A great pair of realistic-looking fake eyelashes can be pretty costly, so there’s no reason they should be a single-serving beauty product. It’s actually pretty easy to rid your false lashes of mascara clumps and glue residue, leaving them looking as pristine as the day you bought them.

According to Tymia Yvette, professional makeup and lash artist, a single pair of false eyelashes can be good for multiple uses. “You can reuse strip lashes two or three times,” Yvette says. Just make sure they’re still in good condition.

Knowing how to clean false lashes without ruining them can extend the life of your falsies and save you some cash. Here are some tips from the pros on keeping your doe-eyes healthy.

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No one loves touching their eyes, but removing false lashes with tweezers, picking at them with your nails, or clamping and yanking with an eyelash curler can seriously damage them — not to mention your, you know, eyes.

Here’s the best way to peel off your false lashes:

  1. Wash your mitts. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. You don’t want to mess around with your delicate eye area.
  2. Gently peel. Grip the outer corner of your false lashes between your thumb and forefinger, and then gently peel them off. If you’re using bunches of individual lashes, take them out section by section with your fingers. The key word here is gentle — you don’t want to pull the real thing out alongside your false lashes.
  3. Clean it up. Use eye makeup remover and a cotton or reusable swab to clean any remaining glue from your real lashes and eyelid. It can be tempting to just pick at pesky glue clumps, but don’t give in or you could pull some real eyelashes out.

Knowing how to clean lashes can help you hang on to that flutter. Most of us apply a coat or two of mascara over our synthetic lashes because, hey, anything worth doing is worth doing extra.

But product buildup can lead to creased, broken, and gunky-looking fake lashes, not to mention opening up the possibility of getting an eye infection the next time you wear them.

However, you’ve probably got all the products you need in your medicine cabinet to clean fake eyelashes.

Here’s how to clean synthetic false lashes (not mink or other natural lashes!):

  1. Start with cotton or reusable swabs, clean towels, and either rubbing alcohol or oil-free eye makeup remover.
  2. Place the false lashes on a clean towel and douse the end of your cotton swab in alcohol or eye makeup remover, squeezing off any excess product.
  3. Use the cotton swab to gently rub away eye makeup and glue from your lashes, making sure to pay extra attention to the lash bands, which usually get pretty gross.
  4. Finish the makeup removal process by using another cotton swab dipped in warm water to clean off any remaining mascara.
  5. Gently peel off any remaining eyelash glue.
  6. Never squeeze your false lashes dry after cleaning them. Arrange them back into their original shape and let them air dry on a towel.

Investing in a spray bottle for your cleanser can help make cleaning a cinch, according to Noël Jacoboni, a pro makeup artist in New York City.

“I would suggest placing the lashes on a clean, dry tissue and spraying with alcohol,” Jacoboni says. “Granted, this doesn’t work for all types of lashes but has a great return rate for me. This is mostly for synthetic fiber lashes and not natural fiber lashes. Make sure you know the difference!”

Another way to clean mascara from synthetic false eyelashes is to soak cotton pads in alcohol or eye makeup remover and lightly press lash strips between pads to dissolve eye makeup.

When the pads come away clean, finish washing your lashes by pressing them between two cotton pads soaked in warm water.

Safety first, y’all

If your lashes are really damaged or you just can’t remove some stubborn gunk, err on the side of caution and trash ’em. It’s not worth risking your eye health to save a few bucks.

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Mink, and other natural fiber lashes, generally don’t need any additional mascara. If you’d like to wear mascara with them, use it only on your real eyelashes before applying your mink lashes.

When you’re finished wearing them, gently remove the glue with tweezers. Water and cleaning products will cause them to lose their shape.

If there’s something you can’t remove easily, dab a bit of water on a swab and roll it gently over the lashes. Don’t be tempted to soak them.

When you buy a great new set of fake eyelashes, don’t toss the box. Instead, use it to store and shape your lashes until the next time you need them.

And remember, a used set of lashes is for your personal stash only. “Never bring a used pair of lashes to a professional or makeup counter to have them applied,” Jacoboni says. “Reuse is for personal application only. There’s a risk of spreading eye infections to the professional — I never allow my clients to bring me used lashes for application. They need to buy a new pair every time.”

While it may feel a little silly to stand over your bathroom counter diligently swabbing a set of eyelashes, knowing how to clean your falsies means that not only will they last longer, but the next time you wear them, it’ll be a lot easier to place the lash naturally on top of your real lash line without a bunch of gummy buildup.

There’s really nothing worse than having someone point out the fuzz in your eyelashes, only to have to explain that, no, it’s eyelash glue, not some kind of weird eye dandruff.

Don’t try to use your synthetic lashes forever, though. A couple of uses are all they’re good for (and your noninfected eyes will thank you).

Keep your eye doodads clean and safe and continue looking bomb as hell with confidence.

Emily Alford lives in Brooklyn, NY, and writes about beauty, food, and TV. Sometimes all at once. Follow her on Twitter @AlfordAlice.