How to Clean Your Brushes
Chaos just asked on the Wall about cleaning brushes, and I thought that would be a good thing to address in a post. Since I’ve told you all to go buy brushes, I should probably tell you how to clean them, huh?
I clean my brushes about once a week; sometimes more frequently, sometimes less. Some brushes I clean every day or two. I’m trying to accumulate more backup brushes of these types so that I don’t have to wash them so often. From start to finish it takes me about 15 minutes depending on how many brushes I’m cleaning (usually around 12-15).
Using a plain old drinking glass (a short one, like a rocks glass, 12 oz. or so), I first put in 3-5 drops of tea tree oil (which is a natural antibacterial agent), then about three pumps of cleanser. You can use almost any gentle cleanser; I use facial cleansers that for one reason or another I didn’t like on my face. If it takes makeup off your face, it will take makeup off your brush. Hand soaps are not as good and can dry out your brush bristles. Liquid dish detergent is OK in a pinch; shampoos (especially baby shampoos) are fine; facial cleansers are fine. Right now I’m using a pHisoderm cleanser that I accidentally bought in the wrong form (cream instead of gel).
I then put about an inch of warm water in the glass and swirl it around using one of the brushes I intend to clean until the cleanser and tea tree oil are mixed in. I plop in as many other brushes as I can reasonably fit in there, and I let them sit for a minute or two. While you are waiting, this is a good time to collect and sharpen any cosmetic pencils you might need for the week. It takes just the right amount of time. If your brushes are really dirty or you have been using them in a lot of cream products, you might want to try a brief “wash” with olive oil first to help loosen some of the oily bits. Wipe well with a paper towel and then clean as usual.
After they have soaked for just a minute or two, I turn the faucet on a tiny bit (warm water). I put another drop of cleanser into my left palm, pull out a brush, and swirl it around in the cleanser until all the color comes out of it. If in doubt, rinse off your hand and try it with another drop; eventually you will not get any more color out of the brush. Rinse under warm water. Be careful not to get water where the metal ferrule of the brush meets the brush handle — eventually this can loosen and the brush head can come off.
I usually take a paper towel and press the brush loosely to get out some of the water. Then I gently reshape it (most of the time you do not have to be super-precise) and lay it down to dry, either horizontal or (better) tilting downwards so that the water runs down the hair and out of the brush, not up the hair into the ferrule. Again, this can weaken the glue and then brush hairs will start to come out more easily. I usually take a roll of grippy shelf liner and put it on the counter; I can balance brushes on it with the brush heads pointing downward and they don’t slip off. Or you could just do a rubber band around a clump of brushes and push the hook of a coat hanger through it and hang them upside down.
For big puffy brushes or ones that you really want to be sure come out the same shape as they went in, you can use a length of toilet tissue wrapped gently but firmly around the brush head, or, if your brush is really big, the tube from the inside of a roll of toilet tissue or a roll of paper towels (you can cut these and get several drying sheaths out of one paper towel roll). They take a little longer to dry this way, but you maintain the shape. The bath tissue and the cardboard do also absorb some water, which helps.
Other tips and tricks? Do you have a favorite way of cleaning brushes or a favorite product to use? Leave your ideas in the comments!