8 best make-up brush cleaners

Keep your beauty tools free from dirt and bacteria with the help of an effective product

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The Independent Online

As most of us know, make-up brushes are a breeding ground for dirt and spot-inducing bacteria, so it’s important to keep them clean. It’s one of those mundane tasks that none of us want to do but if you take the time to clean them properly, you’ll massively reduce the risk of an unwelcome break-out. 

Really, it’s just as essential as taking your make-up off before bed and while it might seem tedious, if avoided, it can lead to unwanted spots and irritation.

Plus, let’s face it, a good set of make-brushes sets you back a fair amount of dosh, so learning how to clean them properly is one of the best ways to protect your investment.

While some beauty buffs clean theirs every day, giving your brushes a quick wash once a week is acceptable, as long as you don’t skip a monthly deep clean. Thanks to a surge in removal liquids, gels and waxes, keeping your brushes sanitised is now easy. Here, we’ve tracked down some of the best products on the market.

1. Beauty Blender Pure Solid Cleanser: £14, Cult Beauty

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This compact, travel-friendly cleaner comes in a solid, wax-like formula and while it’s specifically designed for products like the Beauty Blender sponge it can be used on brushes too. To use, simply massage a small amount into your damp sponge or brush, lather and rinse. With a subtle lavender scent, we found it left our make-up tools spotlessly clean. A little really goes a long way with this one and we love that it comes with a gentle silicone pad to help remove stubborn build-up.

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2. MAC Cosmetics Brush Cleanser: £12, John Lewis 

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A go-to brand for every well-seasoned beauty buff, Mac Cosmetics is notorious for its pro-quality brushes, so it makes sense that its cleansing solution is of the same standard. The formula is specifically designed to extend the life of your brushes, by conditioning the fibres while also promising to disinfect and clean them thoroughly and it really does. Housed in a clear plastic bottle, the baby pink liquid can be poured into a container or the palm of your hand when cleaning, but be careful as you can end up using more than needed - there’s no stopper. It’s convenient to use, simply swirl your brushes in circular motions in the solution until clean. And this option is great for both spot cleaning after make-up application and a more thorough deep clean.

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3. Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser: £14, John Lewis 

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Popular skincare brand Clinique certainly knows its stuff when it comes to cleansing, and that extends to brushes too. While this option is recommended for monthly cleansing, we think it’s ideal for a quick spritz too. Unlike the others on this list, Clinique’s option comes with a spray function. To use, simply spray on both sides of the brush before gently blotting clean with a tissue and letting it air dry for one or two minutes. Alternatively, you can rinse off with water but this increases drying time.

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4. Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, 300ml: £1.59, Boots

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Now, we know that using a purposely formulated cleanser is best, but we couldn’t complete our list without mentioning Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. The ultra-gentle formulation is designed to maintain baby hair’s natural moisture balance without leaving any residue, and the same goes for when you use it on your make-up brushes. It expertly removes all make-up, dirt and oil from your tools, without drying out the bristles. The huge bottle will last for months too - this is a great bargain beauty alternative.

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5. W7 Shade & Swap: £4.94, Amazon 

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If you’re the kind of girl that likes to work with only a few brushes, then this is the one for you. A genius product, W7’s cleansing pot allows you to easily change between shades using the same brush. A quick swirl on the sponge and the brush is clean and ready to use with another colour. While it doesn’t clean the brush completely, it’s ideal for using on eye shadow brushes in-between shades. We even tested this on highly-pigmented black and it worked effortlessly, leaving no trace of colour on the brush.

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6. Dior Backstage Brush Cleanser: £15.50, Feel Unique

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Want to give your brushes the VIP treatment? Then look no further. Fitted with a pump action, we think this works best placed on a tissue, followed by wiping the brush gently over the formula a few times to remove any make-up. The fluid itself is clear, quick-drying and antibacterial, so it ticks all the boxes. It also left the brush bristles feeling exceptionally soft. It removes the most stubborn of foundations from your brushes and is great for both in-between application brush cleaning and a deep cleanse.

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7. Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Palette: £12.99, Superdrug

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Owning the perfect remover is all well and good but if you don’t have an effective cleaning method your brushes will still hold on to unwanted build-up. Luckily, Real Techniques has got you covered. This brush cleansing palette takes all the hassle out of cleaning your brushes and is said to clean them 55 per cent better than using your hands alone – a fact we found to certainly be true. So how does it work? The palette is designed with four different surfaces that are each fitted with various sized raised bumps. The large grooves can release make-up, dirt, and oils from larger brushes, while the smaller knobs create extra lather and release dried on make-up from smaller brushes. You also get a couple of free sachets of the brands brush-cleansing gel to try with it.

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8. The Pro Hygiene Collection Makeup Brush and Sponge Wash: £10, Feel Unique

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Mild but effective, this cleanser was created for professional make-up artists but is a fuss-free, easy-to-use formula for beauty enthusiasts too. Fitted with a spray function, the cleanser is antibacterial and promises to kill 99.99 per cent of germs in just 60 seconds. To use, we found it worked best to spray the fluid directly onto a tissue or towel and wipe the brush until all product was removed. It’s super-powerful and dissolves all traces of residue, making it a must-have for your make-up bag.

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The Verdict: Make-up brush cleaners

For a functional formula that’s easy to use and portable, we recommend Beauty Blender’s Pure Solid Cleanser. The wax-like consistency means it lasts such a long time and out of all the options, it left our brushes feeling the cleanest and softest. We also love the addition of the pink silicone pad that helps release build-up more easily.  For a budget buy, you can’t go wrong with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo – not an official cleanser, but it does the job just as well. 

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