Iā€™m Kristel. I vlog. I blog. Professional makeup artist based in Manila. 300 hours training in Make Up For Ever Academy, Seoul, South Korea. I live makeup, you have no idea.

Brush Cleaning Bible

Brush Cleaning Bible

Brush cleaning can be pretty therapeutic, if you're only cleaning about 5 pieces. Me and my fellow makeup addicts have 15 or so in our sets, and once it reaches 20 it's really crazy. I have about a 100 between my personal and pro sets, but I don't wash them all at once, so I can keep my sanity.

Once I started getting in the habit of washing my brushes more often, the learning curve skyrocketed as well. Today I'm going to share a few pro tips with you guys so you can get the cleanest brushes without rubbing the bristles off 'til baldness.

First of all, the brush cleaning principles:

  • Frequency - Stains become more permanent the longer you leave makeup on your brushes. I have white goat hair brushes in both my personal and pro kit, but my pro brushes are whiter, and I think it's because I wash them immediately after each client. I now wash high-use personal brushes weekly, and the rest, bimonthly. I still wash unused brushes periodically, because dust gathers on it and even that seems to damage my brushes. For overall face hygiene, it's also nice to wash brushes as often as you can. Guys, let's abolish that very 80s practice of washing brushes once a year ha, please.
  • Speed - I hate washing brushes, but I have to do them thoroughly because this is my ~career and I'd be humiliated to work on someone with shitty tools. The faster I can wash my brushes, the more thoroughly I can get through each and every single brush.
  • Anti-Damage - Brush damage happens throughout the whole brush length. Wooden handles may swell up when constantly soaked in water. The writing can fade, stains can become permanent. Ferrules can become rusted. The bristles may become coarse, misshapen or fall out. The glue base can develop water damage, which can manifest as mold or straight-up complete brush-head departure. Knowing how a brush gets destroyed can help you take steps in preventing said catastrophes, especially if you're going to be washing your brushes quite frequently.


  1. 2 Microfiber towels
  2. Brush soap (I use Dr. Bronner's Castille soap, but looking into Perla next for some coconut oil softening action)
  3. Petri dish
  4. Soaking Tray

Brush Cleaning Procedure:

Pre-soak -  I like to take all my brushes for cleaning and and lay them, handles up, in a tray with low water and a few drops of liquid soap. This helps makeup loosen up from the bristles, and the less vigorously you have to scrub your brushes, the better it is for their overall longevity. It's important that the level is very low, to avoid soaking the bristle glue in water.

Grouping - You should group brushes to save time. Hold them all together and run them across textured silicone all at once. I've retired my brush egg simply because it just doesn't have enough surface area for my "grouped" brushes.

I'm really particular about grouping. I have several rules for it

  1. Never group synthetics with light naturals on the first wash. Some black synthetic bristles will leak bluish or greenish dye on the first few washes. I normally confirm this when they stain my drying towel.
  2. Never group large face brushes. The surface area is too big and you're never going to be able to efficiently cover it when grouped. The maximum size of face brushes that I group are medium dry-use brushes e.g. blush and powder highlight. 
  3. Never group wet-use brushes. Liquid foundation, concealer, eyeliner and lip brushes are packed with too much sticky makeup. Again, it's not efficient to wash them together, and you'd go faster if you just cleaned them one-by-one. Sometimes I group the eyeliner and lip brush, if I feel like it.
  4. Group brushes with similar fullnesses and lengths - so you can use one pressure without damaging nor under-washing the rest of the group.
A good grouping...

A good grouping...

...but don't forget to align them by the  brush heads, and not the handles!

...but don't forget to align them by the  brush heads, and not the handles!

Lather, Rinse, Repeat - Apparently a lot of people just swish soap on once and call it a day? Whether you use liquid or solid, the trick is still to lather and rinse multiple times. Sigma had it right when they designed multiple textures and incorporated a Wash-Rinse-Refine-Rinse routine throughout all their products. Remember: you want your brushes to suffer the least amount of friction, so multiple soft washes is preferable to a giant scrub. Take a little bit of makeup off with the first wash, remove the dirtied soap then wash it more thoroughly. Which brings me to my next point...

Soap : Water ratio -  One of my earlier mistakes was using too much soap. The more soap you use, the more vigorously you have to work to wash if off your brushes, whether there's stain left over or not. I prefer to have my liquid soap out on a petri dish, take just a tap of it on the brush head and leave a pool of water on the cleansing surface, enough to lather up the soap whilst providing buffer for the bristles and silicone.

Drying - A brush tree saves so much space, but a useless person broke mine and I am back to microfiber towels. I prefer this setup anyway because microfibers suck moisture from the brush heads in addition to the power of air-drying. The faster your brushes dry, the less water-damage they're gonna accumulate and the longer they're gonna last. I prefer to have two sets, a drying towel and a shaper towel.

I slide a shaper towel firmly across the handle, and softly across the bristles. This rids my entire handle of makeup and hard-water stains, polishes the ferrules and at the same time removes excess water from the brush head. I try not to squeeze the brush heads too hard because it might force water up the ferrule.

Afterwards, I lay them on another microfiber towel, with one side rolled up to support an angle on the brush, for faster drying. It's important to keep the handles up at all times in the washing procedure (starting from soaking) so as to avoid as much water damage to the glue base.

Did I miss anything? Share your tips, if you have any!

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