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Best makeup brush cleaner 2023: Keep your beauty tools in tip-top condition

Achieve smooth makeup application, and fewer skin problems as a result of bacteria, with our pick of the best makeup brush cleaners

Let’s face it, cleaning makeup brushes isn’t likely to come top of anyone’s list of things to do. Nevertheless, it’s an essential task. While we might conveniently ignore the need to do it, failing to clean your beauty tools regularly will inevitably lead to a build-up of bacteria on brushes, as well as dead skin cells and more. Ideally, you should be cleaning your brushes at least once every two weeks, if not more frequently.

Hygienic considerations aside, brushes need to be cleaned for optimal performance, too. It’s difficult to achieve smooth, even application of makeup from a brush that’s caked in the remainder of previous applications. A quality makeup brush cleaner will ensure you remove such makeup, bacteria and other impurities for brushes that are like new.

So, to ensure you procrastinate no longer, below you’ll find our pick of the best makeup brush cleaners out there right now. But first, read our handy guide on how you go about choosing the best makeup brush cleaner for you.

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Best makeup brush cleaners: At a glance

How to choose the best makeup brush cleaner

What features should I look for in a good makeup cleaner?

When choosing a makeup cleaner, here are some things you should consider:

  • The cleanser should be gentle. If you’re using a soap or cleaner that’s too strong, it can dry out and even damage the bristles of your makeup brushes.
  • As an extra step to prevent damage, look for a cleaner that conditions bristles too. It can help extend the life of your brushes and keep them in optimal shape for longer.
  • Make sure the cleanser is suitable for both natural and synthetic brushes. You don’t want to damage high-quality brushes by using a product that isn’t designed for them.

How do I properly clean makeup brushes?

To start, rinse the tips of your brushes in lukewarm water. Be careful not to submerge your brushes, because this will eventually break down the glue that connects the bristles to the handle. Thereafter, follow the instructions of your specific cleaner.

Some products require you to apply the product directly to the brushes, while others instruct you to apply using a cloth or towel. Some will see you add the product to a bowl of water in which you submerge the brush’s tip.

Once you’ve applied the cleaner, either rinse the brush or rub it across a towel or textured mat until you no longer see any makeup coming away from it. Once your tools are clean, use a paper towel to absorb any excess water. Lay your brushes flat to dry, preferably on a clean towel with the bristles hanging over the edge of the surface. Don’t stand them up, since this will cause water to roll down the bristles and loosen the glue (as above).

How often should you clean makeup brushes?

For optimal performance and hygiene reasons, it’s vital that brushes are cleaned regularly. Depending on the type of product you use, your tools may need to be cleaned anywhere from daily to every couple of weeks.

Brushes that are used to apply powder products generally tend to have less product stick to them, so you may be able to get away with less frequent cleans here – if you must. However, when it comes to brushes for applying cream and liquid products, it’s a different story. To prevent the buildup of old makeup, skin cells and bacteria, these brushes should be cleaned daily.

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The best makeup brush cleaners to buy in 2023

1. MAC Brush Cleanser: Best overall makeup brush cleaner

Price when reviewed: £14 | Check price at Selfridges

Ask for people’s favourite makeup brush cleaner, and the response you’ll hear most often is MAC’s Brush Cleanser. Arriving from this well-known and trusted brand, the formula can be used for either a quick on-the-spot clean or something more thorough.

Apply it directly onto the brushes, or via a towel with which you can wipe the bristles clean. The formula conditions brush bristles as it cleans, helping to prolong the life of your tools. Thankfully, the cleanser dries quickly, so you won’t have to wait around if your decision to clean your beauty tools was a bit last-minute.

As well as deep-cleaning, MAC’s cleanser disinfects your brushes, too, meaning you can rest assured that your brushes are free of bacteria and unlikely to cause harm to your skin. Overall, this brush cleaner is an ideal option for keeping your equipment in top shape.

Key specs – Size: 235ml; Application: Directly on brush, on a towel; Other features: Conditions and disinfects bristles

2. Stylpro Electric Makeup Brush Cleaner: Best makeup brush cleaner kit

Price when reviewed: £21 | Check price at Amazon

For those who’d like the task of cleaning their makeup brushes to be as hassle-free as possible, why not pick up a machine that does the work for you? This electric brush cleaner not only removes excess makeup, dirt and oil, it washes and dries your brushes in as little as 30 seconds, leaving your tools feeling like new in pretty much an instant.

The spinning device comes with eight silicone collars, enabling it to accommodate any size of brush. To use it, simply insert the brush into the collar and attach it to the spinning device. Add some cleanser to your Tritan Unbreakable Bowl and dip the brush into it.

