Free shipping on contiguous U.S. orders $99+. Free global shipping on orders $150+

The 14 Best Makeup Brush Cleansers to Freshen Up Your Go-To Tools

The 14 Best Makeup Brush Cleansers to Freshen Up Your Go-To Tools

The 14 Best Makeup Brush Cleansers to Freshen Up Your Go-To Tools

Remove product build-up and bacteria while keeping bristles fluffy and soft.

A collage of makeup brush cleaners we recommend on a gray background


Keeping your makeup brushes clean is essential for skin health and the efficacy of your brushes. The hard truth is that dirty brushes and sponges can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria, oil, dead skin cells, and other grime—all of which consistently transfer onto your skin (and into your products) every time you use them. Plus, dirty brushes simply don’t work as well. “Taking the time to clean your makeup brushes will give you the best application possible,” says beauty expert Anisa Telwar Kaicker. “Built-up product and pigment on dirty brushes can leave your makeup looking streaky and discolored.”

Here’s the good news: A litany of different makeup brush cleansers make it easier than ever to get your brushes (and sponges) squeaky clean with minimal effort. We researched dozens of makeup brush cleaners, evaluating each on size, key ingredients, lather, and ability to keep brushes soft. After consulting with a makeup brush expert and professional makeup artist, and considering dozens of options, we landed on these top-rated choices.

What We Like
  • Works quickly

  • Keeps brushes soft

  • Conditions bristles as it cleans them

What We Don't Like
  • Can come out too fast

Key Ingredients: Sodium trideceth sulfate, hydrolyzed wheat protein | Size: 7.9 oz | Cruelty-Free: No

There’s a good reason why the MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser is a longtime best-seller. It’s super easy to use—you can apply it directly to the brush or onto a towel and rub the brush against the towel—and it helps condition bristles while cleaning them. It’s a top pick for Kaicker, who says that it’s extremely effective at removing debris from brushes.

What We Like
  • Travel-friendly

  • Can be used daily

  • Dries quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Only available in one small size

Key Ingredients: Alcohol denat | Size: 2 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Not only is this a super affordable pick, but it’s also very portable, making it the ideal addition to any makeup bag. Mist the quick-drying spray onto your brushes after each use to ensure they’re fresh and ready to go for the next day.

What We Like
  • Rinses out easily

  • Lightweight gel texture

  • Removes powder residue well

What We Don't Like
  • Hard to get a good lather

Key Ingredients: Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, glycerin | Size: 4 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

This wallet-friendly pick has a gel-like consistency, lathers nicely, and rinses and removes residue easily. It also pairs beautifully with a brush-cleaning mat (keep reading for our favorite one of those). And since it’s alcohol-free, you don’t have to worry about it drying out your natural bristle brushes.

What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • No rinsing required

  • Smells nice

What We Don't Like
  • Can leave a residue

Key Ingredients: Isoparaffin hydrocarbon, hydrotreated heavy naptha | Size: 8 oz, 32 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

This is a staple for many pro makeup artists, largely because it’s not just a cleanser. It’s a 99.99% antimicrobial disinfectant, making it the choice for anyone who wants to ensure their brushes are completely bacteria-free. The pro-grade formula works equally well on synthetic and natural bristles alike, and it comes in three sizes.

What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • Budget-friendly

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don't Like
  • Can leave a residue

Key Ingredients: Decyl glucoside, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate | Size: 6 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Cleaning your brushes regularly is even more imperative if you have sensitive skin, but making sure you do so with a gentle cleanser is also paramount. The last thing you want is a formula that’s potentially going to elicit more irritation, which is why this pick is ideal. It’s gentle, plant-based, free of potentially irritating fragrance, and it’s dermatologist-tested. Just FYI, it’s meant to be used for a weekly deep clean rather than a daily freshening.

What We Like
  • Cleans multiple brushes at once

  • Made from BPA-free silicone

  • Seven textures designed to clean different types of brush

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't include a cleanser

Key Ingredients: Silicone | Size: 9 x 6.5 in. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Up your cleansing game by pairing your fave cleanser with this clever multi-textured mat. Suction it to your sink, and you can effectively clean all your makeup brushes in one fell swoop; it touts seven different textures designed to clean all sizes and types of brush. Just swirl your brushes against the mat and let the BPA-free silicone nubs do the hard work for you.

What We Like
  • Natural formula

  • Travel-friendly

  • Antibacterial and antimicrobial

What We Don’t Like
  • Requires a lot of rinsing

Key Ingredients: Coconut milk | Size: 2.6 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Solid cleansers are the choice for travel since there’s no stressing about spills. This popular solid is a great option for anyone who wants a natural, vegan-friendly cleanser. It contains coconut milk, vegetable-based glycerin, and vitamin E. Plus, it’s naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial and also deeply conditioning for your bristles.

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Travel-friendly

  • Locking-lid

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn’t clean as thoroughly as a wash

Key Ingredients: Alcohol | Size: 30 wipes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

While it’s advisable to deep clean your brushes frequently, it’s not always possible. If you're in a rush or on the go, these cleansing wipes provide an easy alternative. All you have to do is gently massage the bristles with these wipes until they’re free of product build-up, let the brush dry for a few minutes, and you’re good to go.

What We Like
  • Works on brushes and sponges

  • Comes with a built-in mat

  • Cleanser and scrub mat in one

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for use on the go

Key Ingredients: Sodium palmate | Size: 5.3 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Brushes aren’t the only tools that need to be cleaned regularly. Reach for this option for your makeup sponges. The solid cleanser is a revamped formula of the brand’s best-selling wash. Now it contains charcoal to further help pull out gunk and grime from both sponges and brushes. While it is pricey, it does come with a silicone scrubbing mat to aid in the cleaning process and double as a convenient drying stand.

