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DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner

DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner


Last Updated on September 10, 2020

My favorite honorary “R”s is repair! It may have not made it into the top 5 “Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot,” but it’s got to be soooo close. 

Repairing is a huge part of the zero waste lifestyle. It honestly shocks me that my instincts used to be, “If it’s broken, toss it and buy another one!” 

It’s so engrained in our disposable culture. A lot of manufacturers actually participate in creating this disposable culture. It’s called planned obsolescence. 

The idea of planned obsolescence isn’t new, in fact it dates beck to the 1920s when the market was being flooded with vehicles. Ford and GM were both trying to find ways to increase sales. 

They came up with the idea to create new models each year to encourage the consumer to “upgrade.” The goal was to make older models feel outdated and undesirable. 

It didn’t become a common turn of phrase until Bernard London wrote the pamphlet “Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence.” It proposed legal obsolescence on items to stimulate the economy.

The idea really took off in the 1950s. Brooks Stevens used it in his speech to an advertising company. “[planned obsolescence is] Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.”

Apple has been accused of this on multiple occasions from making custom screws only they have the screwdrivers to unlock and intentionally slowing down your phone with the most recent iOS update riiiiiiiiiiiiiight before a new phone is released. A little too convenient, eh? 

There are five different types of planned obsolescence, but this post is about makeup brushes! Looks like I’ve got another post to write for you on this topic. 

The moral of my story is, repairing is huge. A lot of companies don’t want you to repair their items. They want you to buy new ones. 

While not everything is easy to repair, mend, or fix a lot of things are. Sometimes it means making better purchases. Other times it means learning a new skill! 

I remember when I first heard that you should be cleaning your makeup brushes. 

I took a hard look at the brush I used on a daily basis and saw quite a bit of built up product. Old me would have tossed that brush, thinking it was just time for a new one. 

But, I learned it just needed a good cleaning! Now it’s as good as new. I clean my brushes often to keep them in tip top shape, and hopefully they’ll serve me for many years to come. 

You can buy brush cleaner, but it’s SO easy to make. Plus, it’s totally zero waste. 

DIY, Zero Waste, Makeup Brush Cleaner: 

  • 2 Tablespoons of Soap like Dr. Bronners
  • 1 Tablespoon of a Sweet Almond Oil 

You can use another oil like olive oil. Sweet almond is what I had on hand. I bought it in bulk from Rainbow Grocery. 

Step 1. Pour the almond oil and soap onto a plate. The oil helps condition the bristles keeping them nice and soft. Using only soap could be a little harsh and dry them out over time.

Step 2. Swirl your brush around in the mixture until it’s clean. Use your hand to agitate and remove any of the residue. 

Step 3. Rinse the brush off in COLD water. I rinse my brush off into a cup of water because you want to keep the brush facing down. You want to prevent the bristles from standing up so water doesn’t drip down the shaft. 

Step 4. Hang the brushes to dry bristles down 24-48 Hours

If you have really product heavy brush, you may need to repeat this and add a little extra soap. 

Clean your brushes every 4-6 months depending on use. In between cleanings, I spray my brushes with this disinfecting solution. I store it in a small 2oz spray bottle. I don’t over do it, because I don’t want to dry out my bristles! 

Have you cleaned your makeup brushes recently? Did you DIY? 

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  1. Really love your blog, which I quite recently started following. Lots of inspiration and things which make you really think, such as your thoughts here on how businesses want us to waste. Crazy!

    On this particular subject though: For real hair brushes – schampoo! For synthetic brushes – makeup remover! Both of which things everybody probably has in one shape or another (well…at least if they have makeup brushes they probably have remover!!)

    Buy fewer products and use them for more purposes, that’s one of my ways of wasting less.

  2. Kathryn – I just made this cleaner and it worked beautifully! Thanks for the recipe and for all the good you’re doing in the world.

  3. I love all of your tips!! What does the almond oil do for the brushes? I’ve always just used castille soap by itself and it works great! Does the almond oil preserve the bristles better?

  4. I have been cleaning my own brushes for years:) my lip stick brush and blush brush I have now had for 26 years. I swish them around in hot water and homemade soap then let dry. Super simple! All my daughters do the same. Awesome blog and love the history of the disposable product and the point of Apple making the phones slow down! Grrrr!

  5. I also use vinegar to disinfect if it’s been a long time since I’ve washed my brushes, or I’m worried about colds and flu. The soap is probably enough, but the vinegar is more for my piece of mind 🙂

  6. You could also try using fabric softener. It has a few cleansing properties but its perfect for maintaining the condition of the bristles. Saw this trick to take care of matted doll hair and thought it would be great for makeup bristles (I only use synthetic brushes because I’m vegan). Try it out! Makes them smell great too!
    As for the almond oil, as someone asked, oil breaks down makeup (you could literally use olive oil, or coconut oil, to remove your makeup, so good for your skin and supereffective even for waterproof makeup.)

  7. Honestly my favorite thing about this is how you hung them to dry. Nice! I saw a lot of people commenting about using commercial products to do the same but I don’t think it helps the cause. I think making those must-have products obsolete not invaluable might be more successful long term. One step at a time though!

  8. just a quick note – if you’re using you’re brushes every day, you should be washing them at least once a month, if not every week or two. especially eye brushes!