How to Clean a Makeup Sponge

How To Clean Your makeup Sponge - Featured Graphic

If you used a makeup sponge at least once, you must have noticed that it absorbs your foundation and liquid blushes pretty quickly. – well, like a sponge (I crack myself up)

We’re often asked, “Can I wash my makeup sponge/beauty blender?” “How to clean a makeup sponge / beauty blender?” “How often do I clean them?”

My answer at first was, of course you can… but is that true? Truth is, I’ve never tried to wash one.

I took to the internet, and I tried 4 of the most popular methods for washing a makeup sponge or a beauty blender. And trust me, some worked WAAAYY better than others. Some didn’t work at all.

Read on fearless makeup pioneer, and we’ll dig in together.

What’s the problem with a dirty makeup sponge?

On the internet, it is thought and repeated that a makeup sponge can will have oil and foundation particles stuck deep in it? And that these particles turn into bacterias collected not only on the surface, but also deep inside of your beauty blender and they might be harmful to your skin or cause breakouts.

This sounds plausible to me. Will washing the sponges make a difference? Or is it better to simply replace them? And if washing them is a good idea, how do you deep clean them?

The experiment – I used 4 types of sponges and 4 methods of cleaning.

I really wanted to know.. is there a difference between sponge types? Do they hold up to rigorous washing? What happens when they get REALLY hot? They feel like they would melt..(and kind of, they do.)

I used 4 types of sponges:

  • Beauty Blender
  • Cheap Beauty Blender knockoff from Amazon (2 densities)
  • The standard white triangle wedges
Dirty makeup sponges to wash

And I tried 4 popular internet methods:

  • Soap and Water
  • Soaking in a bowl of hot soapy water.
  • Microwaving in a bowl of water
  • And using a washing machine and bra bag.

Should you clean makeup sponges regularly? (or not)

This is a mixed bag. My research shows about a 50/50 split on opinions.. ranging from “I never wash my sponges” to “I wash my makeup sponge with each use.”

I read you should’t wait until they’re visibly dirty to clean your makeup sponges. In my testing all of my sponges where “visibly dirty” immediately upon first use.

Some makeup sponge brands recommend regularly cleaning makeup sponge, even after every use. This may be a bad idea, and you can find out why at the end of this post.

I’m the type of person who would enjoy the rigorous schedule of cleaning a makeup sponge after every use. But I’m a busy mom and a business owner. There’s just no way I have the time to clean a makeup sponge every time I use it. And I’ve never experienced any form of skin irritation or breakouts from a non-washed sponge…

However, some women definitely stick a strict cleaning routine (to avoid oil and bacteria build up) but if this seems like too time consuming a process for you, maybe clean a makeup sponge at 0 – 4 times a week.

Cleaning makeup sponges with soap and water

This was for sure my favorite method, and this is the way I’ll always do it, but read on, the results are interesting.

You can wash your dirty sponge simply by rubbing it against the soap and rinsing in warm water a few times until you notice it does not leave any dirt behind. Use bar soap, liquid soap, dish soap or baby shampoo – many people swear by it.

I heard that a few drops of face cleansing oil before using actual soap can also make a huge difference by helping to separate the oils from the sponge, but I didn’t have any on hand to test with… So I simply used my Puricy Baby Soap alone.

I found that with every squeeze, like kneading, more and more foundation would work its way to the surface, and I could scrape it off with the side of my finger. I kept washing the makeup sponges until this stopped.

Then, Gently but thoroughly squeeze out all of the water and let it air dry. For the best results, use warm running water while washing and rinsing.

If your skin is sensitive, you might want to go for an unscented soap.  You can gently squeeze your makeup sponge with a paper towel before air drying.

It took me about 2 minutes per sponge to be happy with the squeeze out.

Make sure you dry completely your makeup applicator before the next use so it does not hold any moisture for too long (although damp sponge absorbs less product into it, so it is good to dump beauty blender before your next foundation application).

If you’d like to see a quick demo video of my favorite method, check out this Instagram Post.

  • I like this method the best.
  • This method was the fastest of the 4.
  • I felt like this cleaned the sponges thoroughly.

Deep clean your dirty sponge by soaking it

I had been told If my dirty makeup sponges need a deep cleaning, prepare them a bath. While this method worked, I didn’t find much different than the method above.

Washing makeup sponges in a bowl of hot water and soap
Washing makeup sponges in a bowl of hot water and soap

I used the same baby soap, although I’ve seen liquid dish soap suggested with this method (since it removes grease the best of all) and warm water or even hot water to remove all bacterias.

