Almost every time I talk here about makeup brushes someone asks about brush cleaning. It used to surprise me a little. After all, don't we all wash our brushes and have our own long-set preferences about tools and products? However, I've realized that my own routine has changed and evolved over the years, and now I have a system in place that makes the process quicker and easier (for me). This is how I get through a big pile of brushes (the result of several weeks of neglect) relatively quickly and painlessly.
Detergents and Cleansers:
- A bar of Shea Moisture Black African Soap (available at Ulta and Amazon). This one cleans about 95% of gunk and goop from every brush.
- Hakuhodo brush soap (available from hakuhodousa.com, under "Accessories", $8-$18, depending on size). I use it on my most delicate and expensive brushes, not that the black soap isn't good enough for them, but still.
- A good face cleansing oil. Whatever's on hand. This is especially effective for foundation and concealer brushes.
- Daiso Detergent Cleaning for Markup Puff and Sponge (about $6 on Amazon). Very effective for foundation sponges. I alternate between this one and the Beauty Blender cleansers (liquid and bar). They all work well.
- An anti-bacterial soap to clean the various tools once I'm done.
- Sigma cleaning mat (available at Nordstrom and Ulta, among others). It curves around the drain and has suction cups that hold onto the inside of the sink.
- A full set of Sigma Dry'n Shape Tower. I don't put t together to full height, because it makes sticking the brushes into it harder. I split the levels according to the brushes on hand. I also don't always use the elastic loops. I find the Brush Guards to be more effective and easier to navigate.
- Benjabelle brush trees, both the large original and the mini (for thin and narrow brushes). About $25 each on Amazon. My original is several years old (from around the time they launched), yet reliable and sturdy. The mini feels more rickety and requires a firmer hand some cursing. Or perhaps mine is just defective.
- Brush Guards (those are the plastic net things you can see in the second photo). I have about three packs in every size (there are four sizes). Because I have many brushes. I buy them on Amazon, and with proper care they last for at least a couple of years.
- I collect my dirty brushes over several weeks in the metallic utensil holder you see above. I try not to accumulate too many, even though I can (see: I have many brushes), because otherwise the task starts to seem too daunting, and then I procrastinate (because I can. See above), and it becomes a Situation. What you see here is a larger than should be number of brushes, but it wasn't dire.
- First, I assemble the various drying tools, arrange everything like so, plop the Sigma mat in the sink, carefully place my iPad in the medicine cabinet and go to Lisa Eldridge's channel (she's soothing and I prefer rewatching videos I've already seen, so I don't have to focus too hard). I arrange everything just so, adjust the water temperature to reasonably warm and start.
- Holding the brushes with the hairy head down I wet them, soap and lather, gently rub them against various areas of the mat and rinse them clear, all the while making sure not to saturate and no get water into the ferrule (we don't want to loosen the glue that holds the hair together). That's why double-ended brushes are a pain. Foundation and concealer brush usually need a repeat, and sometimes a combination of cleansers. Artis brushes and their like also require a prayer.
- Once clean, I gently (GENTLY) squeeze (not wring!) the water out of the brush, and arrange it for drying. When only washing a handful of brushes at one go I usually put the brush guards on right away, and stick the brush (hair down, again) in one of the drying tools, where it fits best depending on size and length. This time I was dealing with a few too many brushes, so I first placed them in the racks and only when done, dressed them up in the brush guards (sliding from the handle down). It's a matter of preference, not a rule.
Speaking of rules, when it comes to brush guards (I have the originals as well as various Asian ones), there's just one: Use the smallest size you can for any given brush. You'll be amazed at how well they stretch, and the whole point is to keep your brushes as tight as possible and prevent splaying. The first time you see the shadow/liner guard it looks very narrow, but as you'll see, it fits the largest and fluffiest blending brush easily. I even use it for the smallest Yachiyo brushes though the other ones require the blush brush size.
Double-ended brush need to be laid flat (another reason I dislike them), as do massive Kabuki brushes. I put sponges to dry on towels, but a friend has shown me a photo of a sponge drying rack, so I'll probably get one soon enough (Amazon). Once all is clean and drying I wash the mat with an antibacterial soap, hang it to dry, thank Lisa, and put everything away. Then close the bathroom (cats!) and we wait. Thick and dense synthetic brushes take forever. Artis takes even longer. But within 12-24 hours it's all dry and I can put the brushes back in their various holders and drawers.
This time I also discovered that my medium Yachiyo, a much-loved and oft used brush, was left behind, and I washed it afterwards, and hung it to dry with some sticky tack, as seen on my Instagram.
That's it. I hope it was helpful. If you have more tips, tricks, or favorite products please share them.