dirt, dust, dead skin cells, grime to stick to the bristles and attach to your hair as you brush. This isn’t healthy for your hair, or your scalp.

Ideally, aim to clean hairbrushes every 2 weeks, more often if you use a lot of product.

how to clean a hairbrush
Source: Adobe Stock

What you’ll need to clean a hairbrush

A basic supply kit for brush cleaning consists of scissors, a rattail comb, or a wooden skewer (sold in packs at the supermarket), clean, cheap toothbrush, vinegar, and bi-carb soda.

Feel free to swap the bi-carb and vinegar for a gentle shampoo, dish soap or body wash (baby shampoo or bath wash work great). You can also add a few drops of Tea Tree oil or rubbing alcohol for sanitary purposes.

Make sure whatever product you choose is free of sulphates if you have brushes made with natural materials.

mum centralFUN FACT: Tea tree oil can be particularly handy if you have kids at school and there’s an epidemic of headlice. They hate the stuff. My nan used to fill a spray bottle with tea tree and water that we would use to spray our hair before school. It also has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties.

  1. First step is to remove any and as much hair as you can. Pull off what you can with your hands then use the scissors and comb/skewer to get between the bristles and remove the rest. You can always use tweezers to remove any stubborn hair.
  2. Then fill a bowl or bucket with warm water (a bucket means you can clean more than one brush at once) and add in your soap of choice. Submerge brushes and leave them for 20 to 30 minutes to soak. If you have brushes with natural handles, use a shallow container so only the bristles are submerged. Soaking natural handles for 30 minutes could ruin them.
  3. After they’ve had a good soak, give them a hard scrub with the toothbrush, rinsing them with clean water to make sure all scum is removed.
  4. Lay them on a towel and let them dry.

This method is also fantastic for cleaning combs.

Whatever method you use (or if you prefer to replace them), the benefits of a regular schedule will be so beneficial for your hair and skin.

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Avatar of Tina Evans

Tina Evans is a complete introvert, an avid reader of romance novels, horror novels and psychological thrillers. She’s a writer, movie viewer, and manager of the house menagerie: three kelpies, one cat, a fish, and a snake. She loves baking and cooking and using her kids as guinea pigs. She was a teenage parent and has learned a lot in twenty-three years of parenting. Tina loves Christmas and would love to experience a white Christmas once in her life. Aside from writing romance novels, she is passionate about feminism, equality, sci-fi, action movies and doing her part to help the planet.

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