DIY Make-up Brush Cleaner

4 Posted by - January 2, 2013 - DIY & Crafts, Hair & Beauty

The more I look at Pinterest, the more I am convinced that a mixture of dish soap and vinegar can pretty much do everything. Today I decided to test this theory again, this time with a make-up brush cleaner made with water, dish soap, and vinegar.

Image via The Daily Quirk

Image via The Daily Quirk

I carefully mixed my own concoction.


And then I prepared my brushes. As with most things that are not crafting, I am super organized– nearly to the point of mental illness– about my make-up brushes. Thus, I have a “first string” and “second string” set of brushes. I use the first string brushes every time I wear make-up. (I’m a blogger, so this happens maybe twice a week.) The second string brushes are for special stuff, like if I decide to HAC or wear lipstick that requires a brush. This happens, like, only if I am meeting the President for dinner… or I really want to get laid. (Not by the President, necessarily.)


Why am I like this with make-up and not, say, cooking? I don’t know. Maybe because I’ve been trying to impress guys with my face since I was 14, but only with my cooking since… well, never, to be honest. Except, by that token, I should be awesomely good at dieting and working out, too. Oh well, another theory busted.

Uh. Where was I?

Yes. Ahem.

I decided to wash the first string brushes first, theory being that they are probably the dirtiest and needed the most cleaning power.


As I was cleaning, I immediately noticed the water turning this sort of brownish shade of purple. This happened right away, even when I’d only washed my foundation brush. I have no idea where the purple came from, guys. I mean, I do have purple lipstick and eye shadow, but holy wow, it was purple. My only working theory is that the red/pink in the foundation mixed with the blue dish soap and made it look purple… Well, browny purple.


I was grossed out enough by the result of cleaning only the first string brushes that I decided to get a fresh batch of cleaner for the second string brushes. That shit nasty, y’all. I was wiping that on my face twice a week.

I washed my second string brushes and paid extra careful attention to the lipstick brushes.


You can’t really tell from the picture, but these fuckers get super disgusting, even though I wash them with hand soap after every use. Lipstick sure as hell will not stay on your lips if you so much as delicately sip your champagne, but it’ll stay in your lipstick brush, all fossilized and slimy, until the day you get grossed out enough to throw it away.

So I was curious to see if this concoction would work, even for that.

And I’ll be damned right to hell if it didn’t.


Rarely have I been so thrilled with the results of a good clean.

Just to recap: Clean brushes. Gross water.



Totally disgusting, and a total win. We don’t usually get both of those at once. Hurrah!



  • Amber January 2, 2013 - 2:36 pm Reply

    I usually just clean with soap and hot water, and have always wondered if this method was really necessary. Do you think it is?

    • Pintester January 2, 2013 - 2:38 pm Reply

      Necessary? I don’t know. But see above comments about my nasty-ass lipstick brush. I’ll be using this method again, for sure.

    • Diane Minnis White January 2, 2013 - 2:55 pm Reply

      I’d be willing to guess the Dawn removes the grease from the makeup and your skin from the brushes…and vinegar works like Windex, to remove the last bit of grime.

    • Amanda January 2, 2013 - 3:10 pm Reply

      Speaking as another infrequent make up wearer who contracted staff thanks to a contaminated brush, using an antibacterial agent like the vinegar is a must, especially if you go weeks between uses. Our skin carries dozens of harmful strains of bacteria at any given time, no matter how clean we are, and some get swept up into the brushes where they can multiply. After a certain point, all it takes is one tiny break in the skin.

      Personally, I just stopped wearing make up altogether after that incident. I hate the stuff anyway. I’ve never come across any that doesn’t tear my skin to bits, feel like a bunch of slimy gook, or actually makes a bit of difference in how I look.

      • Crystal Kelly Yzaguirre January 3, 2013 - 7:41 am Reply

        if it doesnt make a difference in how you look, you’re doing it wrong.

        • Amanda B. England January 3, 2013 - 1:46 pm Reply

          Same woman, just signed in.

          You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear no matter how many conturing tricks you know, so why go broke trying?

