DIY’ed cosmetics and skincare have the potential to create some seriously impressive messes, so I thought I’d take some time today to share how I deal with those greasy/fragrant/pigmented/powdery messes! I’d also love to hear your cleaning tips in the comments 🙂

How to clean up DIY messes

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High quality, proper dishwashing detergent. My Super Concentrated Lemon Dishwashing Paste is fantastic if you want to make your own! Otherwise, Dawn or Axion are my preferred store-bought detergents. Traditional soap really isn’t good for cleaning up greasy messes, and all the store-bought “natural” dishwashing detergents I’ve tried also don’t work very well for waxy/oily messes.

How to Make Super Concentrated Lemon Dishwashing Paste

A good sponge.  I like the ones that have a scrubby top and a substantial sponge-y main part, like this (not a dollar store sponge that is just a brick of cheap foam). I find sponges work better than bristley brushes/scrubby sticks—they really let you get in there and get off every trace of oil and wax, while the coarse bristles of a scrubby stick can leave streaks of mess behind.

Rubber gloves. They protect your skin from accidentally high concentrations of potentially irritating ingredients like essential oils, unsaponified soap, and strong dishwashing detergent. I have these ones (USA / Canada) right now, and they’re good. Make sure you buy gloves that fit—ones that are too big feel really sloppy and hinder dexterity.

Rubbing alcohol. It’s a great sanitizing ingredient and a fabulous solvent.

Paper towel/shop towels. While I almost never use paper towels in my kitchen, I use them in my studio all the time. When it comes to cleaning up pigments that would stain fabric or wiping out greasy beakers, paper towels are where it’s at.

I often work right on a sheet of paper towel when I’m making highly pigmented things to reduce mess.

Microfibre cloths. For wiping down all kinds of surfaces. You don’t need ’em, but they are my cleaning rag/cloth of choice.

Bar Keepers Friend. Brilliant for stained countertops (lipstick on a white counter, etc.) and other stubborn messes. I don’t use this a ton for DIY messes, but I use it a lot for general cleaning needs.

Types of Messes, Ranked

The worst messes are both greasy/waterproof and highly pigmented—think lipsticks and eyeliners. I’d say messes that are either highly pigmented or greasy tie for second. Lotions and other watery things are easy to clean, and things like shampoos and cleansers are extremely easy to clean. Soap is generally pretty cooperative as well.

How-Tos & Tips

Get things as clean and empty as possible before you try washing them. Start by using a good spatula with a thin, flexible blade so you can scrape as much product as possible into your packaging. This reduces dishes and waste—booyah! If the thing you’ve made is anhydrous (especially if it’s waxy!), I recommend wiping the beaker/measuring cup down with a paper towel as well (this is a tip I picked up from the comments section of my first article on cleaning up DIY messes from 2014, so thank you to those commentors!). Lotions, shampoos, and other hydrous formulations typically clean up pretty easily with a bit of detergent, but oily (and especially oily and waxy) concoctions can not only waste a lot of detergent as you attempt to get them clean, but they can also melt and re-solidify in your pipes, which is obviously not good!

Lotions and surfactant products are easy to clean out of a syringe, but I don’t recommend using syringes for highly pigmented and/or waxy concoctions.

Reduce mess wherever possible. My general rule is that the waxier and/or more pigmented something is, the fewer things it should touch. For example: while I’d use a re-usable syringe to fill a tube with lotion, I’m much more likely to use a plastic bag with a snipped corner for a deeply pigmented lip colour. I’ll use a funnel to transfer a body oil into a bottle, but I’d never do that with a lip balm. When I’m working on things like long-wearing cream eyeshadows and eyeliners I usually mix them up in a disposable plastic cup so I don’t have to use up a ton of paper towel and detergent trying to get the thing clean—I can just bin it. Also: use the smallest dish/beaker/etc. possible for harder to clean messes as that means less surface area to clean!

Reheat messes as needed. If you’ve made a waxy thing that has re-solidified in the measuring cup/beaker, set that beaker in a water bath to re-melt everything so you can go in and wipe it down with a paper towel before washing. Watch the video to see this in action!

For colour cosmetics, rubbing alcohol is your friend. I mist my working surface with isopropyl alcohol and wipe everything down with a paper towel, and I’m often surprised at how much pigment the paper towel will pick up from what looked like a clean surface! Isododecane is also a great solvent, especially for cleaning up messes from things like waterproof cream eyeliner or long-wearing liquid lipstick.

For coffee grinders: run some dry grain like rice through it to pick up as much powder as possible, and then tap that out over a garbage can (thanks to Ashlynn for this tip!). I also have a cheap, fluffy makeup brush that has become my “dust out the coffee grinder” brush. Misting the grinder with rubbing alcohol and wiping it out with some paper towel is usually my final coffee grinder cleaning step.

Working surfaces. I usually clean these with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel if the messes are pigmented, or whatever household surface cleaner I have on hand and a microfibre cloth. I usually choose something disinfecting so my work surface is as clean as possible.

If you have a dishwasher, be careful what you send through it. I learned early on that it’s a bad idea to send glassware that’s had pure fragrance oil in it through your dishwasher without hand cleaning it very thoroughly first—that fragrance oil smell/taste can linger in your dishwasher (and on all your other dishes) for a long time. Ick. I trust that you know your own dishwasher well enough to know what sorts of messes it can and can’t handle—I don’t have a dishwasher at this point in time, so it’s a moot point in my home!

For scales. I turn them off and clean them gently with 99% isopropyl alcohol and a paper towel. If I’ve been making colour cosmetics recently I usually manage to get all matter of pigments and other messes stuck in the grooves of my scales—a cotton bud can really help with that.

My dishwashing tub, clearly ready to be washed up!

Have a dishwashing tub. I keep an old shallow plastic tub under my working table and collect dirty dishes there—I can easily carry the tub into the kitchen for washing as needed.

For soap making messes. In the past, I’ve left the mess for a day or two to allow any remnants to saponify for supposedly easier cleanup, but I don’t do this anymore as it generally wasn’t that much easier. I don’t like leaving a mess that substantial around for a day or two (I don’t have anywhere sufficiently out-of-the-way to put it), and I find big globs of fresh soap really aren’t as self-cleaning as I’d like. My current approach is to scrape out as much soap as possible with a spatula, wipe everything down with paper towels or shop towels, and then wash everything immediately by hand with a good detergent and a sponge.

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Ok, those are my tips! What are yours?