How To Clean Makeup Sponges: Tips, Frequency, and More

When you’re running late for work or getting ready for a night out, the last thing that’s on your mind is how long it’s been since you’ve cleaned your beauty blender… but maybe it shouldn’t be. 

We’ve all been guilty of using a dirty sponge or makeup brush — and the thing is, we know that it’s bad for our skin, but we do it anyway. Why? Well, sometimes cleaning your makeup sponges can seem like a daunting task. 

From finding the right soap to figuring out how to dry them, doing a deep clean of all your makeup sponges and brushes can be intimidating. But we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. 

With the right wash routine, cleaning your beauty blender can be as easy as washing your face. (And it’s just as good for your skin, too.) Today, we’ll walk you through an easy three-step routine on how to clean your makeup sponges. 

Why Is It Important To Clean Your Makeup Sponges?

Before we get into how to clean your makeup tools, let’s first dive into why it’s important to start with a clean beauty blender in the first place. 

There are a lot of benefits to using clean makeup sponges — and plenty of disadvantages to using dirty sponges too. Using beauty blenders covered in lingering makeup products hurts your skin in three main ways. 

Smooth Makeup Application

The most obvious benefit to using a clean makeup sponge is the effect on your makeup application — namely, that it makes it better. 

Beauty blenders and other makeup tools were designed to be a specific shape, texture, and size, and leftover makeup residue can change these things. 

Think about the difference between your daily concealer brush and a concealer brush that’s brand new: even though you’re using the first brush with the same product every day, over time, that product can build up on the bristles, causing them to stick together. This change is subtle, but it alters the shape of the brush enough that it can impact how well the brush works.

The same is true for makeup sponges. Makeup residue can linger on the inside of your beauty blender, weighing down the sponge and changing its shape. 

This residue can also impact the color of your makeup as you apply it, especially if you’re using more than one product with the same sponge. 

Bacteria 

The other major concern with using dirty makeup sponges is the potential for bacterial build-up inside the sponge. 

Because makeup sponges are meant to get wet, they are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Think about it: it’s dark, warm, and moist on the inside of your sponge. What bacterium wouldn’t like it there? 

This explains why 90% of makeup sponges are contaminated with bacteria . It’s easy for microbes like E. coli and the bacteria responsible for staph infections to grow inside beauty blenders — and it’s just as easy for them to then be transferred to your skin.

Skin Health

While bacterial growth is almost never a good thing in any situation, the real threat to contaminated makeup sponges comes when you touch that sponge to your skin. 

When you use a dirty beauty blender teeming with bacteria, you transfer those microbes to your skin, where they can sneak into your body through open cuts or other wounds (including tattoos and piercings). Once inside, these bacteria can cause all kinds of problems for your skin, ranging from minor breakouts and inflammation to more serious infections and skin conditions

That’s why using a clean makeup sponge is so important. Not only is it one of your first defenses against these kinds of skin issues, but it’s one of the easiest ways to support your skin health. 

How Often Should You Clean Makeup Sponges?

With all of the skin benefits associated with using clean makeup sponges, you can think of this cleaning process as a part of your larger skincare routine. And like any other skincare product, you need to clean your sponges the right amount. 

While it may seem like there’s no such thing as “too much” when it comes to cleaning makeup sponges, you can actually cause more damage to your sponge by cleaning it too often. But, as we’ve already pointed out, you risk your skin by not cleaning it enough. That’s why it’s so important to find the right balance. 

According to experts, this perfect balance is to clean your makeup sponges and brushes every seven to 10 days . By cleaning your makeup sponges about once a week, you avoid bacterial buildup (and the skin threats that come with it) while remaining gentle on your beauty tools

What Are Some Tips for Cleaning Makeup Sponges?

Unfortunately, they haven’t invented a washing machine for makeup sponges yet, which means you have to wash them by hand. But the good news is that cleaning your makeup sponges isn’t as hard as it might seem. 

While there are dozens of trending TikTok tutorials that show 20-step cleaning routines for your makeup sponges, in reality, the process isn’t nearly that complicated. To refresh your dirty makeup sponges, you only need to follow a few simple steps. 

Step 1: Use Warm, Not Hot, Water

Make sure to start with warm water when washing your makeup sponges — not hot water. 

Super hot water has the potential to damage the material of your makeup sponges. While it’s important to use water that’s warm enough to kill off any bacteria and get your soap nice and sudsy, it doesn’t need to be boiling. A good rule of thumb is that if the water burns to the touch, it’s too hot for your makeup tools. 

Step 2: Use a Dedicated Makeup Sponge Cleanser

The most important part of cleaning your makeup sponges is to use the right cleaning agent. For the best results, you should be cleaning your makeup sponges with a dedicated makeup tool cleanser .

Unlike regular soap, makeup tool cleansers are specifically designed to refresh your makeup sponges and brushes for optimal use. The Jane Iredale Botanical Brush Cleaner is a quick-drying alcohol and witch hazel cleanser that helps dissolve makeup, oil, and grime so that your sponges and tools are left clean.

Step 3: Let Air Dry

Once you’ve gotten your sponges nice and clean, it’s best to lay them flat on a clean towel and allow them to airdry. In other words, no — don’t bring out your hair dryer to try to speed up the process. 

Letting your sponges air dry helps make sure the integrity of the sponge material is protected. Attempting to dry your sponges more quickly using a heat source could cause damage. 

When Is It Time To Get New Make Up Tools?

However, no matter how gentle you are with your makeup tools or how exactly you follow this cleaning routine, eventually, you will get to a point where it’s time to get new makeup sponges and brushes. 

Like your makeup products themselves, makeup tools like brushes and sponges aren’t meant to last forever. As you use makeup brushes, they can start to lose their shape, impacting their performance. Even though you might be working with a clean brush, if it’s misshapen, it won’t be able to do its job as well.

As soon as your makeup tools are no longer able to hold its shape, then you should replace it with a new one. For most brushes, this happens about every six months to a year — though it can vary depending on how often you use the makeup tool. Daily brushes will need to be replaced more often than specialty ones that sit at the bottom of your makeup bag most days. 

Sponges, on the other hand, have a much shorter life: about three months. Because of the moist nature of the interior of the sponge, beauty blenders hold on to more product (and bacteria) than brushes do, making it harder to keep them clean — which causes them to lose their shape faster. As with brushes, once a makeup sponge loses its shape, it becomes less effective. 

Keep It Clean

Using a dirty beauty sponge is one of the worst things you can do for your skin. All of that built-up bacteria and makeup residue can be transferred back to your skin, not only ruining the look of your makeup but also creating a slew of problems for your skin. 

To avoid breakouts and achieve makeup that looks like it was done by a professional makeup artist, be sure to always start with clean makeup sponges. 

Sources:

Microbiological study of used cosmetic products: highlighting possible impact on consumer health | Journal of Applied Microbiology

Microbial Infections of Skin and Nails | National Library of Medicine 

How to clean your makeup brushes | American Academy of Dermatology Association

Boil Water Response-Information for the Public Health Professional | New York State Department of Health

Microbiological purity assessment of cosmetics used by one and several persons and cosmetics after their expiry date | National Library of Medicine