          • ChickieD January 4, 2013 - 9:47 am

            As I’ve gotten older, I started using less makeup. At first I thought like @facebook-100000749337619:disqus was saying that I was doing it wrong, but I just realized that I have great skin for my age and pretty much everything I was putting on was making my skin look older. I used to look fantastic with a ton of eyeliner and mascara and eye makeup to play up my big eyes. But nowadays I find that look harsh and aging. Now I just put on a little bit of coverup under my eyes, a touch of pink blush, some mascara, a little lipstick. I look younger this way. I think as people age, they have to adjust what they apply. I don’t think it’s a matter of not being able to look pretty no matter what you put on, but, yes, I think as you get older putting a ton of products on can emphasize the wrong things and make it look like you are trying too hard. Maybe, like me, you’ve just figured out that sometimes less is more.

    • Amelia Evans January 4, 2013 - 3:35 am Reply

      I would us this method or baby shampoo especially if you have expensive brushes. They are natural hair and need some lovin just like the hair on your head. Just make sure what you use is mild and doens’t have alcohol (that dries the bristles out and they will snap off and shed)

  • Rebekkah Niles January 2, 2013 - 2:44 pm Reply

    Maybe it’s the dye in the bristles that makes the water so disgusting? I tried this powder brushes at the advice of my roommate, and almost stopped wearing makeup altogether, the water was so gross! Except I didn’t, of course.

    • pandamink January 2, 2013 - 8:19 pm Reply

      I clean my brushes pretty often and I always get a bit of dark residue, I do think it’s the dye in the brushes. I’ve noticed that cheaper brushes have more dye in them. my best brushes don’t bleed like that at all.

  • Blondeinabmw January 2, 2013 - 2:52 pm Reply

    I usually use a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap (fragrance of your choice – I like lavender) and water in a glass. Dr. Bronner’s is cheap, lasts FOREVER and has those crazy labels that can entertain for hours. It dissolves all the gunk, but is gentle enough not to strip natural fiber brushes. Those damn things are expensive – I would worry about the dish soap being too harsh.

  • Diane Minnis White January 2, 2013 - 2:54 pm Reply

    I’m going to go upstairs and wash all of my brushes right now! I used this same concoction to mop my hardwood floor after a drunken fucktard broke a brand new bottle of olive oil all over my floor at a Halloween party. If it could get rid of that slime without damaging my floors, I assume it will work on some makeup brushes.

  • lauren January 2, 2013 - 2:57 pm Reply

    I have cleaned my brushes in the dishwasher

    • Chris February 26, 2020 - 11:55 am Reply

      LOL! Drunken Fucktard. HIGH-Larious!

  • Kendra McLaughlin January 2, 2013 - 2:58 pm Reply

    I’m not going to lie, I’ve always used baby shampoo or whatever shampoo I currently have on hand it it normally works very well…. I have to say though, I am very impressed with how well this turned out. One question, do the brushes smell like vinegar when you’re done?

    • Pintester January 2, 2013 - 3:00 pm Reply

      They smell like soap to me! Also, usually vinegar smell goes away as soon as the vinegar dries. My brushes aren’t dry yet, but I’m not worried at all.

    • Amelia Evans January 4, 2013 - 3:32 am Reply

      I love the results from baby shampoo, Ive been doing that for years.

  • Amanda B. England January 2, 2013 - 3:18 pm Reply

    You can clean your whole house with Borax, baking soda, washing soda, vinegar, water, and cheapo dish liquid. Just make sure to use plain dish liquid if you mix it with baking soda. Bleach and bleach alternatives make some nasty fumes otherwise. Oh, and use gloves if working with washing soda.

  • libraryofbird January 2, 2013 - 3:32 pm Reply

    I tried cleaning my brushes and it work for the most part. I did notice clumps of blush and powder but I wonder it that’s the mineral make up I use.

  • EmmaBeEmma January 2, 2013 - 6:03 pm Reply

    I’ve never cleaned a makeup brush in my life. They eventually get gross and I chuck them. Kinda like purses. And dishes.

    • Crystal Kelly Yzaguirre January 3, 2013 - 7:39 am Reply

      you sound like a perfect match for my husband. He told me when he was single he wasted a TON of money on plates bc he’d just throw them out instead of washing them

      • Shannon Dilger January 3, 2013 - 11:40 pm Reply

        He would throw them away? ha that’s terrible and funny

      • Jean K. January 5, 2013 - 1:39 am Reply

        That’s what my boyfriend does with socks. One wear and they’re out the window on the way home.

