How to Properly Clean Your Face Paint Brushes

Kelli Zermeño — 22 February 2019 —


They are one of the absolute most important tools in any face painter’s kit. Finding the right ones can take time and money.

Yet, I’ve seen several professional painters abusing their brushes, leading to quickly fraying bristles, splitting handles and loose hairs in their paint. It drives me crazy!

Proper brush care is ESSENTIAL in achieving the beautiful, clean designs we see all over Instagram.

So what is the best way to care for our tools?

a man with a wolverine face paint design holding brushes like his blades


Storing your brushes in a proper case is crucial. Not all cases are created equal, and we all have different needs. However, be sure to choose a container that will protect the brush bristles from damage, hold brushes still, and keep them from exposure to dirt and germs.

We cover ALL these bases in our Beginner’s Guide to Face Painting. Check it out so that you can get a full understanding of how to store your materials and keep them clean!

Brush Wallets/ Rolls

I’m all about ease and speed of setup. I do not want to have to move my brushes from one container to another for use. Time is money, people! This need led me to choose a large brush wallet easel that I purchased at Silly Farm.

Actual footage of me setting up and tearing down my kit.

Brush wallets are a fantastic choice as they fold flat for storage and protect your bristles from being crushed or bent and from touching each other. Some brush wallets, like my own, can even stand up like an easel. This feature allows you to stand your brushes upright while in use without needing to prop them up.

I’ve found that my brush wallet sits nicely atop the extra metal work surface I purchased for my Craft N Go, keeping my brushes at eye level, away from tiny hands and leaving the rest of my kit available for my ever-growing collection of paints, glitters and stencils.

Many artists even attach their brush wallets into the inside lid of their kit, maximizing every square inch of storage space.

Brush rolls will keep your brushes in place and protect bristles during transport but aren’t ideal for use during the job as wet bristles should be standing upright so they aren’t laying in a pool of water.

This can cause split handles, misshapen bristles and can loosen the glue holding bristles into the ferrule.

Brush Bar

These nifty little boxes keep brushes organized and tidy during those busy gigs. Use 1 or 2 in your kit to keep your brushes in a proper upright position and easily visible for quick access. You may not want to keep your brushes in a brush bar when you pack up, however. It’s difficult with these to guarantee that your brushes won’t get smooshed or bent as there’s nothing covering/ protecting the bristles during transport.

Tip: Our goal is to help you become the best, most professional face painter you can be! Take a class with us today and really boost your skills!

Brush Tub

If you don’t mind packing and unpacking your brushes during gigs, you can safely use the brush holes in your brush tub to keep your brushes in proper position while painting. This can get a tad precarious if you have a large number of brushes, as your brushes can be in the way when trying to rinse them in the tub.

Creative Engineering

We are “creative folk”. I’ve come across quite a few ingenious, handmade brush holders amongst our colleagues. Artists using pool noodles, strips of foam, velcro and so much more to keep their investment safe.

Tip: Our FREE workshop Improve Your Linework in 3 days is certain to improve your linework, thus improving every single design you paint!


Invest a few bucks into a proper case. Not only can improper storage ruin your brushes, but it can be unsanitary. I know a face painter who just rolls her bundle of brushes into a towel and throws them into her kit or bag. Bags can harbor a multitude of germs and bacteria, making them unsafe. Children are susceptible not only to receiving germs but passing them on as well.

DO NOT lay your brushes on your table while working. Once again… GERMS! Do NOT allow children to touch or play with your brushes. Their hands are like little Petri dishes of boogers, saliva, feces and God only knows what else.

However, some artists prefer to lay their brushes out on a towel. If this is the method you prefer, be certain to use a clean towel each time and protect your brushes from grabby hands.

DO NOT leave your brushes in your water pot. Leaving the bristles wet ruins the shape and will loosen the glue, leaving brush hairs in your beautiful designs.

brushes in a cup placed head down with a huge X over them

Cleaning and Sanitizing

No, these aren’t the same thing, however, you can multi-task and both clean and sanitize simultaneously. While you can technically use products like dish soap to clean your brushes, it isn’t recommended. The detergents in certain soaps can be drying and damaging to your bristles causing fraying that will ruin a clean outline.

There are a ton of very readily available brush soaps on the market. Whether you buy one specific for face paint brushes, or you use an artist’s or makeup brush soap, your brushes will thank you.

Specially formulated brush soaps not only pull the paint out of your brushes and clean them properly, but they also condition the bristles, helping you keep them in beautiful working order.

