How to clean paint brushes: Tips on removing all kinds of paint

How to clean paint brushes: Tips on removing all kinds of paint

All people who enjoy art will tell you that nothing compares to the joy of having clean paint brushes. Although the painting process may be fun, and to some, even therapeutic, sometimes cleaning the tools of the trade may prove to be a daunting task. This should not be the case, as we have created an ultimate how to clean paint brushes guide that will help you keep those bristles unsoiled and ready for your next big artwork.

how to clean paint brushes

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What is the best way to clean paint brushes? This depends on several factors, such as the type of varnish used, the type of the tool, and the solvents used for cleaning.

All in all, you need to ensure that you do not store dirty brushes for too long. The longer they stay, the harder it will be to get rid of the varnish, and who wants that, right?

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Here are some of the most convenient ways to clean paint brushes after use.

How to clean paint brushes: The best procedures

The following effective methods will suffice.

1. How to clean a paint brush with water-based and latex paint

Everyone has used water-based paint at one point in their life. As kids, this was the colourant most accessible to us, and I have a feeling that parents preferred it to its oil counterpart due to the ease in which it comes out of clothing and other surfaces.

To get rid of this type of varnish from your bristles, follow this simple procedure:

What you need

  • Dish soap
  • A bucket
  • Water
  • Spinner
  • Comb
  • Heavy paper
  • A string


  • Scrape off all the excess varnish from the bristles
  • Add some soap into a bucket of water
  • Wash the brush in the soapy water. Do this using your hands or a comb
  • Spin it in a bucket
  • Rinse off the bristles in a bucket of clean water. Use your hands to get rid of any colourant
  • Spin it again for a few minutes
  • Rinse it off again
  • To retain the shape of the brush, wrap it with heavy paper. Loosely tie the heavy paper with a string
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2. How to clean oil paint brushes

Oil-based art is some of the most enticing. The finish given off by this type of varnish is unmatched. Here is how to scrub off this type of varnish from your bristles.

What you need

  • Paint thinner
  • Chemical resistant gloves
  • Comb
  • Spinner
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Newspaper
  • Soap
  • Water
  • A bucket


Here is the procedure on how to clean paint brushes with paint thinner:

  • Get rid of all the excess colourant. Do this in order to use less thinner and also to reduce the messiness of the activity
  • Rinse the brush in paint thinner. Use your hands (make sure you have chemical-resistant gloves on) or a comb to get rid of the varnish clinging to the bristles
  • Spin it for about ten seconds using a spinner
  • Dip it into paint thinner again, and agitate the bristles for at least two good minutes.
  • Spin it yet again
  • Dip it into lacquer thinner. Agitate the bristles for about a minute to remove any remaining colourant residue
  • Shake it onto newspaper to remove the lacquer thinner and residue
  • Clean it off in soapy water and work the bristles for about one minute
  • Spin it free of water
  • Shape it as mentioned above
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NB: Ensure that you clean oil-paint brushes in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside, as paint thinner is highly flammable.

what is the best way to clean a paint brush?

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3. How to clean dried paint brushes

What is the best way to clean a paint brush? Especially if it is stiff? For such, you will need a paint brush cleaner. First, you need to know which cleaner to use.

  • Solvent-based ones are used on any type of brush, either natural or synthetic
  • Water-based ones are used on synthetic ones only.

Both remove hardened latex and oil-based paint by dissolving the crusty hard colourant.

What you need

  • A paint brush cleaner, properly chosen
  • Comb
  • Bucket
  • Soap
  • Water


Follow this procedure to clean a stiff brush:

  • Soak it in the cleaner overnight. If the colourant is still not softened, soak it for another 24 hours
  • Once the bristles are supple, remove it and comb away the solids
  • If you are using a solvent-based cleaner, soak it for one hour in clean solution to remove any more solids, then follow the procedure for cleaning bristles with oil-based varnish on them
  • If you are using a water-based cleaner, wash it in soapy water and use the process for cleaning off latex colourant
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4. How to clean acrylic paint brushes

When it comes to cleaning acrylic paint brushes, the procedure used is similar to that used for cleaning those with oil-based varnish. The only difference is that for acrylic ones, you will use water instead of paint thinner.

What you need

  • A clean cloth or paper towel
  • Water
  • A jar or brush washer


Here is the procedure:

  • To begin with, clean off as much paint as you can from the brush using a clean cloth or paper towel
  • Using water in a jar or a brush washer, clean as much colourant as you can from the bristles
  • Repeat the process if necessary

5. Cleaning paint brushes with shellac-based paints

For bristles with shellac-based colourants, use denatured alcohol or an ammonia household cleaner.

  • When using the ammonia solution, mix it with warm water at twice the strength used for cleaning floors
  • Then, rinse the brush in slightly warm water
  • Proceed to spin it and then wrap it to retain its shape
  • When using denatured alcohol, follow the same procedure used when cleaning oil paint, but use the alcohol instead
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how to clean paint brushes with paint thinner

Source: UGC

6. How to clean a brush with vinegar

Vinegar has, for a long time, been stepped on. In reality, this solution has so many uses. Dare I say that every room in a house can use some vinegar? One of the uses of this highly handy solution has something to do with cleaning these painting tools.

Here is how to go about this:

What you need

  • White vinegar
  • A cooking pot
  • Stove top


  • Pour the vinegar into the pot
  • Place the brush in the pot of vinegar. Ensure that all the paint-covered parts are covered in vinegar
  • Bring the pot to a boil and simmer for some minutes. You may cover the pot with a lid to avoid the smell of vinegar spreading to the entire house
  • Remove the pot from the heat, and let it cool
  • Take the brush out of the vinegar
  • Comb the bristles using your fingers
  • Rinse it in cold water
  • Repeat the process until all the colourant is gone
  • Reshape it and let it dry
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7. How to clean brushes with fabric softener

Fabric softener can also be used to clean and freshen up your bristles. Here is how to go about this.

What you need

  • About an eighth a cup of fabric softener
  • Four cups of warm water
  • A bowl or bucket
  • Paper towel or an old piece of cloth

Method to use

  • Remove as much varnish as you can
  • Mix the fabric softener and warm water in a bowl or bucket
  • Swirl the brush in the mixture until the paint starts to come off
  • Run it under water to rinse it off
  • Dry it off and remove any remaining solvent on a paper towel or old rag
  • Reshape the bristles

The ratio to be used for this procedure is 1 gallon (about 3.8 litres) of warm water to half a cup of fabric softener.

Now that you know how to clean paint brushes, how about you try these simple procedures and tell us which one you like the most?

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