The device spins the brush at a speed of 1800-2200rpm, allowing it to both clean and dry the brush in mere seconds. Although the kit arrives with sample packets of Stylpro cleanser, you can use any brush cleaner solution of your choice. Cleaning doesn’t get any quicker than this

Key specs – Size: 20ml; Application: Place handle in spinning device, brush in bowl with brush cleanser; Other features: Includes sample cleanser and batteries

3. Sigma SigMagic Brushampoo Foam: Best makeup brush cleaning shampoo

Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at Amazon

With a formula made up of a short list of ingredients, as well as antimicrobial properties, this cleansing foam promises to keep your brushes clean and healthy. The primary ingredient here is virgin coconut oil, which together with the rest creates a foam that penetrates deep into bristles, loosening even the most caked-on makeup and dirt.

One major benefit of this shampooing foam is that it helps to actually prevent the build-up of makeup and dirt on your brushes, which may mean your tools need cleaning less often, depending on your use. The hypoallergenic formula is free of fragrance and preservatives, making it suitable for people with allergies or sensitive skin.

As previously mentioned, antimicrobial properties not only ensure bacteria is removed, but its growth is actively prevented. Cruelty-free, vegan and sulphate-free, this natural formula is safe for all.

Key specs – Size: 200ml; Application: Apply 1-3 pumps to wet bristles; Other features: Simple ingredients, works for both natural and synthetic brushes

4. Ecotools Makeup Brush Shampoo: Best vegan makeup brush cleaner

Price when reviewed: £15 | Check price at Amazon

This popular brush cleaner is a great option for those looking for an eco-friendly option. A vegan, dermatologist-tested cleanser, it’s non-toxic, cruelty-free and 95% biodegradable. It even arrives in recyclable packaging.

Incredibly simple to use, simply wet the bristles on your brush and massage a small amount of shampoo into them; rinse the brushes under running water and then lay them flat to dry. You’ll need only a drop of the shampoo to clean brushes , so expect this bottle to last you some time.

As well as cleaning your brushes, the formula is also designed to condition the bristles on brushes, keeping them in good shape. Free of fragrance, parabens and petroleum-based ingredients, the Ecotools Makeup Brush Shampoo is kind to your skin, tools and the environment.

Key specs – Size: 177ml; Application: Dampen bristles, add small amount of shampoo to brushes; Other features: Hypoallergenic, paraben-free

5. Boots Cosmetic Brush Cleaning Mat: Best makeup brush cleaner mat

Price when reviewed: £4 | Check price at Boots

While this might at first seem somewhat superfluous, once you’ve tried a brush-cleaning mat, you won’t be without it. For a very small cost, this silicone mat offers a textured surface on which you can clean your brushes, bringing some much needed extra assistance.

To use, attach the mat to the sink using the suction pad; this will ensure it stays in place as you scrub your brushes against it. Once in position, dampen your brush and add cleaner to it as normal. Once the cleaner is lathered up, gently rub the bristles along the mat in a circular motion. Keep doing this until you see no more signs of makeup, and on rinsing you’re left with a clear stream of water.

There are different textures around the mat which are designed for specific brush types. The hearts are best for large brush heads, the straight and waved lines are for foundation brushes and the dotted section works best on small brushes.

Key specs – Size: Measurements not specified; Application: Attach to sink basin, add cleaner to wet brush, rub in circular motions on the mat; Other features: Deep grooves, multiple patterns for different brushes

Check price at Boots

6. Bobbi Brown Conditioning Brush Cleanser: Best conditioning makeup brush cleaner

Price when reviewed: £12 | Check price at Bobbi Brown

If your goal is long-term care of your brushes as well as cleaning them, the Bobbi Brown Conditioning Brush Cleanser is the perfect choice. This gel cleaner is gentle on your brushes while it works deep into the bristles. The cleaner conditions the bristles, working to protect them and extend the life of your tools.

A highly effective formula, you’ll need only a pea-sized amount for a thorough clean of your brushes. Note that the ingredients list includes peppermint, so it might not be ideal for those with sensitive skin.

As mentioned, Bobbi Brown’s Conditioning Brush Cleanser is designed to extend the life of your brushes by actively preventing damage. Bristles remain soft and supple thanks to the conditioning ingredients, and the gel formula is less likely to run down into the glue that attaches the bristles to the handle.

Key specs – Size: 100ml; Application: Lightly massage a small amount of product into damp brush head, rinse thoroughly; Other features: Gel texture, won’t damage brushes

Check price at Bobbi Brown

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