How To Clean Paint Brushes? The Best 9 Steps Explained!

How to clean paint brushes? Paintbrushes are not disposable tools. But if we do not wash them out properly after painting, we will not enjoy them for long. We show you how to clean your paintbrushes.

Cleaning paintbrushes in summary

  • Right Solvent for Paint Brushes – Depending on the paint or varnish you have used, you need to choose the proper solvent. It’s the only best way to ensure that the brushes are clean and used for a long time.
  • Do not throw away stuck paint brushes – Before you throw your paint brushes in the trash, boil them in hot vinegar so that the bristles come apart. Afterward, you can clean them in soapy water and rinse them with clear water. 
  • Drying paint brushes properly – After cleaning, drying is essential. Place the brush upright in a glass and brush the bristles upwards.

When painting, the paintbrush must pick up the paint, hold it, and deliver it properly. After painting, this self-creation means, above all, a lot of work. When cleaning the brush, much water flows into the spout until the paintbrush is clean again without residue. We explain here how you should clean paint brushes so that your work tool will serve you well for a long time.

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Cleaning paint brushes

Cleaning paint brushes
How to clean paint brushes? – Cleaning paintbrushes / Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

Cleaning paintbrushes is a reasonable effort after painting because good brushes are rare and expensive. So it is worth the effort to clean the brush thoroughly from paint residues. Wash out dispersion, and classic wall paints with water.

With colors, you must distinguish between solvent-based paints. Apply brushes with natural bristles and water-based alkyd resin paints. The latter are applied with plastic bristle brushes and can rinse with water. In solvent-based paints, you must use turpentine substitute or white spirit to clean paintbrushes.

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How to clean paint brushes after painting:

  1. Before you clean your paint brush, first remove all paint residue from the paint brush. Remove as much painting as possible from a rag, newspaper, or kitchen paper.
  2. Now rinse paint brushes under running water until no more paint is getting rinsed out.
  3. Gently press the bristles back and forth without bending them.
  4. Knock out water and let paint brushes dry hanging; do not place on bristles.
  5. If necessary, clean paint brushes with turpentine.
  6. Place paint brushes smeared with paint in a glass with solvent – better hang them up so that the bristles do not stand up.
  7. Varnish residues are getting removed, mostly if the varnish has dried up; this can take longer.
  8. From time to time paint brushes on absorbent surfaces.
  9. Knock out brush cleaner, rinse with warm water and let paint brushes dry hanging.


If there is watercolor, acrylic paint, or wood glue on your paintbrush, rinse it in pure water. If you are dissatisfied with the result, use a water and fabric softener solution instead: Add about 100ml fabric softener to four water liters. Then swing your brush in the solution.

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Cleaning oil paint brushes

How to clean oil paint brushes
How to clean paint brushes? – How to clean oil paintbrushes? / Image by Marta Bystroń from Pixabay
  • First, wipe off all excess oil in the paint brush on a cloth.
  • Put some dishwashing liquid on your palm.
  • Let lukewarm water run over your paintbrush and wave it in the palm of your hand.
  • The highly alkaline solution will quickly remove the oils. Repeat the method until there is no more paint in the paintbrush.
  • Alternatively, you can also use turpentine for oils in the paint brushes.

Clean paint brushes

How do you clean paint brushes
How to clean paint brushes? – How do you clean paint brushes? / Image by tookapic from Pixabay

If you have worked with solvent-based paints, such as varnish, you will not clean your brush with water or washing-up liquid.

  • In this case, use the appropriate solvent of the agent used. Methylated spirits are useful here, like with shellac. If necessary, ask the manufacturer for the proper solvent.
  • Fill some solvent into a container and move your paint brush in the liquid until no more color is visible in the brush.
  • It can sometimes be done faster if you wipe off the paint at the container’s bottom and sides.
  • Then rinse the paint brush underwater.

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Dry paint brushes properly

How to dry paint brushes properly
How to clean paint brushes? – How to dry paintbrushes properly? / Image by stux from Pixabay
  • Dry your paint brush in a container with the bristles facing upwards.
  • Some paint brushes also have a handle hole. The ideal way to dry your paint brush is hanging freely downwards from the hole in the handle.
  • Never let your paint brushes soak in water without cleaning. It shortens the durability of your brushes, usually considerably.

Clean paint brushes solvent-free with a household remedy

Clean paint brushes solvent-free with a household remedy
How to clean paint brushes? – Clean paint brushes solvent-free with a household remedy / Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay

The universal household remedy for cleaning paint brushes is clear water. There are also some supporting aids and methods to avoid harmful substances to health and the environment.

With household remedies, a little experimentation is often getting required. We can consider several household cleaners.

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Color type and bristle composition of paint brushes

Color type and bristle composition of paint brushes
How to clean paint brushes? – Color type and bristle composition of paintbrushes / Image by _Alicja_ from Pixabay

The most important factor when cleaning used paintbrushes is the timing. All paintbrushes, from acrylic and varnishes to glazes and oil paints, can usually be cleaned when fresh with water and are relatively harmless household cleaners.

