How Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and Review

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How to cite: Wong M. How Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and Review. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. April 26, 2016. Accessed March 2, 2024.

How Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and Review

What’s a make-up remover cloth?

Make-up remover cloths are usually a soft fleecy flannel with dense, fluffy fibres about half a centimetre long. To use a make-up remover cloth, you simply wet it with warm water and rub on your face in small circular motions – and your make-up comes off, without using any “chemicals” (well, except for dihydrogen monoxide (H2O) and the substances in the cloth, the glucose you use to power your hands etc. etc.).

What sorcery is this? Here’s how this magic cloth works…

How do make-up remover cloths work?

The key difference between these make-up remover cloths and regular washcloths is surface area. The dense pile is made of many small threads, so there are a lot more threads in cloth than if they were normal sized.

Surface area is important for a few reasons:

1. Friction. To lift the make-up from the skin, the fibres need to grip onto the make-up and pull it off. The greater the surface area, the more grip and friction each wipe will have without you having to push down so hard – instead of 5 large fibres going over a particular area, you get 50 fibres. It’s like with shoes – a shoe with a perfectly flat sole is going to have worse grip than a shoe with a ribbed sole, which has a better surface area. This means the cloth will remove more make-up with less irritation.

2. More thorough cleaning. Smaller fibres can get into cracks too small for normal cloths, and can get under finer particles of make-up.

3. Adsorption. If there’s enough friction, the make-up will lift off the skin, but then it’ll just be smeared around unless the cloth can grab onto it. Luckily, at a molecular level, everything is quite sticky with adhesive forces (technical term: van der Waals forces). Because there are so many fibres, these cloths can bind to dirt and hold it better than a normal cloth.

How Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and Review

Geckos can walk on glass for the same reason – their toes are ribbed to give them a higher surface area, so they have stronger adhesive van der Waals forces with the glass, making them grippy.

How Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and Review

Adding warm water to the removal process helps loosen make-up as well.

Make-up remover cloths in action

I tried out the Magic Make Up Remover, which cost me a whole $6 from The Reject Shop. It’s pretty obviously meant to be a dupe of the MakeUp Eraser, with the pink theme and a long pile reverse side for drying and exfoliating. I tested it on some of my toughest make-up:

  • Rimmel Provocalips longwear lipstick
  • Benefit They’re Real Push-up Liner
  • Benefit They’re Real Waterproof Mascara
  • Face of Australia Gel Liner (blue)
  • Revlon lip stain

After applying them on the back of my hand, I let them set for half an hour. Then I soaked my cloth in some warm water and started buffing. 

How Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and ReviewHow Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and Review
 Interestingly, the mascara came off very easily. Waterproof mascara is the product that these cloths usually sell you on. It makes sense since mascara is a product that hardens on inflexible eyelashes, so it should flake off easily with friction. The black gel liner came off easily as well, though the blue gel liner had more staying power. The lip stain came off completely (though it mightn’t have had time to set properly). The longwear lipstick was the hardest to get off, even when I scrubbed violently (as you can see from the redness of my skin).

Here’s how my cloth looked after this:

How Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and Review

I only used about an eighth of it – for a full face, I need about a hand area’s worth. With less long-wearing make-up, you could probably get most of the make-up out with some soap and water, then do a deep machine clean once a week or so.

On my face, I found that not all of my make-up was removed with just water and the cloth alone. In particular, it didn’t seem to work well for eyeliner and eyeshadow – I couldn’t get rid of it all before my eyes were sore from the rubbing. I think your success depends on both the brand of cloth you use, your make-up and your skin. For all the brands of make-up remover cloths, there are some online reviews saying that not all the make-up came off, so it’s not just because I have a budget version!

Advantages of make-up remover cloths

Less wastage (theoretically) – Make-up remover cloths are washable in your regular laundry and reusable, so even though they cost a bit more at the outset, you’ll save money in the long run by saving on make-up remover, cleanser, micellar water, cotton pads, make-up wipes etc., and it’s more environmentally friendly too. However, a lot of people end up using these make-up remover cloths like a more thorough regular washcloth, alongside make-up removers and cleansers.

Can avoid using make-up removers – If make-up removers and cleansers make you break out or irritate excessively but manual buffing is OK, a make-up remover cloth could be your saviour!

Use less make-up remover – If your make-up doesn’t come off completely with just the cloth alone, you can use a make-up remover with it – this will mean you’ll use less removers and cleansers.

Gently exfoliates – When used lightly, the cloth acts as a gentler physical exfoliant than scrubs or exfoliating brushes.

No rinsing required – If you’re lucky enough that the remover successfully removes all your make-up, then you don’t need to rinse your face afterwards, or worry about residues staying on your face! This is a major bonus for lazy nights, although to remove make-up thoroughly and gently you should be buffing for a while.

Disadvantages of make-up remover cloths

They don’t remove all types of make-up effectively – They claim to remove 100% of waterproof eye make-up, face paint and regular make-up with just water until your skin is squeaky clean, but according to reviews this doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone.

Rubbing and tugging – If your make-up is particularly stubborn, it might not come off without rubbing and tugging. I found this to be a particularly big problem with eye make-up.

Bacterial buildup – The cloths recommend that you wring them out and dry them after each use, with a wash once a week, but without a cleanser or soap it’s possible that you’ll get bacteria growing on the cloth. You could buy enough so you can wash each one after one use, but realistically not many people are going to do that. Theoretically, the make-up remover cloths made from synthetic fibres will be more resistant to bacterial growth than the ones that use cotton, since you can squeeze them dry more easily.

