Mold On Makeup Brush: How To Clean And Stop It Happening Again

Mold can live on many surfaces, and your makeup brush is no exception to this. In fact, you may be giving mold exactly the type of environment it needs to live happily on your makeup brushes without even knowing it.

So, why does mold grow on makeup brushes? What type of molds grow, are they dangerous, can they be removed and what can you do to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future?

In this article, we answer all these questions and more, so for all you need to know about mold on makeup brushes, keep reading.

To prevent mold growing on makeup brushes, you should keep them as dry as possible, never leave them out in high-humidity rooms such as the bathroom. You should also clean them using diluted white vinegar or detergent once each month, then store them in a well-ventilated, cool, and dry location.

how to remove mold on makeup brush

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Can mold grow on makeup brushes?

Absolutely, mold can grow in any environment where its needs are met, and your makeup brush may be providing everything that mold requires to thrive.

In order for mold to live and breed, it needs:

A source of moisture

Makeup brushes are often either kept in a makeup bag or on the counter in a bathroom, one of the highest humidity rooms in a property.

Mold only needs a moisture level greater than 55% in order to start breeding and multiplying, a standard bathroom will often greatly surpass that level several times per week.

A source of nutrients

Nutrients come mostly in the form of dead skin cells that have fallen off your skin as you were applying makeup using the brush.

Much as you may not think that dead skin cells would contain much in the way of nutrients, they actually provide proteins, fats, and minerals that mold can use for sustenance.

A lack of natural sunlight

Being stored in a bathroom or within a bag means that a makeup brush seldom sees any natural sunlight. This is a problem because the sun’s UV rays will kill both molds and their spores upon contact, so keeping it in a dark place (such as a bag), provides protection again the sun and allows it to grow happily. Mold is a fungus, and therefore does not need sunlight to allow photosynthesis to occur, it can live quite happily in the dark, and often prefers to do so.

An ambient temperature

Although molds can grow in temperatures greater than 80 degrees and lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it is the sweet spot in-between where it can rapidly multiply and its colonies expand.

The unfortunate thing is, the most common temperature range for Americans to set their home thermostats to is between (you guessed it), 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives mold the opportunity to expand at its greatest capacity for many months of the year.

How to identify mold on a makeup brush

There are several strains of mold you may find growing anywhere in a property, however, there are three strains that are seen far more commonly than others, these are Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Cladosporium.

Aspergillus molds often come in shades of dark brown to black, and even yellow-green in some strains. The texture is usually said to be velvety or cotton-like.

Penicillium strains are most commonly seen as bluey-green, grey-green, or yellow to pink in rare cases. Its texture is noted as being similar again to cotton or powder.

Cladosporium is usually a dark-colored mold, with dark brown, black, and dark green coloration, with a cotton-like texture.

Despite these being the main recognizable features of the strains mentioned, you may well struggle to identify molds on your makeup brush. This will almost certainly be because the patches growing will either be too small to see in detail, or, they will be growing within the brush itself, and so not visible.

It is for these reasons that when trying to identify if what you are dealing with is mold on your makeup brush, you are better off using your sense of smell. If when opening a bag that contains the brush, or upon getting closer to the brush you notice a pungent musty smell that reminds you of a basement or attic, there is a good chance you are dealing with a mold infestation.

Are the molds dangerous?

Molds certainly can be hazardous to humans and animals. The three strains mentioned above all have the capacity to create mycotoxins, a toxic substance that can cause a myriad of health complaints, including:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue (in rare cases)
  • Skin irritation
  • Breathlessness

Although these symptoms are all possible, the amount of mold likely to be growing in a makeup brush is relatively small. The more likely symptom to suffer would be skin irritation, as you could potentially be transferring mold from within the brush directly onto your skin.

Symptoms of skin irritation from mold exposure are as follows:

  • Acne
  • Inflammation
  • Sensitivity
  • Itching
  • Raised skin (bumps)

How to remove mold on makeup brushes

Fortunately, the process of removing mold within a makeup brush is very simple.

