These zero waste DIY makeup remover pads are way better than cotton balls! You make them yourself from a wash cloth and flannel, and they're super easy to sew up.

DIY Reusable Makeup Remover Pads


How many of you use cotton balls to remove your make up, even if it’s just because something got smeared and you have to start over? It’s cool, I did too. Up until about a week ago, I was grabbing from the same basket of cotton balls that I always grabbed from. I knew this was wasteful, but I didn’t have a better solution. Until I made these adorable reusable makeup remover pads!

I don’t actually wear that much makeup. I’m a mascara and lipstick kind of person, occasional eyeliner, and foundation in the spots that I feel really need it. Sometimes I’ll plan more elaborate makeup if I’m going out or know I’m seeing friends, but on a daily basis I don’t really put it on because I work from home and literally no one except my cat might see me.

But when I do apply it, it almost never goes on perfectly the first time. I find myself needing to remove and reapply certain parts, especially with eyeliner. It’s those times that I reach for a cotton ball, often without thinking much about it. I mean, the cotton balls just come in those little plastic bags from the drug store right? They just materialize there, right? Wrong.

Most people don’t realize how wasteful cotton balls (or cotton wool if you don’t live in North America) really are. Cotton is often referred to as the world’s “dirtiest crop.” Cotton only covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land, but it’s responsible for 24% of the worlds insecticide market and 11% sale of pesticides globally. Pretty gross, huh? But what about organic cotton? Yeah. What about organic cotton. I really don’t see the point of single-use organic cotton for my face.

Then there are the labor practices associated with growing cotton. Did you know that over a million people in Uzbekistan are forced to pick cotton every year? The numbers include children too, which is pretty horrific. Again, so I can smear it on my face.

Think about it, all that cotton requires labor, water, and nutrients to grow, and we throw away probably millions (maybe billions) of cotton balls every year! Given that revelation, I decided to make my own. I’ve seen a ton of reusable makeup remover pads on the internet, but this is my own spin. And because I love you, I came up with a tutorial that’s so easy to make, you don’t even need a sewing machine.

Reuseable makeup remover pads with eyelash curler, air plant, and mascara wand.

Full disclosure, this project does go faster if you do use a sewing machine, but if you don’t own one, you can definitely sew these cute pads by hand, and embroider the top of them. Also, feel free to use a washcloth or towel you already have for the terry-cloth part, that’s what I did! I happened to have a towel lying around that we almost never used, so I cut it up.

I’m absolutely loving these reusable makeup remover pads. They’re super soft, absorbent, and I love that they’re double sided so if I need scrubbing action I’ve got that, and if I need wiping action, I’ve got that too! I also love how they just magically fit into the baskets I already own and store things in. They’re way easier to use than say and a washcloth when messing around with makeup, and they make clean up at the end of the night a breeze. And isn’t that little heart the cutest?

Don’t sew but want to save the planet anyway?

I hear you because you know what? We all have our own strengths in this world, and if sewing isn’t your’s I get it. If you don’t think you’ll ever get around to sewing these makeup remover pads, check out these beautiful ones by La Petite Leonne, for less than $13 on Etsy. Best thing about bamboo? It’s a renewable crop that acts as a sustainable alternative to cotton, and is super soft on the skin.

Removable makeup remover pads by La Petite Leonne.

How To Make Reusable Makeup Remover Pads

This tutorial makes about 8 pads. You can always increase your fabric amounts if you want more.

Cotton Thread Means Compostable

I know, I know. I just told you all about how dirty of a crop cotton is. But, if you want to make these pads as eco-friendly as possible, using cotton thread means that when you’re ready to discard them for good, you can compost them. AND you can compost your thread scraps. Here’s a fantastic shop selling organic cotton thread to get you started.

  • About 2 washcloths worth of terrycloth
  • 1/4 yard flannel (I used white)
  • Thread (I used cotton)
  • Needle
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Drinking Glass (about 3.5″ diameter rim)
  • Optional: Sewing Machine. I like this one by Singer because it has mostly metal parts.

Flannel and terrycloth cut out to make reusable makeup remover pads.

1. Use your drinking glass to trace as many circles as you think you want on your terry cloth and your flannel. I made 8 pads, so I traced 8 circles on each type of fabric.

2. Cut out your circles, one by one.

Reuseable Makeup Remover Pad inside-out.   Reusable makeup remover pad snipped.

3. With right sides together, sew around each circle, leaving a 1-inch opening. Cut off any weirdly excess fabric.

4. Snip around your circles, right up to the edge of the seam but never through the seam. These snips will allow your pad to be round when you turn it right-side-out.

Reusable Makeup Remover Pad turned right-side-out.

5. Turn your pads right-side-out. Tuck the excess fabric from your opening in, and top-stitch along the perimeter. If you don’t have a machine, you can do this by hand, just make sure your stitches are neat and close together.

Reusable Makeup Remover Pads topstitched.

6. Your pads are totally usable at this point, but I went the extra mile and quilted little hearts on top of mine because I thought they’d be cute.

Rejoice! You now have waste-free reusable makeup remover pads!

DIY reusable makeup remover pads, with basket, air plant, and eyelash curler in the background.

If you have any questions about how to make these, leave them in the comments below. What are your makeup habits like, do you use cotton balls?

How To Wash Reusable Makeup Remover Pads

This was a huge question on Instagram when I posted that I planned to do this. I would suggest placing them in a mesh-like bag and tossing them into the washing machine. If you don’t want to use a synthetic mesh bag (because of plastic microfibers) you could definitely use a crochet type of bag.

***This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and purchase something, I make a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you <3

DIY Reusable Makeup Remover Pads

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  • Diana
    February 15, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Brilliant idea Elana! I must try this! Are you still on WordPress?

    • elana
      February 16, 2018 at 9:44 am

      I am! But I switched over to a self hosted site so I don’t know if my old followers can see my posts. I have to figure that out!