Airbrush Cleaning: How To Clean An Airbrush


If you are a fan of airbrush makeup, then you probably already know that cleaning your kit is an essential part of creating the flawless finish you covet. If your airbrush is not clean, it’s prone to blockage and, even worse, (as many will testify) splattering makeup all over your face. Fact is, a clean airbrush goes a long way to a smooth makeup finish so it’s imperative to put the time and effort into cleaning. Of course, if you are a makeup gun novice you might not be aware of how to clean an airbrush, so let us guide you through it with these very easy to follow steps.

Tools needed

Cleaning fluid

Most airbrushes come with their own cleaning fluid, which is the specific fluid that manufacturers recommend taking care of the airbrush tool with. This fluid is usually distilled water, alcohol or chemical based. It’s important to always use the cleaning products that the manufacturer recommends and to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning and maintenance instructions.

Cleaning kits

Many airbrushes also have their own cleaning kits; special tools which help you get into every part of the machine. If your airbrush did not come with its own cleaning components, these kits are also sold separately. However, if a cleaning kit is not available, we advise against Q-tips and cloths with fibers and suggest you use a lint-free cloth.

Makeup brush

Professionals recommend also finishing the cleaning process with a makeup brush which allows you to access hard to reach places.

Distilled water vs Isopropyl Alcohol

Part of the process of cleaning is to soak which seems to divide many airbrush users. Most airbrush users prefer a chemical free approach and opt for distilled water. If this approach is for you, it’s important to ensure the water is distilled because it’s free from minerals (particularly calcium) which builds up a type of residue over time. If you require something more potent than water for unclogging, professionals recommend 99% Isopropyl Alcohol for soaking and unblocking.

Two types of cleaning

Once you have your tools ready – it’s time to learn about the different types of cleaning essential to your airbrush’s health.

Many professionals agree that there are two types of airbrush cleaning, the first being simple maintenance between each use throughout the day and the second is a deep cleaning at the end of the day. Here is how to achieve each:

Quick Clean

Time: 5 minutes

The quick clean is used by those who use the airbrush more than once throughout the day, particularly professionals. It’s essential that the airbrush is cleaned after every use to prevent clogging and to ensure an even spray each time. By ‘use’ we mean after ever application or between models.

To ensure each of your makeup passes is totally consistent, follow these instructions:

Step 1: First up, loosen the chucking nut and then pull the needle back and clean the needle with the cotton cloth (remember, needles are sharp).

Step 2: Take your cleaning fluid and add it into the cup.

Step 3: Point your airbrush down at an angle and position your finger over the needle cap.

STEP 4: Now, push down and pull the trigger to create a back-spray which will free any makeup residue blocking the nozzle passage. Note that this might take a few sprays to fully unblock any residue.

STEP 5:  Clean the cup with the makeup brush or cotton cloth or swab.

STEP 6: It’s now time to assemble your equipment again, begin by pushing the needle back into place and screw with the chunking nut tightly. Flush the passage again with distilled water to ensure that it is clear and put the handle back on the gun.


Tip 1: Only clean the areas which you use – this includes cups, bottles, makeup passages and the outside. The temptation to clean other areas (like the air valve or trigger) can actually result in some problems with the equipment.

Tip 2: Remember that needles are sharp, handle them with care and if they fall as you loosen them – just let them drop on the floor. Catching them mid fall might result in injury.

Tip 3: Nozzles are delicate and are one of the most common areas damaged during the cleaning process.

Deep Clean

Time: If this is your first-time deep cleaning experts recommend setting aside an hour but agree that practice can get this process down to just 5 minutes (not including the soaking process).

A deep clean is compared to sending your airbrush back to the factory for a total service. It is generally recommended to do a deep clean at the end of every day of use but, if you are following a good quick clean routine, you can push the need for a deep clean to weekly.

STEP 1: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and fully dissemble the airbrush.

STEP 2: Decide whether you are using distilled water or Isopropyl Alcohol for the soaking process and place the stylus into a clean container. This should be nozzle down with the control lever fully open.

STEP 3: Depending on how clogged the airbrush is, and when you next need to use it, and allow to soak for one hour or overnight. The longer the airbrush can sit, the more chance that all lingering makeup residue will be gone. Note that if you use silicone based makeup, you will find that the airbrush is harder to clean and will require more soaking time.

STEP 4: Remove the airbrush from the soaking container and place on a dry surface and allow to air-dry.

STEP 5: Once dry, reassemble your airbrush according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Tip 1: Never use hot water on your gun because your airbrush contains plastic components that can warp and become damaged. Instead, use luke-warm water.

Tip 2: To ensure your gun is clean after soaking, spray it on to a white paper towel or cloth and check for any remaining makeup – if it comes out clean, your job is done!

Tip 3: If you want to avoid alcohol related soaking, but find that water lacks the right amount of punch, some professionals recommend adding a couple of drops of vinegar to distilled water to create the perfect cleaning solution.


There you go, everything you need to know on how to clean an airbrush quickly and efficiently and achieve a totally flawless makeup finish.


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