I cleaned makeup brushes in the washing machine – they look like new

Express shares dishwasher cleaning tutorial using lemon and vinegar

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Makeup sponges and brushes are used by millions of people each day, yet many people aren’t aware just how often they should be cleaning their makeup tools. According to The American Academy of Dermatology, we should be washing our makeup brushes and sponges every seven to 10 days, even if you’ve only used them once. In fact, dermatologist Geeta Yadav, MD, founder of Skin Science Dermatology, claimed we should be washing our makeup tools every day, however, she understood this wasn’t always a realistic aim.

The reason we need to wash our makeup brushes frequently is simple – they accumulate bacteria and germs from the surrounding environment.

The longer we leave our used brushes and sponges between washes, the more time bacteria has to breed.

Dirty brushes and makeup sponges caked in bacteria can then exacerbate certain skin conditions like acne.

When it comes to cleaning makeup brushes, most people will wash them in a bowl with a gentle shampoo or soap before rinsing them under the tap.

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The problem is, this method often needs to be repeated multiple times until the brushes run clear under the tap.

With this in mind, Express.co.uk tested whether makeup brushes and sponges could be cleaned in the washing machine using a pillowcase and liquid detergent.

I had read about the hack online and had heard mixed reviews. Some people claimed the hack left brushes looking like new while others claimed the heat from the washing machine would break down the glue of the brush handle.

I hadn’t cleaned my makeup brushes for a while before I tried out this hack. Most of the brushes were caked in makeup after being heavily used over the Christmas period.

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  • An old pillowcase (I used a dark grey one as I didn’t want makeup marks on any of my pale pillowcases)
  • Old tea towels
  • Washing machine
  • Liquid detergent (make sure this is your usual detergent to avoid allergies)
  • Sink/washing up bowl
  • Dirty makeup brushes/sponges


1. Firstly, I gathered my dirty makeup brushes and sponge and put them in the kitchen sink.

2. I filled the sink with just enough lukewarm water to submerge the sponge and brushes.

3. Add half a capful of liquid detergent to the sink. I mixed the detergent into the water using one of the brushes.

4. I left the brushes and sponge in the soapy water for around five minutes to allow the product to break down.

The water quickly turned orange as the makeup was broken down by the liquid detergent.

5. Next, I emptied the sink and put the makeup brushes inside the pillowcase. The pillowcase I used had a zip so I fastened it before then tying a knot in the top of the pillowcase.

6. I then put the pillowcase in the washing machine. When choosing a cycle for your brushes, choose one without a spin cycle that’s tailored to delicates.

I used my washing machine’s silk/delicate cycle which has a temperature of 30C.

7. The brushes were washed within around 30 minutes. When I removed them from the machine, there was no sign of any makeup residue on the pillowcase, in the machine or left on the brushes.

8. I removed the brushes from the pillowcase and left them to dry on two old tea towels.

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The brushes need to be left to air dry and should only be used once completely dried out.

The brushes looked like new when they came out of the machine. I will definitely be using this method again as it’s both quicker and easier than washing the brushes by hand.

There was no damage to the brushes or the bristles and all the stains had been completely removed.

The makeup sponge could have been cleaned more thoroughly, however, this was heavily used before I put it through the washing machine.

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