Can overexfoliate – The make-up remover cloth requires a bit of scrubbing, which can irritate your skin if daily physical exfoliation is too much for your skin.


I can see myself using this along with make-up remover, but I don’t think I can let go of my cleansing products completely… except maybe on a particularly lazy night. Even then, I’m using a two-phase remover for my eyes (mega-review coming soon!).

Make-up Remover Cloths

MakeUp Eraser – One of the biggest brands with lots of TV spots and reviews, claims to be the original version. 100% polyester. Just launched in Sephora Australia.

Wonder Cloth – The other big brand – it’s 40% cotton and 60% synthetic rayon. You can get it at Bed Bath and Beyond in the US as well.

Magic Make Up Remover – The one I used for this review. It’s a measly $6 at The Reject Shop but who knows how long it’ll be there for…

Jane Iredale Magic Mitt – This one comes in a handy mitt shape so you can easily get it into tight spots without so much slipping around. This one does actually call itself microfibre.

Elume Makeup Remover – This comes in a handy set of 2 square towels, with a long pile and a short pile side – it’s essentially a MakeUp Eraser cut in half. 100% polyester as well.

Microfiber cloths (Amazon, eBay) – You can buy cheap microfiber cleaning cloths and use those instead. I’ve heard that they’re a bit rougher than these cloths that are especially designed for make-up removal, but the upside is that they’re better for exfoliating. They’re cheap too, so you can get a few on rotation and you won’t have to wait for your cloth while it’s being laundered. I’ve just ordered a handful off eBay in yet another attempt to control my blackheads.

Bubble fleece/minky fabric – Supposedly this is similar to make-up remover cloth fabric. I haven’t tried this yet but if it works, this would be a great way to get a whole bunch of cloths on rotation!

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Have you tried make-up remover cloths? What do you think of them?

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15 thoughts on “How Make-Up Remover Cloths Work and Review”

  1. Awesome post, you answer all those beauty questions we all have!

    I got a couple Wonder Cloths at Bed Bath and Beyond over the past few years. So I found when I tried the Sephora brand that was probably more like Makeup Eraser, that it did not have the same ‘slip’ and I didn’t like it as much as I assumed I would.

  2. The brand definitely matters. I use the Makeup Eraser, I’m on my second one after 2 years. It’s perfect for sensitive, acne-prone skin and it definitely does get rid of EVERY shred of makeup.

  3. I bought one of these, and I use it sometimes, but really it just doesn’t work *that* well, not well enough to replace normal makeup removers.

  4. Brilliant review – very in depth and great alternatives suggested.

    I bought 2 Makeup Eraser dupes (mine were from Cheap As Chips) and I agree it is not sufficient to wash these weekly. They are no longer being sold at Cheap As Chips so I tracked them down on eBay and now have enough for each day of the week so they can go into the laundry basket daily.

    These really do take off your makeup but you’re right – the eye area requires more attention so I prefer to still use a cleanser (Goodness Break-Up Make-Up Balm at night and Natio Ageless Gentle Cleansing Milk in the morning) first and then wipe off the cleanser using the cloth.

  5. I have no idea how I ever lived without this magical cloth. It has ALWAYS removed every ounce of my makeup, including raw black pigment eyeliner I wear that comes from the middle east and is usually holy hell to remove- I would need about 5-6 makeup remover towelettes. Awesome for tired and lazy nights. And, I get these little little whiteheads (called milia) that I have battled with for years. They are all almost gone. I can’t say enough. These towels are just fucking rad.

  6. I received an Erase your Face cloth as a Christmas gift and just thought is was another fad thing that wouldn’t work like the gift giver was assuring me that it would. Just didn’t think it was possible to remove all my make up with a rag and water so it sat in my drawer until last week. I ran out of my Ponds make up wipes and remembered this. I followed the directions and got to wiping and I can not tell you the shock that it worked like a champ!!! I wear waterproof mascara and liquid liner as well as matte liquid lipstick that is made to STAY ON, but this took it off with no problem. I am now a believer. I have purchased an entire pack and look forward to a long relationship with these. I also want to say that it did not sting my eyes or my skin like many products do. I went over my face with witch hazel to make sure that my skin was clean and the cotton ball was clean!!!!! AMAZING

  7. Thank you soooo much for sharing your vast knowledge with the world! Please keep up your work because you are helping the world in so many ways! You’re very important!

    I just knew you reviewed these! I guess my question to you is this… if theoretically you could remove all of the makeup and products from your skin using only water, is that healthy if not using too much force in the skin regularly. I do believe physical exfoliation is important occasionally but am I missing out on putting another product in my skin?

    • It would work, but that’s mostly theoretical since there are lots of oil-soluble substances on your skin that can’t be removed with just water, at least not without friction.

  8. Very interesting! I’ve often wondered how some of these other cloths work.
    I use and love Norwex. I tried to find a way to email you but couldn’t.
    Norwex works on everything (including lip stain, but I don’t recommend it) and has an anti-microbial agent in it to keep bacterial growth down between washings.

    I am a rep and willing to send you some to review if you are interested 🙂

  9. I live in the UK and have sooo many of these! They sell a cheap knock off version in Home Bargains (3 pack for around £3) and they are fantastic! I don’t wear a tonne of make up but I have a really stubborn mascara that takes around 2 cotton rounds with micellar water per eye to remove but these cloths take it off in seconds! I use mine twice before washing but I’m curious to try regular micro fibre cloths now just to try it out!


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