How to Clean BrushesWhat are you doing when you brush something? You’re using a tool that gets up close and personal, whether it’s with teeth, hair, a canvas, a toilet, or any number of other things. The word “brushing” might have connotations with a light touch, but it might be more accurate to associate it with dirt. Here are some ways to combat filth and get clean brushes.

Hair Brushes

Remove all the hair stuck in the brush. Either soak the brush in a bowl of warm soapy water for a few minutes and then rinse, or apply soap directly to the brush, lather, and rinse under running water (use a cloth to lather up the brush if the bristles are prickly and hurt your hand).

Pro tip: Wondering what all those different hair brushes are for? We have a guide to some common kinds:

  • Synthetic Bristle Brush: These don’t create static so they’re great for thick hair and detangling.
  • Paddle Brush: Flattens frizzy hair and adds shine.
  • Vented Brush: Speeds up drying time while you’re using the hair dryer.
  • Teasing Brush: Adds volume without damage.
  • Round Brush: Adds volume and a little bit of curl to your hair.

Makeup Brushes

You rub makeup brushes all over your face and in different goops and powders. Of course they’re going to get gunky! This isn’t just gross, but can affect your looks and health. Dirty makeup brushes have been linked to acne outbreaks, pink eye, and staph infections. So you should definitely clean your makeup brushes!

To clean a brush, place it under running water, bristles facing downward. Avoid placing where the bristles and head meet under the water; this could weaken the glue binding the two together.

Next, put a small amount of a gentle cleaner, like baby shampoo, in your palm. Swirl the brush in the soap until it works up a lather, then rinse the brush again. Squeeze out excess water and, if needed, reshape the brush. Lay your brushes out to dry overnight.


When you’ve finished painting, immediately rinse your brush with warm water until the water runs clear. If the paint is stubborn, dip the brush in a solution of soapy water, work the soap through the bristles, then rinse again.

For oil-based paints, shellacs, lacquers and the like, you might need a cleaning solvent, like paint thinner or denatured alcohol. Swirl the brush around a container with the cleaner and make sure it gets around all the bristles. Then rinse with running water. The paint should slide off.

Toilet Brush

Fill a bucket with very hot water and two cups of bleach. Soak your toilet brush in the bucket for about an hour, then rinse it and let it dry completely.

All the Clean Brushes

All your brushes can be clean brushes thanks to this cleaning guide! Now you can get ready and go paint the town (or a wall) using only clean brushes. If there are brushes you need to clean, but we didn’t cover them in this article, let us know in the comments!