The 10 Best Makeup Brush Cleaners of 2023

Our top pick is the MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser because of its versatile and powerful formula.

In This Article

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10 Best Makeup Brush Cleaners of 2022

Amazon / MAC Cosmetics

While cleaning makeup brushes might be a chore that often falls by the wayside, it’s definitely something you want to prioritize. Brushes and sponges can harbor bacteria, which can cause breakouts. Not only that but allowing product to build up can also impact the performance of your brushes, leaving you with patchy-looking makeup. 

To find the best makeup brush cleaners, we spent hours researching the top cleaners and evaluating them on their formula, ingredients, ease of use, and price. We also spoke with Anisa Telwar Kaicker, founder and CEO of ANISA Beauty and Anisa International

For the best clean, use “lukewarm water and a lightly foaming cleanser,” says Kaicker. “If you’re dealing with intensive product buildup, an antibacterial dish soap can also help to remove bacteria and oil.”

The MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser is our top pick because it can be used on brushes and sponges alike. It can also be used with or without water, which means that it really shows up for both quick and deep cleans.

Here are more of the best makeup brush cleaners.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Makeup Brush Cleaner

MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser

4.7
MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser

Nordstrom

Who it's for: People who want an all-purpose brush cleaner that can be used on both brushes and sponges.

Who it isn’t for: People who are sensitive to fragrance. 

MAC is known for its professional-grade makeup products, especially their full-coverage, studio-finish foundations, so it makes sense that they would also make a great cleaner to pull these heavier formulas off of your brushes and makeup applicators. This particular cleaner is designed to nourish bristles and sponge fibers so that they can last longer—even if you use them every single day. 

To use, apply a dime-sized amount of the cleanser to the tip of the brush bristles. To distribute it throughout the bristles, you can brush them along a paper towel or cloth. From here, you can continue to brush until there are no longer signs of product left behind, or you can run the brush under water. It leaves behind a fresh smell that’s faint, although those sensitive to fragrance may want to steer clear.  

Price at time of publish: $19

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Liquid
  • Size: 7.9 ounces

Best Budget Makeup Brush Cleaner

e.l.f. Makeup Brush Shampoo

e.l.f. Brush Shampoo Daily Use Formula

Amazon

Who it's for: People who want an affordable and effective product for frequent cleanings. 

Who it isn’t for: People who have a lot of product buildup. 

Although this cleanser costs just a fraction of many of those on our list, it comes in a sleek bottle that looks incredibly chic—so no one will suspect that it only costs $5. This bottle also manages to hold a significant amount of liquid, so you’ll get plenty of use out of it. The formula itself is free of phthalates and parabens and contains citric acid. This not only works to sanitize the brushes, but it leaves them smelling fresh, too.

To use this cleaner, simply apply a small amount of the shampoo to the bristles at the base of the brush. Then run it under water as you work the formula up through the tips of the bristles. Make sure you do this until the water runs clear, indicating that it’s free of built-up foundation or shadows. From there, gently squeeze the brush’s bristles to wring out the water, and re-shape before laying out to dry. 

Price at time of publish: $5

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Liquid
  • Size: 4.1 ounces

Best Antimicrobial Makeup Brush Cleaner

Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner

Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner

Sephora

Who it's for: People who want a cleaner for both deep cleans as well as quick touch-ups. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a more conditioning brush cleaner.

This makeup brush cleaner bills itself as professional-grade, and that is due to its antimicrobial capabilities, which will kill up to 99.99 percent of germs and bacteria. Not only that, but it can tackle stubborn waterproof and long-wear makeup

To use, pour the cleaner into a shallow dish and dip the brush in up to three-quarters of the way up the bristles. Once dipped, immediately pull out the brush and wipe it clean. You can repeat this as many times as you want to make sure your brushes are as clean as you would like. Because no water is needed, this is a great option for travel, too (the cleaner is available in a travel-size version as well). Plus, it leaves your brushes with a pleasing vanilla scent. 

Price at time of publish: $24

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Liquid
  • Size: 4, 8, 16, or 32 ounces

Best Makeup Brush Cleaner for Sensitive Skin

EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo

EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo

Amazon

Who it's for: People whose skin is easily irritated by harsh ingredients. 

Who it isn’t for: People looking for a heavy-duty cleaner for significant build-up.

This is a great option for those with sensitive skin because it is packed full of eco-friendly ingredients that won’t irritate your skin or cause harm to the environment. It’s also fragrance- and paraben-free. Instead of synthetic cleaners, it uses citric acid to wick away dirt and impurities, which leaves behind bristles that are squeaky clean. 

Another great aspect of this cleanser is the fact that it works well on both sponges and brushes with synthetic or natural bristles. Simply apply a dab of the shampoo and massage it into the bristles of the brush while running it under water. Do this until the water runs clear. It will leave the bristles of your brushes feeling extra-soft, as it works to not only clean them but leave behind nourished fibers. 

