Simple Cost effective Makeup Brush Cleaning

This past weekend I had a conversation with a cousin (technically a cousin’s child so, second cousin).  She is just getting into makeup (she is thirteen and allowed to play with it at home to learn the basics, but not yet allowed to wear it to school  – I think there are rules at her school regarding makeup as well as familial ones, but I’m not sure.  I just know she practices at home) but there was some concern because she wasn’t really cleaning her makeup brushes. She would just knock off the color and continue using them.   As we get along pretty well, I was asked to bring the topic up when we next had a makeup themed conversation. 

I was surprised to find that one of the reasons that she wasn’t cleaning her brushes was that she thought brush cleaner was expensive and she wanted to use it sparingly. She also didn’t see why it was all that important since knocking off the color meant that it wouldn’t mix with the other colors when she applied it.

So that led to a different conversation and this post.

While I’m sure all of you my darlings, know this, sometimes it just needs to be said.

First of all, cleaning brushes is important because bacteria can live inside the brushes and not only transfer to the makeup you are using, but also to you.  As we were mostly talking about eyeshadow brushes we were also talking about bacteria in the eye.  It’s not pretty. And if you don’t believe me, I suggest a quick google search regarding eye infections. 

I’ll leave you to do that on your own as I can’t take it.  In horror movies I can watch any number of horrific things but I can’t watch anything to do with damage to the eyes.  It is the one thing that will make me close my eyes in a horror flick. 

Not the eyes.  Just not the eyes. Oh, the horror. 

So you can do your own search if you are curious.

Just be warned it’s bad.

So clean the brushes.

I also have to admit, I don’t often buy brush cleaner. 

I have used products that were specifically designed as brush cleaners and some of them I really liked.  Some I didn’t.  Over all, what I use as my standard is listed below.

My essentials for cleaning brushes involve a few basics. First, a textured mat.  These can be picked up in many places.  I have seen them in TjMaxx, Ulta and a myriad of places on line.  Mine came from the Dollar Store and cost me – you guessed it – a dollar to purchase.  They had many shapes and sizes, but I thought the watermelon looked cute.  And it fit in my sink, which is not the largest of sinks and I didn’t want something that would be too large.

The second thing I buy is Ivory soap.  I like it because it is an effective soap that cleans and kills bacteria, it has no colors in it and it smells nice.  On Amazon a three pack will cost you $4. At the grocery store around the corner I believe single bars were offered for about a dollar unless there is a sale and then for some reason Ivory soap went down to $.49 per bar. I don’t know why, but my grocery store has that sale twice a year and has ever since we moved into the neighborhood (and probably well before).

Thus far I am in for a maximum cost of two dollars to clean my brushes.  And those are my only really dedicated products. 

the set up in the sink

I have a bowl that I put the soap in.  I made sure it is bigger than the bar of soap so I can put water in the bowl and turn the soap bar periodically when I want a fresh side (depending on how many brushes I am cleaning at a time.  The bar of soap goes in the bowl and the bowl of soap and the cleaning mat go in the sink. 

I stretch an old towel over the top of the closed commode lid and then I take a handful of brushes to the sink.  I wet the brushes, generally in one shot so that I don’t have to keep the water running.

Then I take each brush individually, run it over the top of the soap until it is frothy. I then take the soap filled brush run it over the textured mat and when I think it has been cleaned, I rinse off the soap to make sure.  When I am happy I set it on the towel and continue with the process.

If the brushes are a little dry by the time it comes to wash them, I dip them in the bowl with the soap to rewet them and then continue.  It saves water and gets everything clean.  When I am done I rinse off the mat and set it aside to dry. 

I then wash any makeup residue off the soap, rinse out the bowl and leave them to dry.  Once dry, the bar of soap goes into a plastic soap dish that I picked up in Target’s travel containers section.  It was $.99.  It isn’t really necessary, but I do like keeping my makeup cleaning soap away from the rest of the soaps.  It isn’t that it can’t be used as soap, but I’ve noticed it tends to disappear if I don’t keep it separated. especially with so much hand washing going on these days.

Left to dry, I forgot that some of those brushes had white tips.

After that it is only a matter of leaving the brushes to dry.  I tend to wash face brushes at a different time than eyeshadow brushes just because of space constraints.  I wash the face brushes on Saturday and then leave them over night to dry.  When they are ready to be put away, I go ahead and wash the eyeshadow brushes that I used the week prior. Sometimes of course face brushes sneak into the shadow brushes like in this image from this weekend. I like to rotate brushes so that I’m not using the same brushes all the time so not all brushes get washed every week, but I really don’t like to let brushes sit. 

Plus I’ve found that if I do it once a week, I am less likely to forget as it becomes routine and it doesn’t take that long. I am all about establishing a routine. Generally it takes about ten minutes to wash my eyeshadow brushes from the previous week, and that includes setting up and my post wash clean up.

When I wash them I also inspect the brushes for missing bristles and over use and find out which ones I need to remove from my collection.  While I love the feeling of a nice clean brush, I really like avoiding the possibility of getting an eye infection from a brush I didn’t clean. 

While there are many fantastic makeup cleaning products out there, and several of them I really like using, in the end what matters is that you use a product that kills the bacteria and germs, but is gentle enough not to kill the brushes and that you find something that you will use on a regular enough basis to keep your brushes clean. For me that is usually Ivory Soap and a textured silicone mat.


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