What's the Fastest, Most Efficient Way to Clean Makeup Brushes?

I put five methods to the test, and my fingers are almost back to their non-shriveled selves.
Publish date:
July 28, 2015
makeup brushes, tools, brush cleaner, bar soap, sigma, Brushegg

I get excited about tools that allegedly make washing your makeup brushes faster or easier, because it’s my least favourite part of using makeup. It’s an area I’m loath to spend stacks of cash in—buying a new silicone glove-y thing is less exciting than spending the same amount of money on a new foundation—but if it's going to make the brush-washing experience significantly less dull or unpleasant, I’ll go there.

And so, I went there, with a stopwatch and five brush-cleaning strategies, to see whether any of these tools actually make a difference.

I split up my dirtiest brushes into five groups of about eleven brushes each, with a good range of foundation, powder, concealer, and eye brushes. I timed how long it took to get them clean with each method, using regular brush shampoo unless otherwise specified.


Using just my hands and a brush shampoo, I cleaned 11 brushes in 5 minutes and 49 seconds. This involved pumping shampoo into the palm of my hand, swirling the brush head in it and then rinsing under running water. I found I could dig my fingers into the centre of the bristles to get a good clean, but it was still hard to get all the foundation out, and my hands got very cold and very shriveled by the end. I also noticed quite a lot of bristles shedding, but I could have inadvertently put all my old and sheddy brushes into the same group.

Cost: free apart from the shampoo

Average time per brush: ~32 seconds


This is a branded product, but I’ll admit I bought mine on eBay for a couple of dollars. It’s a silicone egg that fits over two of your fingers, with ridges and raised spots. It kind of dug into the edges of my fingers after a while, and it didn’t stop my hands from getting wet. I found the tool’s surface area was too small for a really big powder brush, but the nubby bits too densely packed to get to the base of all my brushes’ bristles, so I didn’t get a satisfactory clean.

Cost: $8, or $2 for the knockoff

Average time per brush: ~31 seconds

Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Glove

This glove boasts an incredible seven patented textures for cleaning your brushes, and with an asking price of $25, you’d hope those textures would deliver.

I found it protected my hands from getting too cold, wet and shrivelly, but precious time was wasted trying to figure out how to actually get it on. You also have to take it off and turn it inside out to switch between the face and eye brush textures. I did notice, however, that it rinsed heaps more suds out of the bristles than other methods, suggesting that it was giving a more thorough clean.

Cost: $25

Average time per brush: ~35 seconds

Da Vinci bar soap

This is a vegetable-oil-based bar soap designed to clean paintbrushes while protecting their bristles, but by now we should all know that a brush is a brush is a brush.

I intended to just swirl each brush on the block of soap until it was clean, until I realised that was just going to load up the bristles with more and more soap, so I used my fingers to rinse each brush clean under running water. This is not so great for the fingers, but was surprisingly fast!

I noticed this soap made the bristles feel squeaky clean, and it worked much more quickly than the shampoo at breaking down makeup residue. The worst part was being left with a wet, slippery bar of soap.

Cost: $12.64

Average time per brush: ~19 seconds

The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver

The plastic pot this product comes in makes it heaps easier to use than the Da Vinci soap, but it is otherwise pretty much identical in method and in efficacy. It gave the same squeaky clean feeling and made a quick job of dried gel eyeliner. It was the last one I tried, though, and my hands were sad after being in water for so long.

It’s worth noting that the company that makes this soap hasn’t released its ingredients list and doesn’t endorse its use for makeup brushes, but many respected makeup artists use it.

Cost: $6

Average time per brush: ~19 seconds

While I was expecting the silicone tools to speed up the brush-washing process, it was the type of cleaning agent that made the most difference in how quickly I could clean my brushes. The best part about the Sigma glove was actually that it kept my hand dry. For this reason, I’d rate the glove over any other silicone tools, whether it’s the Brushegg, a silicone pot holder or laundry-detergent scrub cap.

  • Do you hate cleaning your brushes as much as I do?
  • What are your tips to save time and prevent cold shriveled fingers?