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 🙂
Check out the partner video!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Check out the partner video!
Ok, those are my tips! What are yours?
Thanks for the great post. I often have trouble cleaning up oily/greasy pigmented concoctions and non-oily pigmented ones. Sometimes they smear rather than disappear. Dawn usually works well for me, but I’ve sometimes noticed that when my bowls etc are dry they are still greasy. Looking forward to trying out some of your tips when I next craft.
Oh goodness, I feel you there! I lost track of how many sponges I destroyed trying to clean up eyeliner without a good pre-wipe-down, yikes!
One tip I learned early on was to keep my scale in a ziploc bag. It keeps gunk out of crevasses and I can wipe it down or change it easily. Thanks for sharing your tips!
Ooooh, what an awesome idea! Thank you so much for sharing ❤️
That’s a great tip thank you!
It’s like you read my mind! I’ve been meaning to ask this for few days already, but I never got the chance. I realized some sort of a problem that I am confronting with, for several months already. I started DIY’ing for over a year now and I always wash everything in the kitchen sink. I don’t have a dishwasher so I do it in the old fashioned way. I noticed that the sink suddenly clogs almost once a month, and I can’t figure out what can cause this. I unclog it with that long cable, but never have I felt a resistance on the pipes. It’s quite strange.. and the clogging is very sudden. Today its fine, tomorrow blocked completely and I have to bring back the right tool for unclogging (the long cable, specially used for this)
So I started to think what if the reason this happens is from washing my equipment that i use for cosmetics? Did it ever happen to you or have you heard of this problem before? Because frankly I can’t find another reason why this has happened so often in the last months.
Btw, great post! I do agree that having a good spatula can help you scoop out almost everything out of a container! I like to take out every drop of product, rather than flushing it down the drain!
Omigosh! I never run into anyone else with this name! I was just scrolling though this post’s comments and there you were. Very cool!
Hi Lavinia! I have not encountered any persistent clogging; I also hand-wash everything as I don’t have a dishwasher at the place I currently live. I’ve been here for over 1.5 years and have never clogged the drain. Something to consider—here in Canada, at least, you can purchase an enzyme solution that is designed for drain maintenance, made by Zep. Adding something like that to your drain care routine might help keep things happy 🙂
Use bread in the grinder, really cleans it out. I, too, wash everything well before putting in dishwasher and clean counters with alcohol, then spray with something friendly. Also, I pour the hot water, used to heat the oils and water mixture, into the enamel bowls after they are empty. Helps a lot!
Great tips! Thank you so much ❤️
I scrape out with a spatula the best I can and use paper towels/baby wipes. The unscented Parent’s Choice (Walmart brand) baby wipes are awesome–makes great washcloths with a generous amount of liquid dish soap and do not fall apart very easily when wet. They’re perfect for cleaning out those tiny containers used for melting anhydrous things 🙂
Thanks for the tip! I mostly forgot that baby wipes exist ha 😛
I go through so many paper towels when I make my lotion bars (or as you call them, butter bars)! So many. I’m on septic so I’m paranoid about letting too much wax get into the system. I also go through a ton of disposable pipettes for essential oils, since I can never quite get the scent out of a reusable eyedropper.
Thanks for the coffee grinder tip! I definitely need to try that one on my spice grinder.
I read somewhere that if you want to reuse your plastic pipettes to use an elastic and attach them to the corresponding bottle of EO/FO
I do this all the time with carrier oils and I’ve tried it with fragrance oil/essential oils as well. A word of caution there—keeping the pipette attached to the outside of the bottle makes it rather easy to come into contact with undiluted fragrance oil/essential oil, which can cause sensitization/be very irritating, so please be careful 🙂 ❤️
Sometimes I save the greasy/waxy paper towels for fire starters.
What an AWESOME idea! I will 100% start doing this, thank you so much!
When I do dishes I always put on a hefty amount of lotion (like the intense hand rescue cream) before putting on dishwashing gloves. That way my hands are getting a super nice and deep treatment from the heat of the water on the outside of the gloves!
My other favorite trick is filling up a spray bottle with lots of blue dawn and water. Then I spray it on my dirty dishes and I’m not wasting so much dawn as I did when I’d use it by itself! It evenly coats the dishes by spraying instead of having to rub the sponge with dawn all over the dish.
Oooooh, what a cool idea! Like a wee manicure sort of thing ❤️ I will have to move a tub of hand cream to the kitchen and give it a go 😀
I recently picked up some of the Dawn spray stuff and I really like it 😀 It’s not quite the same, but a similar idea and also it’s way too much fun to hose things down with bubbles LOL.