  • Havana James January 2, 2013 - 6:13 pm Reply

    after reading the comments from the other pintestes…i have actually thrown out all of my makeup and makeup brushes. The staff infection comment scared the bejeezus out of me. I’d rather just start fresh for the new year.

    • Kendra McLaughlin January 2, 2013 - 6:28 pm Reply

      You are not supposed to keep makeup older then 6 months anyway… and mascara older then 3 months (if your tube lasts that long) should be tossed.

  • pins&needles January 2, 2013 - 6:24 pm Reply

    That shot of all the clean brushes around the sink reminds me of the part in The Little Mermaid where all the little sea creatures are singing their grande finale of Under the Sea and the brat takes off.

  • Jasi Lee January 2, 2013 - 8:47 pm Reply

    been cleaning my brushes with the mac brush cleaner forever and i swear it leaves my brushes sort of oily. they call it “conditioned” but i’m so blaming it for the last break out. looking forward to using dawn on my face. this oughta be good. =D

    • Llama spit January 4, 2013 - 9:49 am Reply

      When you have a bad break out, dawn and sugar also makes a good scrub for your face. It’s not an everyday thing, ’cause it’ll dry out your face like crazy, but it works for when your face is really oily.

      • Jasi Lee January 6, 2013 - 8:04 pm Reply

        really? dawn and sugar? doesn’t the sugar hurt on your face? i tried that pinterest lemon juice/sugar craze on freshly shaved legs- yeah i know, but it seemed a great idea after a round of cocknails- and wow, that shit hurt! i’m a little afraid of sugar rubbed into my face now. but tell me more, i’m intrigued!

        • Llama spit January 17, 2013 - 1:34 pm Reply

          Nah, it didn’t hurt. I mean, you don’t scrub insanely hard, so it just exfoliates. My mom used to do liquid Ivory and sugar when she was a teen, but I didn’t have any and I wanted to try it, so I did. And it’s not like we have to worry about Dawn. They use it to clean up animals after oil spills, right?

        • Gargoylz February 1, 2013 - 8:35 am Reply

          Holy shit balls! What, exactly, are “cocknails”? That sounds PAINFUL! When I read that it made the ol’ sphincter pucker right up tight!

  • Dawn Palmer January 2, 2013 - 11:22 pm Reply

    Rubbing Alcohol works just as good and dries MUCH quicker.

    • Stacy Plowman-Pennock January 3, 2013 - 5:46 am Reply

      That’s what I use too, it’s great for the bigger, fluffy brushes that take forever to dry when washed with water.

      • Amelia Evans January 4, 2013 - 3:30 am Reply

        If you need something to dry fast you can always take your brush cleaner (but not alcohol) and put some on a paper towel and brush the color off of the brush and onto the paper towel. The towel will help keep the bristles from getting too wet and you can dry it off on the dry part of the paper towl. I only deep clean(what she did here in this post) my brushes once or twice a week (my personal set, not the ones I use on clients, that is done daily) and I use this quick method even while Im sitting at my vanity doing my makeup. It dries just as quickly and is better for the brush. It’s a good quick clean. 🙂

        • Stacy Plowman-Pennock January 4, 2013 - 3:21 pm Reply

          Great tip, Thank you!! 🙂

          • Guest January 24, 2013 - 9:04 pm

            Alcohol isn’t good, but vinegar is okay… you can even use it as a rinse after you shampoo, it doesn’t smell once it’s dry, and it makes your hair SUPER soft!!!

          • Chelsea January 9, 2014 - 3:07 pm

            Like pour straight vinegar over your hair after a shampoo? Or do you dilute it? I’m intrigued…! Tell me more! 🙂

    • Amelia Evans January 4, 2013 - 3:17 am Reply

      Alcohol will dry your brushes out especially if the are natural hair. Baby shapmoo works really well and is cheap.I just don’t want your bristles to dry and snap, brushes are expensive 🙂

  • ladypatg January 3, 2013 - 5:43 am Reply

    @twitter-174351762:disqus alcohol will damages the bristles of good brushes by drying them out.

  • ChickieD January 3, 2013 - 9:16 am Reply

    Thanks for testing this one. My neighbor is an honest to goodness makeup artist. She travels around the world doing makeup for famous people and catalog shoots and such. She’s always talking about washing her brushes and I wonder what she uses. She did my makeup for my wedding (it rocked!) and, even though she is very good, it squidged me out that she was using the same makeup she used for everyone and the same brushes. I know she washes them but – you know – was thinking it’d be better if she invested in some disposable products. I’m almost nervous to bring up the issue with her as it is her bread and butter to do makeup, but I am sure that it is something she thinks about.

