Bonus column: Martha Stewart

The Detroit News
It's especially important to keep your makeup brushes free of harmful bacteria and in good condition.

Spring is all about new beginnings — and that includes your bathroom essentials. We’ve got your scrub-down strategy to refresh the tools you use every day and keep them tidy.



Clean It: Daily

The Dirt: Using a grimy face brush is counterproductive. “Dead cells, oil and bacteria accumulate on the bristles and wind up back on your skin,” explains Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine.

To Clean: Dislodge particles from the brush head by rubbing it against a dry washcloth. Every few days, apply a nonsoap wash — like Cetaphil Gentle Skin cleanser ($14, — to the device and turn it on to work in the cleanser. Then rinse it with warm water and let it air-dry.

Replace It: Every three months, as bristles become distressed and bent out of shape.


Clean It: Weekly

The Dirt: Our mouths are the germiest part of our bodies. As a result, toothbrushes are riddled with bacteria, making proper cleaning crucial, says Marc Lowenberg, a cosmetic dentist in New York City.

To Clean: Swish your toothbrush in equal parts hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, then rinse thoroughly. The former is an antibacterial agent; the latter offers gentle abrasion, explains Lowenberg. If you share a brush holder, use one with individual holes to keep the bristles from touching and picking up germs from one another.

Replace It: Every three to four months, or immediately following an illness.


Clean It: Monthly

The Dirt: “You can get some nasty infections, including pink eye and even staph, from a dirty brush,” cautions Chicago makeup artist Jenny Patinkin.

To Clean: Swirl brush heads on a bar of facial soap to dislodge debris. (I love Orentreich Medical Group’s emollient silicone soap bar.) Then rinse the bristles thoroughly with warm water. Repeat these steps until the water runs clear. Let brushes dry overnight on a towel, making sure the heads hang over an edge to keep their shape intact.

Replace It: Anytime the bristles start to snap or shed.


Clean It: Bimonthly

The Dirt: Product residue and natural oil from your scalp build up on bristles, which then weighs down your hair, says San Diego stylist Jet Rhys.

To Clean: Remove loose strands after each use by running another hairbrush through the bristles. (Or do as I do: Lift away mats with an orange stick.) To cut through dirt, Rhys recommends a deep-cleaning every few weeks by soaking the brush in one part apple-cider vinegar to two parts warm water. Then rinse it with warm water for a few minutes and let it dry overnight.

Replace It: If the bristles are bent or falling out.


Clean It: Daily

The Dirt: Loofahs, poofs, sponges — they’re all veritable petri dishes. “Consider all the crevices, coupled with their being stored in a damp shower — it’s a prime environment for bacterial growth,” says Gohara.

To Clean: Before sudsing up, run your sponge under hot water and rub body wash or soap into it. This helps remove any accumulated germs, says Gohara. After bathing, rinse it well with hot water again and dry it outside the tub by hanging it on a hook or cabinet handle.

Replace It: Every two months, or when it begins to discolor.


Clean It: Quarterly

The Dirt: Even without major mishaps, uncapped makeup and cracked compacts sully a bag’s interior — along with your hands, which emerge soiled each time you reach inside.

To Clean: Dump out the bag’s contents, then scour the insides with a disposable makeup-removing wipe, advises Patinkin, who likes Neutrogena Makeup Remover cleansing towelettes ($7, Pitch or fix anything that’s broken, then clean the rest of your makeup and tools before storing.

Replace It: When the interior won’t come clean or the lining starts to peel.


Many brands use a “period after opening” symbol on their packaging to indicate how long a product is safe after it’s been opened. To remember exactly when you cracked the seal, note the date on the container with a permanent marker. Don’t see a PAO? Smell and touch the item. Odor and goopiness are sure signs you should toss it, says Chicago cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski.

(Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10001. Questions may also be sent by email to: Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.)