Make Up

Ten Brush Cleaning Mistakes You Could Be Making and How to Change Your Ways

I make no effort to hide my dislike for the extreme sport that is cleaning one’s brush collection. It is by far my worst chore and is the main reason that I wear only brown tones on my eyes (it’s easier to use the same brushes when you only ever do one look).

That being said, I do take the job very seriously, and pay a lot of attention to how I clean my darling Zoeva brushes (and their slightly less appreciated Cala sisters). These are some of the common mistakes I have seen people fall victim to, and some quick and easy ways to fix them!

1. Letting the tap run during the wash

And no, this does not just count for the Capetonians. Its 2018 people, we all care about water wastage now. Letting the tap run, and run, and run, and RUN while you clean your brushes is unforgivable.

You need to open the tap only twice (for a split second) each time you wash a brush: once to wet the bristles before you apply soap, and once to quickly rinse the foam after you have squeezed as much out as you can with your fingers.

You can even keep a little cup of clean water to dip the bristles in before starting with your soap, which means you’re only opening the tap while rinsing at the end!

2. Washing one brush at a time

Keeping with the theme of wasting water, who’s guilty of washing one brush at a time? There is no brush dirty enough to warrant the special care of an individual wash. We don’t have the time or the water for that!

These brushes have the same bristle length, making them easy to clean together.

By grouping brushes of similar bristle length, density or type, you can wash three or four at a time, while still effectively cleaning the bristles. This lowers the amount of times you’re opening and closing the tap significantly, and means that the painful cleaning process takes you a lot less time.

3. Not washing your brushes often enough

Think of applying makeup with brush that’s being used as a tester at Dischem. Gross right? Well this is how I start to view my brushes after the third week (okay sixth week) of not washing them. Even if you only apply makeup to a clean face, you’re still picking up skin cells and dirt, as well as makeup, every time you use your brushes.

Be sure to wash your brushes as often as your use of them requires. Eyeshadow brushes can get stained from strong pigments if left unwashed for too long, and face brushes that have been used with cream or liquid products can get clumpy and sticky.

4. Washing your brushes too often

I know. First I tell you not to wash too often, now I tell you that you’re not washing often enough, but washing bristles too much, especially natural fibres, can cause damage such as breakage, dryness, shedding or even weakening of the glue in the ferrule (silver thing that attaches the bristles to the handle).

Whenever possible, choose to spray a brush cleanser (like this one from Woolworths) as opposed to cleaning your tools with good old soap and water. Not only will it save you time, but it will save Cape Town water.

Or, you can do what I do, and wear only one type of blush, one shade of highlighter and three eyeshadows, meaning you never have to wash your brushes again!

5. Using the wrong soap

Please don’t use Sunlight soap… Even if you do use cheap brushes, none of them deserve that treatment. Using harsh soaps can dry your bristles out terribly, and do serious harm to natural haired brushes.

I suggest using a mild, yet effective option like baby shampoo. As most of my brushes are synthetic, this does the trick perfectly, but if you notice that some of your brushes are feeling dry after being cleaned, mix one part olive oil with three parts baby shampoo to keep the bristles soft.

6. Not using the right tools

Certain brushes need to be cleaned with your hands/fingers, think long fibre brushes like those for blush and powder. But shorter brushes such as liner brushes or smudging tools can be tricky to effectively clean, which means water and time wastage.

Shorter eyeshadow brushes REQUIRE this pink thingy. This little guy can be bought at Dischem or Click’s, and many brands make their own variations. It has a little suction cup on the back, making it easy to hold between your fingers or stick to the side of your basin.

Running short bristles over the bumps on the plastic quickly and effectively clean them.

7. Soaking your brushes

If you want to ruin your brushes, soak them in water. Go on, let the water seep into the ferrule and ruin the glue holding the bristles in place. But seriously, make sure you do everything possible to avoid getting soap and water into that little silver holder thing. It is what keeps the brush together, and can be the difference between brushes lasting years (like mine) or ruining expensive makeup tools.

Make sure you only allow water to TRICKLE over the brush tip, ensuring it doesn’t wet anything above the end of the ferrule. As you can see above, water should never pass the point I am indicating with my finger, as it can also enter from the top, and damage the glue holding the ferrule and the handle together.

8. Not keeping your brushes upright while washing

How many of us pay such close attention to how we wash our brushes? Try and make it a habit to only ever wash your brushes with the bristles facing down. This ties in with the point above, as it is also a way to reduce the amount of damage done to the glue by keeping the ferrule dry (from both ends).

By tilting the brush upward, so that the bristles pass the horizontal line, you’re allowing water to run back into the chamber holding the bristles. Again, only allow the area my hand is covering in the picture above to get wet!

9. Laying your brushes flat while drying (or worse, standing them up straight!)

Again, in an effort to keep everything except the bristles dry during the washing and drying process, make sure you do not stand a wet makeup brush upright, or even on its side, as moisture is able to get inside the ferrule.

Brush gets wet. Water in the ferrule. Glue dissolves. Brush gets sad. You understand the process by now.

How I easily solve this problem, is by laying a towel out, and rolling it once or twice (length ways) to create a ways for my brushes to dry at an angle. See my image above if you’re confused.

10. Being too rough with the bristles

Both synthetic and natural bristles can be prone to shedding and breakage if handled too aggressively. Rubbing the brush tip too hard into your palm or drying the water out very roughly can shorten the lifespan of your brush.

I suggest gently squeezing excess water from the bristles and laying the brush out to dry like shown above, smoothing them into a point. When the brushes are about halfway dry, softly fluff the bristles out by running them over your fingertips, before letting them dry completely.

Here the bristles have been smoothed into a point.
And here they have been slightly fluffed out.

How many of these mistakes have you been making? Are there any that I’ve left out from the list? Be sure to let me know in the comments below, or to find me on social media!

Also, would anybody be interested in a brush cleaning routine?


More on Brushes: Read up on which of the brushes in my collection get reached for most often by clicking here!

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