It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of keeping your makeup brushes clean. Keeping your brushes clean and free of bacteria means you’re less likely to contaminate your makeup products (which frequently come into contact with brushes)–and the cleaner you keep your products, the longer it’ll be safe to keep on using them. Keeping your brushes clean can have more immediate benefits too: It’ll help to prevent breakouts and skin infection, and will also help your makeup to go on more smoothly.

Some of our favorite natural makeup brush cleaners are Eminence Organic Skincare’s Natural Brush Cleaner ($18), and EcoTools’ Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo ($7.99). These brush cleansers eliminate bacteria and debris from your brushes using natural ingredients and gently condition their delicate fibers. If your bathroom cabinets are already cluttered with products, or if you’re not excited about the idea of investing money in a brush cleanser, there’s no need to despair: Just follow the instructions below to create a simple, DIY makeup brush cleaner that will eliminate harmful bacteria while drawing excess makeup off of your brushes.

How to make a DIY makeup brush cleanser

Some of the DIY brush cleaner recipes out there call for you to use laundry detergents, but we’re not crazy about the idea of exposing your face or eye-area to trace amounts of these detergents. Instead, we’ll use a gentle, unscented castile soap as the base of our brush cleaner. We recommend Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap ($6.69), a mild, natural option that’s unlikely to irritate sensitive skin.

Our recipe (inspired by this DIY brush cleaner by Live Simply) also includes astringent witch hazel to draw oil and other gunk away from the fibers of your makeup brushes; and antimicrobial tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil to eliminate harmful bacteria, keeping your brushes free of invisible nasties.

To make our DIY cleanser, start with 1/2 cup of filtered water, and add 1 tablespoon of castile soap, 1/4 cup of witch hazel, and 4-6 drops of tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil. Shake or stir the ingredients until they’re thoroughly combined, and then store them in a sterilized bottle or jar for up to 3 weeks.

How to clean your makeup brushes

Once you have an effective cleanser at hand, cleaning your makeup brushes will be quick and simple. Just pour about 1/8 cup – 1/4 cup of cleanser into a shallow container, and gently swish your brushes around in the formula, watching the cleanser become cloudy with debris as it does its work. After a minute or two, remove your brushes from the formula, rinse them thoroughly with water, and pat them dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Make sure to leave your brushes out to dry in a cool, open space–if you store them in sealed containers before they’ve had a chance to dry out thoroughly, you’ll risk breeding mold.

Makeup hygiene tips

Keeping your brushes clean is one important way to make sure your makeup routine is hygienic and safe. Here are some more important dos and don’ts of makeup hygiene:

  • Don’t share makeup products–especially not eye makeup products. Different people have different bacteria living on their skin, and when you share products, you risk exposing yourself and your friends to bacteria that your bodies may not tolerate.
  • Use tools like brushes and sponges to apply makeup. If you’re dead set on applying it with your fingers, make sure to wash your hands before touching the makeup.
  • Throw out foundation after six months-a year, depending on the product. Throw out mascara after three months.