How To Clean Paint Brushes

Clean Paint Brushes

Working on a project and navigating through the process of bringing your vision to life is exciting. We start with a single stroke and then let our thoughts weave up the rest of it. In the end, our painting tells a story, conveys a message, or both. The tools that make this experience a reality are paintbrushes. No matter what kind of brush we need, paintbrushes are to a painter what a pen is to a writer. A flat brush gets you those consistent and thin strokes, and the round ones give you varying thick and thin lines. It must be enthralling for an artist to show texture, shadows, shapes, and gradients, all on two-dimensional surfaces with paint brushes. 

After the joy of dissecting the painting’s meaning or beautiful aestheticism passes, there comes the time to clean the brushes. And this is the one we tend to shrug at. Although cleaning almost anything seems boring or mundane to most of us, taking care of your brushes is crucial. There are several undesirable outcomes of not cleaning your brushes, the most detrimental ones being:

  • The decreased lifespan of brushes- If brushes remain uncleaned for too long, the paint dries on the bristles, making them more prone to breakage. Such a brush is difficult to paint with and won’t give the swift strokes everyone wants. On the other hand, a clean and well-maintained brush can do wonders on canvas or paper.
  • Increased expenses- Good quality brushes are already expensive, but if you add the lack of maintenance to the equation, that’s enough to cut a hole in your pocket. Since saving money is a brilliant motivating factor, so can be cleaning your brushes properly and at the right time.

But how does one take care of their brushes, and how often should one clean them? Here’s a detailed guide on when and how to clean paintbrushes.

General Instructions on Brush Cleaning

While the cleaning methods vary vastly depending on the medium of paint used, some steps are no-brainers. Follow the following steps to ensure deep cleaning.

  • Wash off any wet paint on the brush under running water. Take care that the water pressure isn’t too heavy because that could lead to unnecessary tangling and maybe breakage. This is the easiest step and doesn’t take any effort at all.
  • Use an appropriate solvent to clean the brush. Depending on the medium of paint used, a solvent can be selected to dissolve any dried paint stuck to the bristles. Watercolor and acrylic brushes, for example, can be cleaned using water itself. You can soak the brushes in the solvent for a short time and then proceed further. But be careful not to soak them too long. Soaking for a long time doesn’t damage the bristles but can loosen the bristles out of the handle. This may cause your brush to fall apart.
  • After that, rinse the bristles thoroughly under water to remove any remaining paint. You can also use rubber or silicone indented pads for thorough cleaning. These additions aren’t necessary but are good for reducing manual effort. 
  • Be gentle during rinsing and cleaning. Handling the bristles too aggressively can cause damage and distortion of the shape of the brush. Focus on getting the paint out as gently as possible, then shape the brush with a soft fabric. Doing this will keep this brush in its original shape even when it has dried.
  • After cleaning, the next important step in your brush maintenance rituals should be proper storage. Some brush sets come with plastic or silicone covers or protectors. Use these if available, or store them upright in a spot free from dust and heavy winds. 


How To Clean Paint Brushes?

Depending on the medium of paint used, proceed by washing off any wet paint. Soak the brushes in a suitable solvent if dry paint is present on the bristles. Take the brushes out after some time and rinse off any remaining paint. Dry and shape with a soft fabric in a gentle manner and store them safely.

How To Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes?

Set up a cleaning area with multiple water cups ready. First, blot excess paint from the brush onto a paper towel or tissue. Then, rinse under water thoroughly to remove as much paint as possible. If there’s a lot of paint, shake off excess water, and blot the brush on the tissue, then rinse again. Repeat this process till your brush blots clean on the paper towel. Move your brush into the soap to work up a lather. Don’t be aggressive here, and don’t use your skin for lathering. Experts think this will cause pigment deposition. An indented surface will work best for lathering. Rinse your brush in your clean water cup. Repeat this process until the brush has no stain and no foam left in it. Finally, rinse in clean water; you should see no pigment this time. Shape your brushes with a soft cloth and leave them to dry upright.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes?

Oil paint is very expensive, so be careful to take any wet paint back onto the palette and then move to the blotting stage. Dab the brush onto a rag or a paper towel to remove any excess paint. Then soak the brush in a slow-drying oil like artist-grade sunflower or poppyseed oil. Once the paint stuck to the bristles is dissolved, dry the brushes with a rag again. Shape the brushes and put them on a drying rack. Once dry, store them away from dust.

How To Clean Oil-Based Paint Brushes?

Another method to get oil paint off your brushes is using dish soap. After dabbing the excess paint onto a rag, use a dime-sized amount of dish soap on a silicone pad, and scrub the brush into the soap. Press out the paint and repeat this process till the brush releases no more paint. Oil from the paint will emulsify due to soap and get washed off the brush into the soap suds. Then, rinse your brush thoroughly to get rid of the soap suds. Dot his till you see a clear brush.

How To Clean Dried Paintbrushes?

Dried paint sits on the bristles, clinging like a film. Even when the paint is water soluble, it won’t come out if you use water. Something stronger is needed in these cases. Using a brush cleaner liquid will be helpful. Use a solvent-based cleaning liquid if the brush is heavily clogged with dry paint, use a solvent-based cleaning liquid. Sometimes, the stiffened brush seems like a lost cause. But that can be saved by soaking in the cleaning liquid. Let soak till the brush softens. Then, swirl it around and blot the excess paint onto a rag. Repeat this process till you get all the paint out. This process may be time-consuming for a very clogged brush, but it’ll ensure there’s no damage to the bristles during the cleaning. This will also prevent you from throwing away perfectly usable brushes because the dry paint won’t budge. 

How To Clean Paint Brushes Acrylic?

Dab off the excess paint onto a rag. Use water as a solvent or get a brush cleaning liquid to dissolve the sticky paint. Then, rinse with water and dry with a cloth. Shape the tip on a paper towel and store it away from dust.

How To Clean Latex Paintbrushes?

Get rid of as much dripping or excess paint as you can. Then, rinse the brush under lukewarm running water to clean any paint down to the heel. Spread out the bristles for a good cleaning. Use a paintbrush comb to get any stubborn residue out. Rinse and repeat till the water runs clear. After you see no more paint on the brush or coming out of the brush, shake off excess water. Dab the brush onto a soft cloth to dry it further. Shape and store carefully.

How To Clean a Paintbrush With Mineral Spirits?

Mineral spirits are very effective for cleaning oil-based paints, stained brushes, or varnishes. Soak the bristles in the mineral spirit in an open space for some time. Brushes with dry and solid paint will need to soak longer. After the soaking stage, swirl the brush in the liquid to get any trapped paint out. Remove the excess spirit onto a cloth using gloves. If needed, comb the bristles to drive out any sticking paint. Comb in a single direction to prevent damage. Repeat this until the bristles release no more paint. Soak the brushes in soap and give them a good clean. Dry the brushes upright in a suitable room.

Parting Words

A clean and well-cared-for paintbrush is every artist’s best friend. Improper or infrequent cleaning damages the bristles, which affects the painting experience. Remember, paintbrushes always work harder than the painter. Hence, these deserve more care and proper cleaning techniques. Follow this guide to keep your brushes healthy and your painting experience trouble-free. 

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