So Easy & Basic: DIY Makeup Removers & Brush Cleaners

Whether you’re a gal who likes to go “glam” with a generous application of cosmetics on a special night out or someone who prefers a more “natural” look with minimum application for day-to-day wear, we all need some way to take off these products.

Makeup is great for enhancing our natural beauty (or hiding our flaws), but it’s terrible for our skin if left on overnight or when napping. Leaving it on will clog pores, trigger inflammations, cause dull skin tone and other issues (including aging our skin…no thanks!).

There are several great commercial products available that help make the job easier (because wow! some of those items are tough-as-nails to remove…especially waterproof mascara), and there’s certainly nothing wrong with using them. However…

If you’re a DIYer kinda gal or want to try something that is much less expensive than many brand-name products, here are a bunch of recipes and suggestions for you.

These are also great to keep on hand for those nights you realize you’re out of your favorite makeup remover and you just want something to get you through until tomorrow when you can get to the store. They use simple ingredients and nothing too exotic, there should be something in the bunch that you have on hand right now that will help you in a pinch.

First up are several different mixes/recipes for removing eye makeup and cosmetics in general.

It goes without saying that if anything irritates your eyes or skin, discontinue use and try something else. Take extra care around the eyes, excess can drip and cause irritation. Results will vary on the different brands of mascara. For gentle cleansing, choose organic and scent-free ingredients where possible.

Here is a general list of various oils to try (these work alone, no need to mix with anything first):

  • Olive
  • Baby or Mineral
  • Jojoba
  • Almond
  • Grapeseed

You can also try Vaseline, petroleum jelly or unscented baby wipes.

Next, here are some different blends/mixes to try. Directions for each: Toss all ingredients in a bottle or small jar and shake to mix well. Shake before each use and apply with a tissue, q-tip, cotton pad or ball.

Note: This isn’t something you want to make big batches of since bacteria growth can be an issue. Just whip up enough for a week’s use at a time, keep refrigerated and you’re good to go.

Homemade Recipes

D.W. = Distilled Water
EVOO = Extra Virgin Olive Oil
W.H. = Witch Hazel


1 cup D.W.
1 1/2 TBS baby shampoo (the tearless kind)
1/8 tsp baby oil (mineral)


2 TBS D.W.
1 TBS Jojoba


1/8 C. grapeseed oil
1 TBS castor oil


1 TBS Castor oil
2 tsp Canola oil


2 TBS Aloe Vera gel
1 TBS Jojoba


Equal Parts:

Witch Hazel
Almond oil


2 TBS W.H.
1 TBS Jojoba
1 1/2 TBS D.W.

Cleaning cosmetic brushes on a regular basis is important to keep them in the best shape possible but also to protect our skin from the buildup of old product.

Directions For Each:

Fill a small bowl with chosen recipe (listed below).

Swoosh the brush around in the mixture, rinse with water to get rid of all traces of soap.

W.W. = Warm Water

Recipe #1

1 cup D.W.
2 TBS rubbing alcohol
1 TBS baby shampoo


1 cup W.W.
1 tsp liquid castile soap


1/4 cup W.W.
1 TBS Woolite


1 cup W.W.
1 TBS baby shampoo
1/2 tsp Tea Tree


1/2 cup W.W.
1/4 cup household vinegar


1 cup W.W.
1 TBS baby shampoo


1 cup W.W.
1 TBS liquid dish detergent

Maintenance Tips:

  • Every month brushes should be washed thoroughly.
  • Don’t use the same one for both light and dark shades–use a different brush for each. Helps prevent streaks when applying light highlight shades.
  • Try using a daily skin cleanser when washing them. This helps avoid allergic reactions as the professional products can be harsh.
  • Once done, reshape immediately and allow to dry. Ensure they are thoroughly dry before using again.
  • When they start shedding and the bristles frizz, replace with new ones.

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What Readers Are Saying: 24 Comments
  1. Jennifer says:

    Pampers unscented Baby Wipes work amazingly! gentle too!

  2. Christense Andersen says:

    Just plain olive oil in a cotton ball is great even on waterproof mascasra and good for your skin too.

  3. Debbie says:

    WONDERFUL. I love this. I wanted to buy some the other day but the price tag was too much. I also wonder what kind of chemicals are in there too. This is a must read. I am going to link you with this one, k?

  4. Bestie says:

    These LOVELY baby wipes work like a charm on all eye makeup (even water proof!)

  5. Kathy Slater says:

    I just love your website, its so interesting, and the tips actualy work!!

  6. BEN GREGO says:

    All these natural-oil recipes for removing eye makeup are find and dandy, but what do you do when they start to go rancid? or do you store them in the fridge? Oils gone bad sure smell nasty!!!

  7. Shelley says:

    Gentle shampoo works like a charm. Experts also recommend using a touch of conditioner, if your makeup brushes are genuine animal hair.

  8. Dona says:

    Many expensive makeup brushes have anti-bacterial properties that soap will ruin. This one has no soap, but it cleans well. Coconut oil and baking soda, half and half mixed in a little cup that I keep on my counter. I work it gently through my makeup brush, then I run hot water in my sink and brush the makeup brush over my washcloth to rinse it out good, never pushing the bristles in the wrong direction and then smooth the bristles before I put it away.