Fill the clean sink or a small bowl with warm/hot water, add a few drops of a liquid cleanser or soap and place your dirty sponges in the bowl. Let the sponge soak for a few minutes. Before taking your beauty sponges out, make sure to give them a few squeezes inside the soapy water. Take your makeup sponges out and rinse very well under warm, running water.

Squish them again by applying pressure. All that melted mess is now in the bowl… better than if it was on your skin, right?! Use a clean towel to dry your beauty tools.

Microwave method + dish soap

There might be something unconventional in it, but it turns out that the microwave method can make your dirty makeup sponges squeaky clean in a short time. That’s what I was told anyway.

This method didn’t work for me at all, and it took far more time because I had to wait for everything to cool down before I could touch it.

The suggestion is to place your dirty beauty blender or other branded makeup sponge in a microwave safe cup filled with water and liquid soap, a few drops of facial cleanser or any mild soap you wish to use.

Wash makeup sponges in a microwave.
Wash makeup sponges in a microwave.

Set the time for about a minute and that’s it. Make sure to wait until the water cools down before you reach for your favorite makeup tool. Rinse in cool water and your sponge should be nice and clean by now.

The result was a mess.

The result in my case was a mess. I waited until I could touch the water, and gave the blender one squeeze, and you can see that all of the foundation was hotly still inside the blender.

Washing Makeup Sponges in a Washing Machine

Does putting all of your makeup sponges into a washing machine and letting her rip sound good or bad to you? (I can give you a hint, it wasn’t great)

washing makeup sponges in a washer - don't do it
washing makeup sponges in a washer – don’t do it

I read an article that stated if you’re a makeup artist and need all your sponges washed – this method can be a life saver.

Using mild soap/ detergent, toss all your beauty blenders in the washing machine. You can use a bag (that you would normally use for socks or bras) as a ‘washing machine makeup bag’ to keep all your makeup tools in place. Give sponges a final rinse, let them air dry and you are all set. This is definitely the easiest, makeup artists favorite sponges cleaning method.

I for sure used a bra bag, and I cringed as I watched way too much water go down the drain for nothing. When I removed my sponges, they looked exactly like they did when I put them in my washer.

I used a front loading model. Maybe a tub washer is different, but I doubt it. I found that to make any measurable difference my sponges required a lot of manual manipulation in order to SQUEEZE the makeup in them out. No washing machine can do this.

However, Ashley (our social media manager) washed her makeup sponge in a washer and it came out beautifully clean. The difference? She accidentally washed hers – so it was in the washer with a bunch of clothes. This may be the key to this method, wash it with other items.

While I would be hesitant to recommend this (because foundation floating around in the washing machine water with other clothes or towels seems sketchy) – it may work just fine and if you have items you’re willing to try it with – go for it.

My favorite method was for sure hand washing with soap and water. It was fast, worked well and I would highly recommend it especially if you just have a couple sponges to wash. Side note: my 4 year old had a great time helping with this version.

What about wear and tear on your makeup sponges from washing them?

Yep, absolutely. I used 3 brand new out of the package sponges, and one older sponge I’ve had for a while. The 3 new ones were destroyed enough after 4 washings to be thrown away.

I know it’s silly to wash the little white wedge makeup sponges, but I had to be thorough for my own peace of mind, and you of course 🙂

What I noticed is the surface of the sponges filled with small micro tears, and some bigger tears too. Also, the amazon brand sponges from the plastic case took DAYS to dry in the center and shrink back to their original size.

I’d likely recommend you stick to brands of makeup sponges you know and love, like beauty blender official or another brand you trust. We should mention that it is recommended that you replace your beauty sponge every 3ish months (especially with regular use).

Whew, that was fun. Comment below and tell me if you’ve tried any of these methods – or if there’s a method you use that we need to try out!

And while you’ve got your supplies out – it’s the perfect time to clean your makeup brushes too, and we show you how. It’ll take you about 10 minutes extra and use all the same materials (drying towel, baby shampoo/soap).

TTFN

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2 Comments

  1. I just use Dr. Bronner’s brand unscented baby soap and water, like in your favorite method. This works well for me. I don’t use my makeup sponges a ton, and I’ve started using a foundation brush more often, but I too agree that lots of squeezing and rinsing with the soapy and water under the faucet gets a lot of the products out.

    1. I’ve used Dr. Bronners too! Works great 😊 I’ve also accidentally washed a sponge in the washer with a load of laundry and it came out very clean…I was surprised to find it but very happy lol

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