    Anyway, I have been using the dawn/vinegar mixture that’s been going around Pinterest to clean my tub. I use a much higher ratio of vinegar to dawn than the recipe calls for, but that stuff definitely works on the tub. So, this seems like it’d totally do the trick.

    • Rena January 4, 2013 - 1:24 am Reply

      I worked on a makeup team for two years and we sanitized every brush and makeup after every use. I’m sure she does the same 🙂

      • ChickieD January 4, 2013 - 9:33 am Reply

        I’m sure she does. That sounds like a really cool job!!!

      • rfoust January 4, 2013 - 9:57 pm Reply

        I have to ask… what is a makeup team? 🙂

  • Ethne @ Wom Mom January 3, 2013 - 11:06 am Reply

    I tested this out in that shower scrubber vinegar/dawn deal you see on Pinterest constantly. Works decently. I use these ingredients for everything from fabric softener (vinegar) to a squirt of Dawn in my wash to help with cutting grease. I figure if it gets oil spills off animals, it’s good enough for my clothes. And the vinegar smell does go away. Good to know about brushes!!

  • Jessica Jackson January 3, 2013 - 11:38 pm Reply

    I wasn’t really aware that I needed to clean makeup brushes. Like I tap them to get the colors of eyeshadow out so I can use a different color. But I also pretty much only use them for eye make up. I guess I’ll wash them tomorrow.

  • Erin January 4, 2013 - 11:12 pm Reply

    oh my god. i did this too, and i was completely horrified. HORRIFIED. i did it twice. in a row. only thing is that my brushes still smell like vinegar… but they’re completely dry. whatevs, i’d rather smell like vinegar than put those dirty disgusting things near my face again. (ha.)

  • Joanna January 5, 2013 - 7:38 pm Reply

    Seeing that gross purplish water has inspired me to clean my one and only makeup brush. Yes, one. For blush. Someone should take my girly card away from me, but I’m just terrible at doing makeup. I got the basics, but that’s it.

    • Liz May 16, 2013 - 11:36 am Reply

      We are the same person hahaha I only have one brush too my friends yell at me all the time

  • Stephanie B. January 7, 2013 - 10:12 am Reply

    You should try Dawn + EVO. A lot of painters use this for their brushes. It worked beautifully! My brushes are softer too :). Just a thought…

  • Sarah Van Blaricum January 8, 2013 - 1:18 pm Reply

    Totes tried this DIY cleaner, too! It works, except I had to go back over my kabuki brush with Dawn after the soak because there was some shit that didn’t get cleaned out. But then again, it had been a long while since I cleaned my brushes, so it was probably just really fucking dirty.

  • Anna February 9, 2013 - 4:28 am Reply

    well it’s obvious the foundation brush is the dirtiest – it’s the one that keeps most stuff in it. doh. it’s foundation. and of course the water turned purple, since your soap was blue!

  • Carly April 11, 2013 - 4:10 pm Reply

    I have a theory about your disgusting purple-brown water:
    The first time I washed my Mary Kay Mineral Powder brush it looked pretty much the same. (I noticed that you have the same brush, if I am not mistaken) I think that the brush was dyed so it would look nicer or more “natural” or whatever. I was never actually that impressed with that brush; it’s always “shedding”. After that first wash I never had that problem again with washing.

  • Decrapifying: 40 Bags in 40 Days Stage 1 | Sonja Foust March 10, 2014 - 3:07 pm Reply

    […] UGH! I’m giving myself anxiety just looking at that thing. I started by taking everything out of the drawer and laying it out on the counter. While I was at it, I threw my make-up brushes in some make-up brush cleaner. […]

  • bettyboo May 30, 2014 - 7:49 pm Reply

    you are very funny, honest, & straight forward. I’m glad I found your pin!
    I thought brushes were suppose to be washed once a week…..I’ve gone a month +. I learned yesterday, a daily cleaning is very good for brushes. IDK how true it is though.

  • Marla February 25, 2016 - 1:28 am Reply

    Works great!!!! Thanks for your help.

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