    This also works as a gentle exfoliate and facial cleanser. Cleans out my pores w/o drying my face. I smell like coconut cookies when I am go to bed, my husband loves it. I just gently rub it onto my face, then splash plenty of water to get the soda off and pat dry. I use just coconut oil w/o the soda if I am just needing to quickly remove my makeup. It also moistens my skin w/o it being greasy.

  9. Jessica says:

    You should not use baby shampoo! It will dry out the natural hairs in your brushes! I have found the best thing to use is:
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Regular Dishsoap (withour lotion!)
    Simply use a plate and pour a line of dishsoap on one half of the plate then pour olive oil on the other half, swirl your brushes in both soap and oil then rinse with warm water and dry with the brush brissles pointing down! This effectivly cleans the brushes and restores the natural oils in the hairs so they do not dry out!!! I hope you enjoy this! 🙂

    • dinamakeup says:

      I’ve been a makeup artist for 20 years, and have had many of my makeup brushes for over 15 years and they look like brand new…baby shampoo or dawn dish detergent works great. I never had to worry about the hairs drying out. The trick is to rinse until no soap comes up to the top when you squeeze them, and then lay them all down with the hair hanging off the end of a counter to dry. Trust me, they will look and feel like the day you bought them.

  10. Amanda says:

    I love this article. I have made a brush cleaner. I make it up for the cleaning I have to do so quantities can vary. Squirt 2 Mrs. Meyers hand soap to 1 tsp. coconut oil and 2 drops of lavender oil in a small condiment or prep bowl. Stir with finger or small measuring spoon, it gets foamy. This cleans 3 – 4 med/large brushes and 4 – 6 small shadow brushes. I also use Brush Guards that are really inexpensive at brushguards dot com. I also use 2 oz purified water, 1 tsp. coconut oil, and a couple drops of lavender oil in a small spray bottle tailored to my skin. I have dry skin so I use a tad bit more coconut oil. I test it on the back of a dry clean hand. If it leaves my hand clean feeling and not greasy it’s good to go. I remove residual makeup with it using a cotton face pad, i.e. mascara residue after a shower, or spray it on my face ans wipe away excess moisture with a cotton face pad. Good luck! DIY!

  11. Lynda Huebel says:

    My opthamologist says if you wear contacts, you should never use oil to remove eye make-up.

    • Stephanie says:

      Does this mean no olive oil? I have contacts and I always used store bought makeup remover, the oily kind and it never bothered my eyes. I think I maybe used an oil-free kind once and while it felt nicer with no residue it irritated my eyes and didn’t even work.

    • Maria Carroll says:

      Take out your contacts first!

    • jeri says:

      I can’t use any type of eye remover with ANY kind of oil in it, as it leaves a “film” on my eyes and takes a few days to go away. It’s like I’m looking through a fog. 🙁 (I wear glasses and I agree with your eye doctor)

  12. Tiffany says:

    I’ve used olive oil and it works or. I just tried straight up castor oil (like a teaspoon) to help ‘loosen’ my makeup and then I used a warm damp wash cloth. It worked REALLY well with no greasiness. And then I followed with my usual cleanser. It didn’t burn, irritate, or gunk up my eyes 🙂

  13. shina says:

    i used #4 but i used arbonne’s baby shampoo 100% vegan. it took all the gunk out of my brushes. its also left them feeling soft i had no sheding at all. I will see how they work thru this month and when i give them another monthly cleaning i will let you know how my brushes are doing 🙂

  14. Diane says:

    I use an organic Jojoba oil. It’s much more stable than olive oil and will not go rancid. It’s similar to human sebum, and is non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic. It is also a non-irritant and can be used around the eyes.

    I think it’s vastly superior to olive oil for eye makeup removal if you have sensitive and/or acne-prone skin.

  15. Pamala says:

    I tried #2 because I’m all about using vinegar to clean with. I made up the solution in a jar, put my brushes in to soak for 5-10 minutes and no color change or residue in the solution. In the past I’ve always used baby shampoo, so I pulled out the baby shampoo and started cleaning … I had brown suds immediately from the baby shampoo and brown eye shaddow I use. After rinsing well with water, I used the vinegar/water solution as a final rinse, figuring it would cut any residual shampoo left in the brushes and left them to air dry. I’ve used baby shampoo for years, I started using it to clean my brushes when my opthomologist recommended me to shampoo my eyelashes daily due to my having a chronic eye problem. I will say I like what Amanda wrote and I want to give her recipe a try.

  16. nise says:

    I have always used doctor red dukes advise simply use johnson and johnson tear free baby shampoo to remove mascara. works wonderful doesn’t irritate the eyes either. lasts along time if thats all you are using it for.

  17. lois says:

    I have used hair conditioner for a mascara and eye makeup remover for several years now. It is cheap and works great!

  18. Elsie Joy says:

    Do not put baby oil anywhere near your eyes

  19. Roberta says:

    I have used baby shampoo for 30 years to remove mascara. Works great!

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