Here I am, flirting with danger by reviewing a potentially gimmicky product: the Tao Clean Sonic Brush Cleaner.
How Do You Clean Your Brushes?
You do clean them, don’t you?
Are you a sociopath that enjoys cleaning your brushes? It’s okay, this is a safe space. If you’re like the rest of us, though, there’s a whole subset of the beauty industry targeting the rest of us. There are a whole host of brush cleaning gadgets on the market. Some of them appear to me to be gimmicks, or to be scarcely more efficient than washing individually by hand.
For ages, I ignored them. Like a unitasking kitchen appliance, I wasn’t sold on their value. Furthermore, some seem harsher than doing so by hand. Your tools are an investment: you don’t want to be rough on them by subjecting them to a violently whirring apparatus. Many makeup brush cleaner appliances fall into this category.
Noting my bitching (and negligence), my husband got me the Tao Clean Sonic Brush Cleaner ($ 95) as a birthday gift last year. Thoughtful. Practical. And a good present because I’d never have purchased it for myself at that price point (remember?). But finally, I’m actually keeping my brushes clean at a regular interval.
Tao Clean Sonic Brush Cleaner
So, first things first about the Tao Clean Sonic Brush Cleaner: it isn’t a smol boi. Nearly a foot tall and a touch top-heavy, the appliance comes in two pieces with a detachable A/C power supply. The run time for a single cycle is 2 minutes – in that time, it subtly moves each brush back and forth 50 times a second – or 6000 times.
I don’t know about you, but my manual cleaning (even with this mat) doesn’t result in fifty motions per second.
Water & Detergent
It uses 1.5 cups of water and a little detergent pod to do the job. I have cleaned over 25 brushes with that 1.5 cups and a single pod. That sounds abhorrent (and doesn’t look awesome) but think of how little water a dishwasher can use compared to sink washing. It isn’t the same technology, but just think of that.
I don’t love the pod approach to the detergent, but I do like that it is unscented. It definitely seems gentle on all of my brushes (cheap, nice, and everything in between). The device comes with 6 pods, and replacement packs of 20 that work out to about $1-1.25 per pod. I am positive that you can use your own soap or detergent with this, but I haven’t yet given it a shot so I’m not yet prepared to advise how much to use. Prior to this, I used Dawn to wash my brushes – if you want to try that, I’d start with no more than 1/8th of a teaspoon. I’ll try this eventually and report back.
It can support up to six brushes at a time (when used as prescribed – but more on that in a bit) by inserting into the top and securing with a silicone strap. When you power it on, it vibrates at a high frequency (hence the sonic moniker).
The caveat, however, is that it cannot take either brushes with very long or very thick handles – think Coastal Scents or Real Techniques face brushes. I’ve been able to wrestle my Coastal Scents blush brush and my Sigma F80 (and similar) into it – but my Coastal Scents flat-top buffer, for example, or my Real Techniques face brushes will not fit. Boo.
On the upside, if you like to live dangerously, you can strap a couple skinnier brushes (think eyeliner or other often thin-handled brushes) into a single slot. I’ve been able to wash up to 9 in a batch this way.
MOST of my brushes come out clean on the first go. Every now and then, I’ll have one with something reallyyy stuck (usually a gel or cream product that I neglected too long) that calls for a second cycle.
After washing brushes with the Tao Clean Sonic Brush Cleaner, you still need to rinse. You have a couple options:
- After you’ve done all of your washing, empty the basin, rinse, and fill with clean water. Then, you can re-run your brushes through in a rinse cycle.
- or, like me, you can run a bit of an assembly line to make the most of the time.
Prep the machine with water and soap. Put together your first batch of brushes and run them through. Remove them and replace with your second set. While the second set is washing, rinse the first (manually) and set them to dry. Remove the second, rinse (literally), repeat.
All said and done, this takes me maybe 15 minutes tops to wash, rinse, and prep for drying – including the few I still wash by hand.
Similarly, you can use the machine to help dry your brushes. Just empty the basin again and re-run to shimmy a lot of water from the bristles. It won’t do all of it, but ought to cut your drying time.
I’ve read the Amazon reviews for the device, and although reviews are generally favorable, there are a few themes in the critical commentary.
First, some seem to have expectations that are too high for the machine – it feels almost as if they expect the machine to do everything for them. When we get dishwashers that unload themselves, I’ll hear that complaint. Until then, eh. Grain, salt, etc.
Second, and this is highly valid, it comes with soap pods. Previously, you could apparently only order new ones directly from the manufacturer. $1-1.25 per pod is a bit steep/luxurious. I DO like the detergent, but I definitely plan to experiment with using my own (i.e., Dawn or otherwise) to be a bit more economical starting next month, since I’m out of pods.
Finally, a few people have noted that the device, “caused,” their brush ferrule to separate from the handle. Oversaturation of bristles/submersion of glue can definitely lead to degradation and separation, but we can’t know what condition the brushes in question were in beforehand. Careful placement will mitigate this risk, though. I haven’t had this issue, personally.
The Bottom Line
If your budget has room and it is worth the time savings and will encourage you to take better care of your tools (which in turn will make them last longer and is better for your products and skin), I recommend it. At the elevated price point, the Tao Clean Sonic Brush Cleaner is definitely in the realm of, “beauty upgrades,” and not, “essentials.” I’m really happy with it, however; I’m taking better care of my tools and skin as a result of having it.