Price at time of publish: $8

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Liquid
  • Size: 6 ounces

Best Spray Makeup Brush Cleaner

IT Cosmetics IT’s Your Brush Love Makeup Brush Cleaner

IT Cosmetics IT’s Your Brush Love Makeup Brush Cleaner

Amazon

Who it's for: People who want a fast-drying spray cleaner for quick touch-ups in between makeup applications.

Who it isn’t for: People who prefer to soak their brushes.

Designed for natural and synthetic bristles, this cleaner offers up a strong spray that will make it easy to leave your brushes significantly cleaner without the scrubbing or soaking involved with liquid cleaners. The best part about it is that it contains nourishing ingredients that not only improve the health and lifespan of the bristles but work to condition the skin as well. 

The formula is enhanced with peptides, collagen, antioxidants, and vitamins. This means that you don’t have to worry about any cleaner residue leading to skin breakouts. And while it’s good for the skin, it’s also good for the bristles as it uses oils to leave them looking and feeling clean. It uses grapefruit seed oil, in addition to other natural oils, to wick away all of the impurities and makeup build-up from the brushes. 

Price at time of publish: $13

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Liquid
  • Size: 1 or 3.4 ounces

Best Solid Makeup Brush Cleaner

e.l.f. Cosmetics Solid Makeup Brush and Sponge Cleaner

e.l.f. Cosmetics Solid Makeup Brush and Sponge Cleaner

Amazon

Who it's for: People who apply their makeup with sponges. 

Who it isn’t for: People who primarily use traditional makeup brushes. 

Makeup sponge users, rejoice. This solid cleaner is an incredibly effective way to leave your hard-to-clean makeup applicators looking as good as new. It comes in a small, round screw-top case, so you can easily pop it in your makeup bag and take it with you when you travel. It’s also vegan, cruelty-free, and free of phthalates and parabens.

To use this little solid cleanser, wet your sponge and gently rub it across the surface of the solid cleanser. Do this until you have worked it into a lather, which will penetrate all of the surfaces of the sponge and wick out makeup build-up. Wring out the sponge as you go and continue to rinse it under water until the water runs clear. When you’re finished, it’s important to make sure that you leave the cap off of the cleanser to allow it to fully dry. If you close the lid while it’s damp, it makes it easier for bacteria to grow. 

Price at time of publish: $5

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Solid
  • Size: 1.6 ounces

Best Makeup Brush Cleaner for Deep Cleaning

Beautyblender Liquid Blendercleanser

Beautyblender Liquid Blendercleanser

Amazon

Who it's for: People who want a cleaner for deep cleaning brushes and sponges. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a cleaner for quick cleanups in between makeup applications. 

Since this product is made by the Beautyblender brand, it can definitely be used to clean sponges; however, it’s also useful when it comes to brushes. It’s completely free of dyes and skin irritants like parabens. To make sure that it avoids irritation, the cleanser is soy-based and doesn’t produce much of a lather. This allows it to break down easier and makes it more earth-friendly. 

To use on a sponge or Beautyblender, apply a dime-sized amount and run the sponge under water. Work it into a lather and continue until the water runs clear. You can also apply this same amount to the tip of a brush to get the same results. That said, this is also ideal for soaking brushes and sponges, which is great if you have a lot of build-up or stains on sponges. 

Price at time of publish: $13

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Liquid
  • Size: 3 or 5 ounces 

Best Makeup Sponge Cleaner

Beautyblender Blendercleanser Solid

Beautyblender Blendercleanser Solid

Amazon

Who it's for: People who want a cleaner primarily for use on sponge applicators. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a travel-friendly cleaner. 

The great part about this cleanser is that it comes with both a solid soap-like bar and a silicone mat. Together, they work to thoroughly clean sponges so that you are never worried about all of the built-up bacteria growing inside of them. The soap comes in an unscented version and a lavender-infused version for a fresh essence. 

To use, remove the silicone mat that sits over the solid bar of soap. Dampen the sponge and run it over the soap, then work it into a lather by gently rubbing it across the silicone mat. The mat is enhanced with textured bumps that work to massage sponges and loosen up any product that is stuck up deep inside. Do this until the water runs clear, then squeeze out the sponge and rinse off the mat. Leave the lid off to allow the soap to fully dry before putting the lid back on top. 

Price at time of publish: From $9

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Solid with silicone mat
  • Size: 1 ounce

Best Electric Makeup Brush Cleaner

RICRIS Makeup Brush Cleaner and Dryer

RICRIS Makeup Brush Cleaner and Dryer

Amazon

Who it's for: People who want an automated brush cleaning system.

Who it isn’t for: People who want a budget-friendly cleaning option.

