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How to Clean Paintbrushes- 3 Awesome Ways

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Do you like painting? Then what’s stopping you from doing it? Is it the horrible state of your brushes? Most of the time, after we used them, we don’t clean them well enough which leads to dried paint and hardened bristles on the brushes.

Throwing them away is never an option, new good-quality brushes can create a hole in your pockets! Fret not, I’m going to share some easy DIY methods to clean your paintbrushes and make them as good as new.

Let’s get into it!

How to Clean Paintbrushes

There are several methods you can choose from depending upon the materials that you have in stock, how much money you are ready to spend, etc. 

Method 1: Using Fabric Softener

According to my opinion, a fabric softener is the best thing you can use to clean your paintbrushes. This is because of the following: it’s inexpensive, it leaves behind a really good smell and takes less time than any other method.

But this method is only suitable for water-based paints. Now we will look at the steps which you need to follow to clean the brushes:

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1. Remove the excess paint:

You can achieve this by rubbing the brush along a tissue or a rag cloth.

2. Creating the right mixture for the cleanup:

Take a container and mix 1/8th cup of Fabric softener and 4 cups of hot water.

3. Stir the brush properly in the mixture:

To clean the brush properly, move the brush thoroughly in the mixture, and with your hands rub it and clean as much as possible. After doing this for a few minutes you will see the paint settling down at the bottom of the container. 

4. Rinse the mixture and clean the brush:

Once all the paint has settled at the bottom of the mixture, rinse the mixture and then clean your brush under running water.

5. Reshape the bristles and let the brush dry:

Get the excess water out of the brush by using tissue paper. Reshape your bristles and let them dry horizontally on a flat surface and later store it.

Method 2: Cleaning Paintbrush Using Solvent 

This is the most popular, effective, and fastest method that most people swear by. The only problem is that you might not have a solvent at home, so this might require a trip to a nearby store.

Solvents are a little expensive too but the results are quite impressive. Professional artists make use of a solvent to clean their brushes. Their brushes are quite expensive so they don’t mind spending a little more money to keep their brushes alive!  

This method works on both water and oil-based paints. But the solvent’s effectiveness will vary from paint to paint. For example, solvents such as turpentine or mineral spirits are very effective for removing oil paints.

These are the following steps that you should follow to get the desired results.

1. Wipe the brush with a rag cloth or paper tissue:

It’s easy to get the job done if you get rid of the paint residue as much as you can. Just wipe the brushes gently on a rag cloth or paper tissue to achieve the desired result.

2. Selection of the right solvent:

Pour the solvent into a container and gently move the brush inside the container. 

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There are 3 choices for solvent depending upon the paint you are using. Mineral spirits, water, and denatured alcohol for oil-based paints, water-based paints (acrylic, watercolor, latex), and shellac respectively. 

3. Wash the brush properly with water and soap to get the solvent out:

After cleaning the brush in the solvent, wash the brush in a dish wash and water mixture. Thoroughly clean the bristles and when finished wash all the soap out of the brush.

4. Rinse the brush in warm water and get the extra water out:

Rinse the bristles in warm water again. With the help of your fingers, rub the bristles gently and reshape the bristles in the way you want. Let it dry in a horizontal position.

5. Let the brushes air dry completely:

Never keep the brushes in a vertical position as the water can seep into the brushes and spoil the handle. Always keep the brushes in a horizontal position on a flat surface.

Method 3: Cleaning Paintbrush Using Vinegar 

To clean your paintbrushes, regular white vinegar can also be used. The smell of vinegar is very strong and some people might not like it and that’s why it’s not the most recommended method.

It’s inexpensive but it’s very time-consuming in comparison to the fabric softener method. This method can only be used for water-based paints and is generally used on paint-hardened brushes. 

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The following steps should be followed to get the desired results:

1. Soak the brush in vinegar for an hour:

After soaking it, check whether you can bend the bristles back. If you can’t bend them, put them back for around 30 minutes more.

2. Place the brush in a container and boil it:

Even after soaking for so long if the paint doesn’t wear off try boiling the vinegar. The heated vinegar will help the hardened paint to become soft again and it will dissolve with the vinegar. 

Tip: Completely cover the bristles of the brush with vinegar.

3. Boil the vinegar for few minutes and let the brush cool after it:

Let the vinegar, with the brush, boil for a few minutes. Remove the brush carefully after this, it will be hot. Let it cool down for a while in a horizontal position.

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4. Comb the brush bristles and rinse the brush thoroughly:

Rub the brush with your hands or use a comb to get the small chunks of paints out. Start from the base and comb upwards. Repeat it till all the possible chunks are out of the brush. Rinse the brush under running water and rub the bristles gently while you rinse it.

5. Repeat if necessary and later let it dry:

If you feel the paint is still there you can repeat the above steps from the boiling part till rinsing the brush. After the brush is cleaned properly let it air dry horizontally on a flat surface.


These are the 3 methods that can be adopted to clean your paintbrushes. If you are a professional painter and are not satisfied with the above methods, you can try this product – The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver

This cleaner forms a lather like shampoo and cleans your brushes. It makes the brushes softer and restores the bristles to their original shape.  

The instructions on how to use this cleaner to clean brushes and restore them to their original shape are listed on this cleaner but here is the summary below. 

  • Rinse your brush in warm water. 
  • Move it around the brush cleaner.
  • Clean the bristles until it forms a lather.
  • Rinse the brush in warm water. 
  • Repeat the steps if needed. 

Paintbrush Maintenance Tips

Having a deep cleaning session for your brushes is not enough—it’s also necessary to maintain the health of the brush. It surely takes a lot of time but you have to do it. There are a few things you can do in between deep cleans to keep your brushes in good shape. 

1. Always rinse in lukewarm water. Avoid hot water.

2. Use a mild soap to clean the brush with your hands.

3. Store your brushes horizontally on a flat surface.

4. Keep your brushes inside a water bowl during the paint session but don’t leave them in the bowl for too long.

If you found the tips helpful, then do share the post!

Written by Pulkit D

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