Check out our Great Face Paint Shop Guide to purchase brush soap from your favorite retailer, or run over to your local craft store to purchase your soap.

After a busy weekend of face painting, you’ll not only want to wash your brushes but sanitize them to prepare them for their next use. It’s not difficult. Using a product like Silly Farm’s Brush Bath spray, you can quickly spritz your bristles and allow them to air dry.

I also recommend using a drop of Brush Bath or a similar product in your rinsing water during gigs. It helps keep your water sanitary on the job, rinses the color out of your brushes quicker (time is money!) aaaaaaaand even makes your colors more vibrant.

My favorite method for washing brushes cleans and sanitizes them simultaneously and pulls the paint out of my brushes crazy fast! During long busy gigs, I can even wash them on site with a clean bucket of water (worked like a charm during my city’s 10-day-long fair)! I rinse each brush in warm water to get the bulk of the color out, then swirl each brush in a tub of The Master’s Brush Soap.

For stubborn colors, massage your bristles, then rinse each brush in a mug of hot water mixed with a nice dollop of Brush Bath. Olga also recommends spritzing clean brushes with Brush Bath sanitizing spray after for good measure. This method is crazy fast, which is perfect for my busy life.

After washing, it’s important to properly air dry your brushes. Laying them on a clean towel overnight, or investing a few bucks into a drying rack (or engineer one yourself!) that inverts your brushes while drying will add years to the life of your brushes.

Tip: We’ve compiled a great guide for you that covers all the bases that a professional needs to cover. Read The Professional’s Guide to ensure you have the proper foundation.

I’ve seen and used the specialty scrubbing mats you can purchase for cleaning paint and makeup brushes. I know a lot of artists swear by them, but I personally found that the mat began fraying my bristles after about a month of use.

Brush Repair

Even with extreme care, bristles can fray or become loose with frequent use and aging. So what do you do to fix them?

Frayed Bristles

Frayed bristles can make your beautiful line work look sloppy. Not to worry! Olga has several tried and tested methods to help whip those bristles back into shape!

three images of ruined face painting brushes

For brushes that have just begun to show fraying, or have only slight fraying, use your brush soap. Clean your brush as usual. Then, gently apply a light coat of brush soap and shape into place with your fingers. Allow drying overnight.

For more stubborn bristles, try this trick. Boil a small pot of water. Dip your bristles into the boiling water for about 15 seconds, taking care NOT to dip the ferrule into the water (this could melt the glue). Then, reshape bristles with your fingers.

If bristles are still being stubborn, try another pass into the boiling water and then apply your brush soap and shape with your fingers. Allow drying overnight. If you still have a few unruly bristles, don’t be afraid to trim them. Use a tiny pair of sharp nail scissors or clippers to help you get rid of those flyaways.

Tip: Once your brushes are back in proper working order, this article “5 Tips for Crisp Lines in Face Painting” will show you how to really put those babies to work!

Loose Bristles

Have you ever had a brush that began losing bristles into your paint? The likely culprit is the glue either dissolving or not thoroughly applied. These brushes are not always salvageable. However, use a small set of pliers or a crimping tool to carefully clamp the ferrule into the bristles tighter. Take care in doing this as your bristles could become crooked.

Ferrule Came Unglued

You’re painting a unicorn when suddenly your entire brush head falls off and lands in the dirt! To reapply, simply use a dab of super glue and gently re-tighten the ferrule around your brush handle. Let dry for several hours before use.

an image of a broken face painting brush

Cracked/ Chipping Handles

I learned this trick from fellow artist Lily Santoya. Wooden handles can often wear down and the paint begins cracking and chipping off. While this won’t technically ruin your designs, it looks ugly…and we all know that our business is very visually driven. Simply take a sparkly or fun colored nail polish and paint your brush handle with a few coats. Voila! You’ve got yourself a fancy new brush!

Using professional quality brushes, made especially for face painting will truly yield better results and last longer. These brushes are made specifically to withstand our particular line of work and the products we use.

So doesn’t it stand to reason that we’d do our absolute best to care for them?

an image showing different types of brushes - round, angled,flat and filbert
Tip: This Fancy Eye Design tutorial from instructor Annabel Hoogeveen uses a multitude of brushes to create a beautiful floral design.


Did you find useful these tips and tricks? Hit “SHARE” and let your fellow face painters know about it!

 — Kelli Zermeño

Join The Premier Online Community

For Face Painters

Subscribe today to receive expert tips and tricks, fresh face painting ideas, step-by-steps, and more.

35000+ Subscribers
140 Blog posts
2500 Students
70+ Countries