Select the brush bristles, natural strands, or synthetic hair when choosing household remedies. The reaction and cleaning ability differ.

Natural bristles should be textile materials that absorb paint and varnish into their substance. Synthetic fibers are non-absorbent and, in principle, are only soiled by external adhesions.

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Surfactants are the critical auxiliary substances for paint brushes.

Surfactants are the critical auxiliary substances for paint brushes.
How to clean paint brushes? – Surfactants are the critical auxiliary substances for paintbrushes. / Image by Jeremy Wong from Pixabay

Fats are a component of almost every type of paint, varnish, and glaze. Oil paint is the most obvious example, but all other dirt residues we can treat with fat-dissolving household products.

Expected and typical fat-dissolving household cleaners are dishwashing detergents and laundry, conditionally fabric softeners, curd and neutral soaps, lemon, and vinegar. The powerful ingredients in dishwashing and washing agents are surfactants.

Manufacturers of biologically harmless solvent-free cleaning agents rely on surfactants—all surfactant-containing substances for brush cleaning we can use as household remedies. Ideally, we should alternate rinsing cycles and the use of household detergents.


The chosen surfactant-containing household remedy, neutral soap, lemon, or vinegar essence diluted with water is mixed in a bowl. The paintbrush is beaten in the bowl and then rinsed with clear water. We should repeat this procedure about five times.

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Cold or hot vinegar solution for paint brush

Cold or hot vinegar solution for paint brush
How to clean paint brushes? – Cold or hot vinegar solution for paintbrush / Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

A vinegar bath can help if the paintbrushes have dried on or are dry. The bristles are immersed in the vinegar and checked for mobility by the hour.

The effect can be intensified by heating the vinegar dilution, whereby we must pay attention to the bristles’ resistance and the brush handle. Rinse with clear water is also the decisive cleaning step in this procedure.

If you do not have a solvent-based paintbrush cleaner at hand, you can use nail polish remover. For small paintbrushes, it is sufficient to brush the brush bristles. After a reaction time of ten minutes to one hour, the paintbrush is getting rinsed out.

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Tips for clean paint brushes

Tips for clean paint brushes
How to clean paint brushes? – Tips for clean paint brushes / Image by Republica from Pixabay
  • If the painting work is not yet finished and continues the next day, no paint brush tool needs to be cleaned. Put the tools into a plastic bag immediately after use, which you can close thoroughly and airtight with a knot or masking tape. The paint cannot dry up for several days, and you can continue painting seamlessly with the paint brush protected in this way.
  • Before the paint brush or paint rollers are cleaned in water, spread out extensively on an absorbent surface. Newsprint is best suited for this. It may seem time-consuming but saves water when washing out.
  • Underwater with the paint brush! On edge (with paint rollers) and at a lukewarm temperature. Now you have to be patient and use your free hand to brush the roll from top to bottom.
  • The washing machine also cleans paint brushes. At 30 degrees with no spin cycle, all equipment is as right as new. And the work clothes can be washed at the same time.
  • After the paint brush has been washed by hand or machine, briefly beat out the water. Then pour two to three centimeters of linseed or vegetable oil into an old screw-on glass. It will dip the brushes’ tips into the oil and remain smooth even after a prolonged storage period. Drill a hole in the lid so that the brush style fits through. Then screw the glass together. The hole can be filled with a small rolled up piece of cloth.

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Water Usage

  • Fill a bucket with water and add some washing-up liquid. Then let the paint brushes work for half an hour. Afterward, the paint brushes should be rinsed thoroughly under running water. This method is especially getting recommended for painting utensils that are stubbornly soiled with dried paint.
  • Flow lukewarm water into a bucket and add a little vinegar essence. Then, soak the paint brushes for 5 to 10 minutes and rinse them thoroughly under running water, just like the dishwashing liquid method. Be careful with metal inserts! Metal should not come into contact with vinegar.

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After Cleaning

  • After cleaning, the paint brushes should dry at room temperature and not stand on the bristle head. Either lay the paint brushes flat to dry or place them upright in a bucket.
  • Use an old piece of fabric or an old piece of clothing that you no longer need to brush the paint off from the brush head. However, do not pull the bristles, as this can damage the structure of the brush.
  • If there is no washing machine, you can clean rollers and rolls with the showerhead. Place the roller upright in the tub and let the water run over the entire roller. Additionally, wipe the roller with your hand from top to bottom.


You can dispose of completely dried, solvent-free, water-based paint and varnish residues in the residual waste. The same applies to brushes and paint rollers with dried paint or varnish residues.

Liquid and solvent-containing paint and varnish residues, brush cleaners, nitro thinners, or universal cleaners are hazardous waste; we must take it to a recycling or materials center.

The same applies to washing water with thinner. We must not dump this down the drain; otherwise, it can enter the groundwater via the sewage system.

Sometimes there is also an extra collection point for used paints.

It’s best to contact your local public utility company or a recycling center to find out where to go.

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Last Updated on 23/03/2022 by Buzz This Viral