What We Like
  • Works like a washing machine for your brushes

  • Works on many different size brushes

  • Dries bristles in 10 seconds

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn’t come with a cleanser

Size: Package, 5.63 x 5.51 x 4.21 in. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

If you really want to make the brush cleaning process easier and more foolproof than ever, this electric device will do all of the hard work for you. Attach your brush to the electric spinner (it features attachments for eight different sizes), add some water and the cleanser of your choice to the bowl, turn it on, and watch in amazement as the gunk and residue immediately come off. Dump out the liquid and spin again to get your brushes dry in 10 seconds flat.

What We Like
  • Nice scent

  • Can be used dry

  • Cleans and disinfects brushes

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for deep cleaning

Key Ingredients: Cetylpyridinium Chloride | Size: 4.05 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

When you need to clean your brushes in between applying makeup, reach for this handy spray. It dries quickly and doesn't need to be rinsed, making it great to use on the go or when you're applying different shades and don't want to mix them up. This lightly scented option from NYX cleans and disinfects brushes, and leaves them feeling soft.

What We Like
  • Helps remove stains

  • Simple ingredient list

  • Lathers really well

What We Don't Like
  • Must rinse nozzle after use

Key Ingredients: Coconut oil | Size: 6.76 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

There’s something deeply satisfying about using a foaming brush cleanser like this one from Sigma Beauty to get your brushes extra sudsy and squeaky clean. It lathers up nicely thanks to coconut oil, not sulfates (a synthetic detergent that can cause skin irritation), so bristle softness and quality are maintained. It even helps get rid of tough foundation and blush stains. This large bottle should last quite a while, too, as a little goes a long way.

What We Like
  • Kills up to 99.9% of viruses and bacteria

  • Doubles as a brush holder

  • Sanitizes in five minutes

What We Don't Like
  • Not a substitute for cleaning with water and soap

Size:  9.8 x 3.5 in. | Color: White and gold

In an ideal world, we’d properly lather, rinse, and dry our full collection of makeup brushes each week. But real talk: who has that kind of time? If you want to keep your brushes bacteria-free between washes, reach for this sanitizer, which uses UV-C light and ozone technology to eliminate 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. Simply pop your brushes inside the chamber (it fits seven), close the lid, and press the button. Five minutes later, they’ll be good to go.  

What We Like
  • Uses natural ingredients

  • Works on natural and synthetic bristles

  • Good on-the-go option

What We Don't Like
  • Not for deep cleaning

Key Ingredients: Witch hazel, grapefruit oil, seaweed extract | Size: 4 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

If you wouldn’t use chemical products on your skin then why would you use them to clean your makeup brushes? This quick-drying cleansing spray from Jane Iredale relies on a cocktail of botanical ingredients to remove grime and reduce bacteria, including antimicrobial witch hazel, and conditioning grapefruit oil and seaweed extracts. A quick spritz and you’ll have cleaner, fresher, fluffier brushes in a flash.

What to Look for in a Makeup Brush Cleaner

  • Type: Ideally, you'll have plenty of time in front of a sink to do a thorough wash with either a brush shampoo or a solid formulation that lathers nicely (and rids each brush of gunk and makeup). But for those times you don't, a spray cleaner that air dries is a great bet. Choose a brush cleaner based on what your daily habits and beauty routines are and how often you're in a place where you can do a thorough cleaning that involves a sink and running water. 
  • Gentle formula: With proper care, your makeup brushes should last for years. Byrdie contributor and makeup artist Ashley Rebecca notes that “if you don't wash your brushes and take care of them, you will start to see over time that they become very stiff in texture, usually resulting in them just needing to be thrown out.” Because it's so important to wash them regularly, you'll want to choose a gentle, ideally alcohol-free formula that will not damage your brush’s bristles.
  • Effective key ingredients: While you don't want to overdo it with harsh chemicals that will make your brushes lose bristles quickly, a cleaner should contain some type of solvent to help break down product build-up. You can even choose one that doesn't require any water, like a spray.
  • Is a makeup brush cleaner worth it?

    Yes. It's best to clean your makeup brushes with a gentle cleanser specifically meant for them, as opposed to a harsh cleanser like dish soap that can strip your brushes and leave them damaged and scratchy over time.

  • What is the easiest way to clean makeup brushes?

    For liquid makeup cleaners, Rebecca instructs users to massage the product “into the hair [of the brush], move it back and forth on the mat to really work the product into the brush, then rinse under water until it runs clear and there’s nothing left to get out.”

  • So, how often should you actually be cleaning your brushes?

    Kaicker says it depends on how frequently you use the brush and the type of formula you’re using it with. “Cream and liquid formulas tend to pick up and hold on to oil and dirt more so than powder products,” she explains. As a general rule of thumb, she suggests cleaning your complexion brushes at least once per week and other ones (eye shadow, highlighter, etc.) every two to three weeks.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. After years of not cleaning her makeup brushes regularly, she recently committed to making it a weekly activity. The Jenny Patinkin cleanser on this list is her current go-to.

Esme Benjamin is a freelance writer, editor, and podcaster based in New York. She began writing and editing for the Byrdie commerce team in 2023. As a wellness expert, she has a particular interest in naturally-derived beauty ingredients and the intersection of beauty rituals and self-care.

Additional guidance was provided by:

  • Anisa Telwar Kaicker, a makeup brush expert and the founder & CEO of ANISA Beauty and Anisa International.
  • Ashley Rebecca, a professional makeup artist in New York City and Byrdie contributing writer.
Previous post