Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How to Clean All the Beauty Tools in Your Arsenal (Even That Pesky Clarisonic)

New, 1 comment

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Your makeup brushes and hair styling tools may make you look beautiful, but they themselves can get pretty darn doggy if you don't take the time to clean and maintain them. There are lots of good reasons to do so, from extending the life of expensive items like flat irons to keeping acne-causing bacteria from developing on your blush brush.

We'll start at the top, with your hairbrushes, and work our way down, ending with your toenail clippers. Really.


The stuff that needs to be cleaned out of a hairbrush can be sorted into two general categories: hair and gunk.

The hair part is sort of duh. Cleaning out strands of hair that have gathered in between the bristles of your brush is the first step in eventually getting to the gunk portion of the festivities. Getting hair out of a flat brush is a pretty straightforward affair; using either your hands or a comb, simply rake any hair that's collected out of the brush.

Removing dead hair from a round brush can be trickier, unless you know this secret—cut the hair out with scissors. I know! It seems so obvious, but don't feel bad, I needed my hairdresser to share that tip. This operation is best performed with small scissors, like the ones used for embroidery work or bang trims. Make one cut in a straight line from the base of the brush up to the top, then use your hands to pull the sheet of matted hair up and off of the brush.

Once the hair is removed, you can turn your attention to the cleaning of the gunk. You could probably live your whole life without knowing exactly what that gunk is, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. Sorry! It's a combination of dead skin cells from your scalp, grease from your hair, styling product buildup, and dust.

If all of that sounds daunting to remove, fret not! There's a very simple way to get it gone. Wash the brush using a mild shampoo; baby shampoo or any other clear shampoo will do just fine. Depending on how much debris there is on the brush, you may need to soak it for 15 minutes or so or use a toothbrush to remove stubborn buildup. After that, just rinse your brush in clean water and allow it to air dry.

Curling & Flat Irons

Good news: Curling and flat irons aren't things you need to clean that frequently. However, knowing how to do so if need be can be handy in the event they start to develop buildup from the styling products you use, or if they otherwise get dirty. Like, imagine if there was a bronzer explosion in your toiletries bag or something: You probably don't want to be flat ironing bronzer into your hair. Or maybe you do?!

In the event you don't, here are two super easy ways to clean heated hair styling tools. The first is to use heat to your advantage by running a damp washcloth over the plates or barrel while hot. Just be sure to fold the towel so it's thick enough to protect your hand from getting burned. The combination of the heat from the styling tool and the moisture from the damp cloth will create steam, and that steam will help remove product buildup. To clean a styling tool that's turned off, simply wipe the plates or barrel down using rubbing alcohol.

Makeup Brushes

The official party line on how often to clean makeup brushes is once a week. I can't imagine that anyone actually does this, but it's my job to tell you the rules and your job to decide not to follow them.

You can clean your brushes using brush cleaner, which you can either make yourself or buy at places like Sephora. Your choice! I included a brush cleaner recipe below if you want to DIY it. It's also worth mentioning that in a pinch, you can just use baby shampoo if you don't have an actual brush cleaner on hand.

DIY Brush Cleaner Recipe

  • 1 cup distilled water
  • ¼ cup isopropyl alcohol
  • ½ tablespoon grease-cutting dish soap, like Dawn
  • ½ tablespoon baby shampoo

Combine ingredients and pour into a 12-ounce bottle to store.

Regardless of if you make or purchase your cleaner, pour it into a small bowl and place the bristles of the makeup brush you want to clean in there too. Don't swish the brush around, just let it sit and absorb the solution. Then take the brush out and swipe it back and forth on a paper towel. If the brush is really dirty, you may need to repeat the process. Once the brush is clean, lay it flat to dry and reshape the bristles as necessary.

Shower Poufs, Loofahs, Facial Brushes, Razors, Etc.

It's easy to overlook cleaning the things you use to clean your person, but it's actually pretty important. Why? Because they're harboring an insane amount of bacteria. That you're then washing yourself with.

I know, so gross. But I want you to clean your scrubbers, which means playing the gross-out card! Also, cleaning things like shower poufs and loofahs is actually pretty easy. I recommend using the microwave—wet your pouf or loofah and nuke it on medium for 30 to 60 seconds. You can also toss 'em in the washing machine or dishwasher (top rack!) and get them clean that way.

The same general idea applies to facial brushes like the ones Clarisonic makes—those should be cleaned with warm, soapy water once a week to keep bacteria at bay. No need to separate the handle from the brush head! Just dry the handle with a towel and then turn the brush head on, put it on the towel, and let it run for five seconds to dry.

Reusable razors are another item that should be scrubbed from time to time! It's a weird one, but stubble and mold can collect in the space where the blade cartridge is inserted, which is also just so gross—let's move on. Razors, sans cartridge, can be soaked for five to ten minutes in either bleach or vinegar diluted in water and scrubbed with a toothbrush to dislodge that stuff we just agreed not to talk about.

Nail Care Tools, Eyelash Curlers, & Tweezers

Toenail clippers, metal cuticle pushers, and other nail care tools fall into the same category that heated hair style tools do, in that they're probably not things you need to clean all that often. But when you do find yourself needing to clean them, it will be nice to know how!

Rubbing alcohol is the ticket for these items; this is also true of other metal tools like eyelash curlers and tweezers. Just wipe them down with a small amount of rubbing alcohol using a clean cloth or cotton ball, and dry well. The rubbing alcohol will clean and sterilize the tools, which is especially great if you want to share them with someone else.

And there you have it: All your beauty stuff, clean as clean can be.