Before you begin to clean mold off any item or surface, you should make sure you are wearing the correct protective equipment. You should wear eye protection to prevent mold or spores from coming into contact with the eyes and causing irritation, a mask to prevent inhaling spores, and rubber gloves to stop cross-contamination and skin irritation.

With that in mind, use any of the following methods to remove mold from a makeup brush.

Bleach method

Bleach is a powerful cleaning solution that is powerful enough to kill mold, its spores, and bacteria.

To remove mold from a makeup brush using bleach, use the following steps:

Step 1. Make a 4:1 ratio of bleach to water, and place the makeup brush into the solution.

Step 2. Leave the brush in the solution for no more than 30 minutes, as the bristles can be delicate and the bleach may damage them if left for a prolonged period.

Step 3. Remove the brush from the solution and rinse for several minutes under cold water until all mold and bleach residue is removed.

Step 4. Leave the makeup brush to air dry for several hours, or if possible place it in a warm location such as in direct sunlight to dry as quickly as possible.

Vinegar method

Some people may prefer not to use bleach for fear that it may stain or damage the delicate bristles. If the brush you are cleaning is particularly delicate, vinegar may be a better solution. Use the following steps to remove mold from a makeup brush using vinegar.

Step 1. Make a solution using a quarter cup of white (distilled) vinegar to four cups of water. Place the makeup brush within the solution and leave for one hour.

The acidity level of vinegar is sufficient to kill mold and its spores, and can in some circumstances be more effective than bleach.

Step 2. After one hour, rinse the vinegar and mold residue out of the brush. If after washing the smell of vinegar bothers you, you can wash the brush again with scented detergent.

Step 3. Ensure the brush dries as quickly as possible. The longer the brush stays wet, the more likely that mold will return.

Detergent method

If the amount of mold you are dealing with is very small or has only recently begun to grow, standard detergent may be perfectly adequate to remove the mold.

This may also be a preferred method if the smell of either bleach or vinegar bothers you.

To use detergent to remove mold from a makeup brush, use the following simple steps.

Step 1. Make a warm water/detergent solution by mixing a few teaspoons of detergent with a gallon of warm water.

Step 2. Place the makeup brush into the warm water and whilst wearing rubber gloves, work the detergent through the bristles to ensure all areas have been cleaned thoroughly. This includes the point where the bristles connect to the brush.

Step 3. Once you are certain that all of the mold residues have been removed, place it in the brush in direct sunlight or in a warm area to dry fully.

How to prevent mold from growing on makeup brushes

It is certainly easier to prevent mold from occurring in the first place than to have to deal with the fallout after.

Preventing mold is a simple process, as all you need to do is take away what it needs to survive.

Use the following methods to prevent mold growth in makeup brushes.

Keep it dry

Store your makeup brush away from direct sources of moisture such as in the bathroom where there may be pools of water.

You should also ensure it is stored away from particularly humid areas of your home. If possible, keep your brush in a container away from any liquid products and if you live in a particularly humid climate, you could add a few packs of silica gel into the container where you store your brushes if this problem occurs frequently.

Keep it clean

After each use, make sure you thoroughly clean out your makeup brushes. Any dust, skin cells or fats left on the brush could become a source of nutrients for mold, so deny this possibility by keeping both the brush and whatever container you are storing it in clean.

Keep it cool

As long as you keep your makeup brush clean and dry, you should not have to deal with mold growth. However, so you can be completely certain it’s not something you’ll have to deal with, make sure you store your brushes in a cool area with plenty of ventilation.

By storing in a cool climate, you automatically reduce the rate mold can multiply. Having plenty of ventilation decreases the risk even further, by making it very difficult for mold spores to settle and begin to create a colony on your brush.


Mold certainly can be found growing on makeup brushes. However, this can easily be prevented by storing them in a cool area and keeping them clean and dry. Should mold still grow in your makeup brushes, you can use vinegar, bleach, or household bleach to kill and remove mold.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker has struggled for several years with mold after buying his own property. After finding the solutions to several issues around his home, he decided to create this site in order to answer as many questions about mold and mildew as possible to help others dealing with the same problems.

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