How to Disinfect Makeup Brushes

Published April 3, 2018
Woman cleaning make up brush

Makeup brushes come in contact with many surfaces and are bound to encounter bacteria. Reader's Digest reports a study at Loyola Marymount University found after one month, uncleaned makeup brushes held more bacteria than researchers were able to measure.

Disinfecting Your Makeup Brushes

How often should you clean and sterilize a makeup brush?

  • Wash and disinfect brushes at least once a week.
  • Spot clean and sanitize each day before using.

Natural Brushes

Natural brushes are made from animal hair and therefore have hair cuticles that can collect and hold onto bacteria. They're also trickier to disinfect. You have to treat natural brushes much like you treat your own hair.

Synthetic Brushes

Synthetic brushes are made from Taklon or other man-made fibers. They don't have a hair cuticle, which means they are less prone to attracting bacteria. They are easier to disinfect and dry quickly. Likewise, they're vegan and hypoallergenic.

Makeup Brush Cleaners and Sanitizers

It's not enough to have your brushes clean; they should also be as bacteria free as possible. Below are some commercial products that enable you to clean and sterilize at the same time.

Makeup brushes on the sink in the bathroom

Parian Spirit

Parian Spirit Brush Cleaner cleans, conditions, disinfects, and is safe for natural bristles.

  • Pour a bit into a small cup and dip the brushes in, swirl around, and wipe off excess with a clean, dry cloth.
  • For daily use, put a small amount in a spritzer, spray on dirty brushes, and wipe on a cloth.

Purifying Brush Shampoo

Purchase Sephora's Purifying Brush Shampoo at your local Sephora or online. To use:

  1. Dampen the brush with warm water.
  2. Put a small amount of the shampoo on in your hand.
  3. Swirl the brush around in the shampoo.
  4. Rinse thoroughly.

For quick daily cleanups, use Sephora's daily brush cleaner or wipes.

Cleaning and Sterilizing With Household Products

There are ways of getting around purchasing a commercial makeup brush cleaner/disinfectant, and many products that are already in your home are less expensive to use. However, for natural makeup brushes, forget baby shampoo or Dawn and use a disinfecting moisturizing shampoo.

Olive Oil

Olive oil with Dawn antibacterial hand cleaner can clean, condition, and disinfect your brushes.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can kill potentially dangerous bacteria.

  1. Mix a tablespoon of vinegar with a half-teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and one cup of warm water.
  2. Place the brushes in the mixture and allow them to soak.
  3. Gently swish each brush around in the mixture before rinsing with cool water.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Another powerful combination for sanitizing bacteria-filled makeup brushes is a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide and several drops of baby shampoo added to a warm bowl of water. Place your brushes in the solution for about 10 minutes, and then gently swish each one around in the mixture before rinsing with cool water.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is also extremely effective at breaking down grime and dirt on your natural brushes, plus it has potent anti-bacterial properties.

  1. Mix one tablespoon of raw, unrefined organic coconut oil and one tablespoon of baby shampoo with a little water to make a thick lathery paste.
  2. Swirl the brush in the paste to make sure all bristles are covered.
  3. Rinse under a warm running tap (make sure the water is warm enough to get the oil out).


Though not the way to sanitize natural brushes, you can use alcohol to disinfect your synthetic brushes.

  1. Mix one part water to one part alcohol and throw in a drop of dish soap or shampoo.
  2. Swirl the brush in the solution.
  3. Rinse in warm water, squeeze, reshape and dry.

Daily Brush Sanitizing

For both natural and synthetic brushes, spray a tissue with alcohol and wipe the brush on the tissue.

Makeup Brush Sterilizer

The very best way to sterilize your makeup brushes, especially those with natural bristles is to clean the bristles gently in a shampoo specially formulated for colored hair, rinse in cool water until the water runs clear, gently squeeze and reshape the brushes, and put them into a sterilizer, such as the Brush Medic Pro UV, where they will be sterilized and safely dried in minutes using a dehumidifying chamber and "Germicidal Deep UV-C Sterilizing Technology" that kills most viruses, germs, microorganisms. This will make your brushes 99.9 percent free of bacteria in 10 minutes.

Hotbeds of Bacteria

Makeup brushes allow you to get a streak-free, flawless makeup base quickly and efficiently. They allow for beautiful, precise eye makeup and so much more. However, many believe the worst thing that can happen from not cleaning and disinfecting their brushes is poor makeup application. But makeup brushes are a hotbed for bacteria that can cause all sorts of problems if they are not cleaned and sterilized regularly.

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How to Disinfect Makeup Brushes