Ask Liz: What's the best way to clean sticky brush handles?

Hi Liz, I've had my Real Techniques brush set with me for quite a long time now, probably three years already. The bristles are in perfect shape but the bottom of the handle (the black part) became sticky and dirty. I've tried washing it with soap but it won't come off. Is there a way to clean it or is it meant to be this way? Thanks in advance!  - Lian

Hi Lian! Rubber cases and handles aren't really made of rubber; they're just plastic coated with a thin, rubber-like polymer with a matte finish. Brands do this since it looks more expensive and durable compared to plain glossy plastic. Over time, this coating degrades as it is exposed to heat, humiditiy, light, and regular usage. That's why it becomes sticky and almost impossible to clean! 

Soap and water certainly aren't enough to get rid of it. You'll need something more powerful. Luckily, what you need is easily available in your stash.

The grossest dust, hair, and makeup magnet

The grossest dust, hair, and makeup magnet

If the rubber case or handle hasn't become sticky yet, you can use plain makeup wipes to clean the smudges. I like to use Nivea Exfoliating Wipes because they're inexpensive; I don't feel too bad using them just for cleaning my things! However, if the handle has already degraded into a sticky hot mess, I use a brush cleaning solution like the Ellana Makeup Brush Cleaner. 

First I soak the brush handle in the solution. This helps to further weaken the sticky coating before I get to work. Then, with the makeup wipe (I like the exfoliating wipes because of the raised dotted texture), I slowly rub off the rubber coating. It helps to sort of pierce it with a finger as if you're opening a seam. With the wipe, I use a bit of force to rub-pull out the sticky bit.

I spray more brush cleaner on the handle if I need it to get looser. It'll take a few minutes depending on how stubborn the polymer is.

And that's all there is to it, really! This method is highly effective, but it will remove the rubbery texture of the handle (or case, whichever you're cleaning). I think that's a small price to pay for having non-yucky brushes but yes, FYI. Otherwise the handle will be as good as new. 

Hope this helps, Lian! ^_^ To the other PV gals: if you have tips on how you clean your rubber handles and compacts, I'd love to hear about them! Some recommend using alcohol but I've never personally tried it. Wonder how effective it is? Unfortunately I ran out of sticky brushes to clean haha. 

Sound off in the comments!

PS Have rediscovered my old Real Techniques brushes and man, these are really good. Such a nice deal, they stay in great shape for a long time! I think these brushes are at least three years old too.