The grim reality of filth on your toiletries – and how to clean make-up sponges and hairbrushes
It is highly annoying that the very things that are supposed to keep us clean and make us look beautiful can work against us. Out-of-date toiletries, grimy make-up brushes and sponges, grubby hair brushes and combs can harbour all manner of bacteria and general unpleasantness. Take an hour this weekend to toss out the treacherous, give the rest a little TLC and start next week with a clean slate.
How do you know if toiletries are out of date?
Trust your nose. Anything that smells even faintly musty or where the texture or colour has changed should be thrown out. More technically, look at the packaging on toiletries and cosmetics. There will be a bottle- or jar-shaped icon with a number followed by an M. This indicates the PAO (period after opening) time that products remain good, in months: 10M, 12M and so on. If you’re that kind of person, write the date you opened a product on the bottle or jar with a Sharpie.
Moisturisers and skin creams should last six months to a year; shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and toothpaste up to two years; deodorant, mouthwash and soap up to three years. Pay particularly close attention to sunscreen. While an out-of-date skin cream might not work as well it probably won’t actively harm you, whereas an ineffective sunscreen just might. Ditch them after a year.
Make-up just seems to go on and on and on doesn’t it? But it can harbour all kinds of bacteria. Pay particularly close attention to eyeliner and mascara. Throw it out when it gets clumpy, dried out or takes on an odd smell, or after you have had any kind of eye infection. The same goes for lipstick; if you have had a cold sore, throw your lipstick out. Oh, and also it goes without saying (because this is not 1987 and we aren’t crowded into the loos of the Tuxedo Princess, Newcastle-upon-Tyne): don’t share makeup with friends.
The worst place to keep your make-up is in the bathroom. It’s too hot and humid, both enemies of freshness. If possible, keep them somewhere else.
If you have things you don’t love, give them away. You may have unopened toiletries or makeup, perhaps things you were given for Christmas or Valentine’s Day, which are perfectly good but just not to your taste. Some food banks, beautybanks.org.uk, and thehygienebank.com have drop-off points for beauty products, though check first as Covid-19 has restricted their activities a little.
How to wash make-up brushes and sponges
I am going to start by saying none of us, including me, clean our make-up brushes enough. I would say the same for make-up sponges, but they skeeve me out so much I can’t bring myself to use them. If we use them every day, we should probably be cleaning them once every couple of weeks. At their worst, they can harbour staphylococcus, streptococcus and e-coli, even mites. (Mites live at the base of our eyelashes and in our nasal hair, gorging themselves silly on a banquet of sebum and dead skin cells.) Are you ready to wash your make-up brushes now?
First of all, never soak them. Use a mild shampoo, anti-bac soap or a cleansing gel and lukewarm water. Rinse the brush under the tap, being careful not to wet the ferrule (the bit of the brush that holds in the hairs). If it gets wet, the glue will loosen and the hairs will fall out. Put a small dab of whatever cleaning fluid you are using into your hand and gently work it into the hairs. Rinse well under the tap until the water runs clear.
Wrap in a face cloth or small towel and gently squeeze out excess water, then lie them flat on a clean towel in a warm space to dry completely. In a bind, you can do a quick clean up by spritzing with some antibac spray and dabbing dry on a tissue. Sponges and contour blenders should apparently be washed once a week, but how you can use them more than once before tossing them in the machine is beyond me.
How to clean hairbrushes and combs
You should do this once a month, more if you use a lot of hair products. Clarifying shampoo works well, as it is designed to break down excess hair products, but if you don’t have any, use a squirt of ordinary shampoo with a splash of vinegar in it. Add it to a bowl of warm water and put the combs and brushes in it to soak for 30 minutes to an hour, before rinsing very well and patting dry with a clean towel. You should wash natural bristle brushes in the same way as makeup brushes, above.
Dear Debora… your questions answered
Please could you let me know what you would recommend for the cleaning the grouting between ceramic tiles. Many thanks.
Keeping tiles looking fresh and clean can be surprisingly challenging. Grout is very porous and picks up stains easily. Poor ventilation can encourage black marks from mould and mildew; some shampoos and body washes can turn the grout a dingy yellow. If they are looking very bad, I would be inclined to go in hard with a product such as H&G Mould Remover Spray, 500ml for about £6.50 from DIY and hardware shops, or OxiClean Stain Remover, £4.99 for 1.37kg from jmldirect.com. Once you get them looking smart again, use a gentler treatment, such as a spray bottle filled with half-and-half distilled white vinegar and warm water. Spray it on, leave it for five minutes and then scrub and rinse. You can also mix bicarbonate of soda into a paste with water, rub it on, leave for five minutes, then spray with the vinegar and water mixture and proceed as above. Oxo Good Grips sells a set of two brushes, Deep Clean Grout Cleaning Brushes, £8.99 from Lakeland.co.uk, below, specifically designed for scrubbing grout. I have a friend who swears by a stain-removing toothpaste and an old electric toothbrush, but personally, next time I redecorate my bathroom I am embracing the fashion for dark grouting.
If you have a zip which is sticking, try rubbing it with a bar of soap and it should move up and down smoothly again.