If the work of it all keeps you from cleaning your brushes as regularly as you would like, this little machine is going to be an absolute game-changer. The electric cleaner makes it easy to thoroughly clean your brushes without making any sort of mess—and it makes cleanup a total breeze. It also acts as a dryer, which is great if you only remember to clean your brushes moments before you need to use them.

The set includes a small bowl, which you fill with water and an accompanying liquid cleanser (not included), as well as eight different “collars,” to accommodate different brush sizes. This makes the bowl perfectly leak-proof. The collars fit over the ends of the brushes and attach to a spinner, which will quickly spin the brushes in the bowl to get rid of all of the product build-up. When you’re done cleaning the brush, raise it just above the water while still in the bowl, and press the spinner again to make sure it’s completely dry. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Liquid (not included)
  • Size: N/A

Best Makeup Brush Cleaning Mat

Norate Silicone Brush Cleaning Mat

Norate Silicone Brush Cleaning Mat

Amazon

Who it's for: People who want to clean significant product buildup. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a quick clean or a travel-friendly option.

This little brush-cleaning mat is made of silicone and features lots of different textures. All of the textures are meant to get deep inside the bristles as you move the brush across the mat. It also has a suction cup on the back that makes it easy to stick to a sink or bathtub so that you can effectively scrub the brushes. 

To use, apply a drop of brush cleaner or dish soap to your brush. From there, run the brush under water and massage the brush into the mat. If you are doing this in a kitchen sink, you could even use the sprayer to rinse the brush as you go. 

Price at time of publish: $8

Product Details: 

  • Formula: Silicone mat
  • Size: N/A

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser because it can pull heavy, built-on product from both makeup brushes and sponges, all while nourishing their fibers. Plus, it can be used with or without water, making it a great option for both deep cleans and quick touch-ups in between uses. 

For a more budget-friendly option, the e.l.f. Cosmetics Brush Shampoo costs just a fraction of other cleaners on our list, yet it effectively removes makeup, sanitizes brushes, and leaves behind a fresh, clean scent. 

How to Shop for Makeup Brush Cleaners Like a Pro

Type 

Makeup brush cleaners typically fall into one of two categories: liquids or solids. If you have sponges, it can be better to opt for a solid that allows you to fully massage the build-up out of the inner parts of the sponge. For bristles, liquids or sprays are great as they can penetrate deep into the hairs. 

Formula 

For long-standing buildup, it can be best to look for oil-based washes or for liquids that specify that they are good for soaking. Solid formulas are typically great for sponges, but they can be used for brushes as well. Most importantly, look for formulas that are paraben- and irritant-free, as some of the formula could be left behind on your brushes that will be touching your skin. 

Use

Kaicker recommends cleaning your brushes at least every other week. That said, if you aren’t using your makeup brushes every day, you can push that back to once per month. If you are traveling and hoping to wipe your brushes down on the road, a spray might work best, as that would be the easiest way to gently wipe away germs after each use. For deeper cleans, look for liquids that allow for soaking or solids that will need ample time to dry after you’re finished cleaning.

Questions You Might Ask

How do you properly clean makeup brushes?

While lots of people think of makeup brush cleaning as a huge undertaking that has to be done all at once, Kaicker recommends “quickly wiping them off with a tissue to remove excess product” each time you use it to lessen the load and reduce overall product build-up. This will keep them cleaner in between washes. As for deeper washes, it’s important to use makeup brush cleaners because they are designed to remove oil and grime. You can rinse them in lukewarm water and use the wash as you go, or you can allow them to soak beforehand if you have a lot of built-up grime that needs to be broken down.

How often should you clean makeup brushes?

In addition to wiping off your makeup brushes after each use, Kaicker says that people should conduct deeper cleanings bi-weekly or monthly, depending on how often they use their brushes. 

In general, if you’re using the brushes multiple times per week or every single day, try to make sure you wash them every other week. If you’re only using them once in a while, it’s OK to mark it as a monthly task. And while sharing makeup brushes isn’t ideal, if you do share them with someone else, make sure you wash them before and after every single use. 

Can you use regular soap to clean makeup brushes?

Makeup brush cleaners are specifically designed to slough away dirt and grime while maintaining the integrity of your brushes, but Kaicker says that it is OK to use antibacterial dish soap for brushes that have extensive product buildup. In this case, you can put a drop or two of the dish soap on a cleansing pad and run under water until the water runs clear—or you can allow them to soak in lukewarm water that contains dish soap before rinsing them really well.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Brittany Loggins, a freelance writer who specializes in beauty and lifestyle content. To find the best makeup brush cleaners, she thoroughly researched the various types on the market, considering factors such as formula, ingredients, ease of use, and price. For expert insight, she spoke to Anisa Telwar Kaicker, founder and CEO of ANISA Beauty and Anisa International.

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