We’re all a little guilty of it sometimes. We reach for our favorite blush brush and come to the realization the color on there isn’t one we actually own, because at this point it’s become a mix of pretty much every blush we’ve applied to our faces over the last…well, longer than you want to admit. You’re also maybe convinced if you cut your makeup blending sponge in half it would be soaked through with foundation. Old foundation.

Even if you’re not a professional makeup artist who uses their tools on other people constantly, you absolutely need to clean your makeup brushes and tools on the regular. Here are the best and easiest ways to clean your makeup brushes and tools, including one very important tool you use every day that you’ve completely forgotten to clean!

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1. Cleaning makeup brushes

You know WHY you need to do it. It’s not just about the buildup of powders, pigments, creams and liquids. Even if you apply makeup on clean skin, over time you’re not just applying your favorite halo eye look, but bacteria and dirt.

Chances are you’ve invested a pretty penny in your brushes. Even if they’re the drugstore variety, once you buy four different eyeshadow brushes, a blush AND contouring brush, a highlighter brush and face powder brush it’s added up. Now you need to take care of your investment to make sure they last.

Here’s how:

For a quick clean –

With a beautiful scent thanks to the essential oils it contains, Japonesque Brush Cleanser in Citrus is my longtime favorite for a quick clean. A smaller Rose-scented spray version is also available. All you need is a few drops, so you can lightly dip your brush into a small amount, but personally I prefer spraying because you save product and also don’t get the cleanser all muddied up with residue from multiple brushes.

Just a few sprays onto the brush head, gently swirl on a face towel or tissue to clean, gently blot the brush to remove any excess cleanser and brushes are tidy again.

For travel, decanting into a small spray bottle assures you can keep your liquid or powder brushes clean on the go without waiting for them to dry overnight. My personal preference is to buy the larger one and decant, but whichever one you choose, this is the best version for a quickie clean on the go and is ideal if you just need to lightly clean a couple of brushes rather than deep clean a larger amount.

For a deeper clean – 

Depending on the number of brushes you own and how often you wear makeup, this is something you should be doing anywhere from once a week (if you wear makeup daily or don’t wear makeup often but only have a few brushes) to once a month at least (even if you don’t wear makeup often, you don’t want to get your brushes cakey with facial oils, transferred eye primer or bacteria).

Whether your brushes are natural animal hair or vegan synthetic fiber, it’s important to use a gentle, specially made cleanser to keep the hairs in tip top condition. Most soaps and even shampoos would be too harsh for this so here are a few favorites to help thoroughly clean your makeup brushes without stripping.

If you’re cleaning by hand, wet your brushes at the sink with water first then dab a few drops of Ecotools Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo or BeautyBlender Liquid Blender Cleanser onto your brush. For a travel friendly or more compact gentle cleanser, I also love the Japonesque Solid Brush Cleanser Gentle Goat-Milk or the BeautyBlender Solid Blender Cleanser.

You can gently rub the brush head back and forth with your fingertips to get some lather, but I’ve found that gently swirling the brush head on a handheld brush cleaning mat cleans much more efficiently. Swirl and rinse until the water runs clear and you’re good to go.

Gently squeeze and blot out excess water, then reshape them so they dry neatly.

HOW you dry your brushes is also as important, if not more so, than how you wash them. This is because putting them upright into a cup to dry will cause water to make its way down to the ferrule and break down the glue that holds that metal part to the handle.

For a few brushes and also when I’m traveling, I like to dry my brushes at an angle by making a little bed of sorts for them with two face towels. I lay one completely flat, roll the other one up then lay the brushes across facing downward after smoothing the hairs back into a point so they maintain their shape.

Just remember to hang them pointing down 🙂

A fantastic option that saves space and is especially good for those of us with a lot of brushes is to hang them dry. The Sigma Dry’n Shape Tower is AMAZING for this, because it holds up to 24 eye brushes AND 20 face brushes.

And finally, if you want to automate the process, this makeup brush cleaning and drying system is the next best thing to having someone else wash your brushes for you. And the swirling of the sudsy, colorful water as the brushes are cleaned is just so satisfying too!

With these tips and tools you’ll be able to keep your brushes clean, germ-free and in excellent condition for years to come.

2. Cleaning Makeup Sponges and Blenders

Beauty sponges and blenders aren’t meant to be kept forever. Even with the most careful use, eventually they start to break down, but there are ways that you can extend the life of your makeup sponges, and the most important is regular cleaning.

I try to clean mine after every use, especially because I tend to use the pointed end of my blender to set my undereyes. So when you combine that with using it for foundation, blending out concealer both under the eyes and as an eyeshadow primer, a lot of product ends up on there after one use.

Now you could easily use the above liquid or solid blender cleansers I talked about above. I DO NOT recommend using the Japonesque quick brush cleaner on sponges because the essential oils will accelerate the breakdown of your sponges over time.  Especially when traveling, the solid blender cleansers are just the best.

But when I’m home, I found an amazing hack that I can’t take credit for, but you bet I’m gonna share it with you because it’s just too good (and inexpensive!) not to. I take a clean little dish and then put a tablespoon each of dish soap and olive oil. Mix the two up with your finger and coat your blender in the mixture completely. Then just go to town squeezing out the absorbed product under a faucet until it’s clean. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. You don’t need to use a fancy EVOO for this one, the bottom shelf stuff will do well here. You’re not eating it, after all 🙂

Here’s my favorite video on how to do this. It’s so easy!

3. Your eyelash curler

Ok, raise your hand if you gasped. It’s ok, I won’t judge you! Chances are, you’ve had your eyelash curler for a few years now. I’ve had my beloved Shu Uemura eyelash curler for almost 15 years! How often do you clean your lash curler? How often do you clean your tweezers? Your eyelash applicators? When’s the last time you changed the pads on your lash curler?

Even though we already know so much about protecting our eyes (don’t share liner or mascara, etc), cleaning our eyelash curlers, lash separators and tweezers is one of the things we can forget to do.

Remember to change the pad on your lash curler once a month, for starters.

For a quick clean of residue, I like to use a cotton swab or tissue to wipe down metal tools either with micellar water (for lighter cleaning) or rubbing alcohol (for more cakey and stubborn residue).

For the most thorough and easiest clean, an ultrasonic cleaning machine is not only a fast way to clean your metal tools, including skincare tools like metal extractors or lances, but also has other handy uses like cleaning eyeglasses and most metal jewelry.

I’d love to hear from you if you used any of these techniques to keep your tools and brushes clean. Any techniques, hacks or favorite products you like that I left out? Share in the comments below!

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