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Paint brush cleaning techniques

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Paint brushes are a must have item in every DIY home owner’s garage. It doesn’t make much sense; financially speaking, having to buy new paint brushes every time you embark on a home painting project. To this end, it is important to know the basics on how to clean paint brushes after use; something most people don’t know how to do properly.


Paint jobs can be quite messy no doubt. The perfect paint job however is worth all the trouble. The cleaning part is what most people consider the biggest challenge. The paint brushes require cleaning after use; after all they are worth great service and hence great care is the least you can do for them. To achieve the perfect paint job, you need to first and foremost acquire the perfect paint brush. This article is meant to create a guideline on how to clean paint brushes properly and effectively after use with different types of paints.

Cleaning paint brushes: the methods

Paint brushes can be described as a great investment. However, misuse or lack of proper care can render these useful implements a waste. Cleaning brushes is a pretty straight forward affair. That’s if you know what you’re doing. The first thing you need to consider when cleaning a paint brush is that you have to get as much of the wet paint off the brush as is possible. Afterwards, depending on the type of paint, different cleaning methods can be employed.

Method 1

Using a ragor a piece of paper towel, wipe off excess wet paint from the paint brush. This makes the cleaning job a whole lot easier. Depending on the paint base, you can wash the paint brush in the same solvent as the paint is dissolved thinned in. For mineral oil based paints, you can wash the brush in spirits or alcohol based solvents. These effectively lift a decent amount of the paint off the brush.

Paint brush cleaning techniques

For latex paints and other water based pigments, washing the paint brush in water easily gets the job done. It is recommended to refer to the paint can in cases where you’re not sure about the type of paint you are dealing with. For Shellac paints and pigments, use denatured alcohol to lift the paint off the paint brush bristles.

Once done washing lightly with the paint thinner, wipe off the solvent using a dry rag or paper towel. In the case of water based paints this step won’t be necessary. For mineral oil based paints, run warm tap water the through brushes. This loosens up any remaining paint while cleaning out the bristles. Gently rub the brush bristles with your fingers. Dry off the water and set the bristles in an upright position. Leave the paint brush face upwards.

Paint brush cleaning techniques

Method 2

This method of cleaning paint brushes is applicable in cases where the paint has actually dried on the brush bristles. Many are times people postpone or procrastinate cleaning brushes after a successful paint job. While this is understandable, the results are quite a headache to deal with. However, it’s nothing a little chemistry can’t solve.

In this method, soak the hardened paint brushes in Vinegar and leave them in for an hour. Afterwards, check if the brush bristles can bend easily. If not, leave the brushes in for an extra thirty to forty five minutes. Afterwards, place the brushes in an old pot and cover them with vinegar. Ensure the vinegar fills the pot to a level as such that the brush bristles are covered. Proceed to boil the vinegar and allow the paint brushes to sit in for a few minutes. Practice caution during this stage as the risk of getting burnt is quite real.

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Paint brush cleaning techniques

Remove the brush/s and set them aside to cool. Afterwards use an old comb to work through the brush bristles. This removes the hard paint globs that have now loosened. Repeat the combing process; gently though, to avoid dislodging the bristles from their roots. If necessary you may repeat the vinegar boiling part and afterwards combing the brush once more until the paint brush is restored to its once pristine condition.

Method 3

This method is suitable for oil based paints and pigments. Wipe off excess wet paint from the paint brushusing a ragor a piece of paper towel. For this method to work effectively, you will need liquid detergent or powder detergent of your preferred choice. First, run warm tap water on the paint-wet bristles to allow the detergents to lather up easy. Pour a handsome amount of liquid detergent or powder on your palm and apply it on the wet brush bristles. Gently work the detergent into the paint brush and allow the lather to sit in for a while. The detergent cuts the oil paint or rather emulsifies it into small micro particles that are easily gotten rid of.

Paint brush cleaning techniques

Rinse off the detergent and depending on how much paint is left in the brush bristles, you may repeat the procedure. Perform the washing as many times as is necessary until all the paint has disappeared from the bristles. This method is quite effective in getting rid of oil based paints, however, it is recommended to clean once in a while using mineral spirits to achieve a deeper cleanse.


In summary, cleaning paint brushes prolongs their service life and ensures you get a smoother coat of paint without the bristles falling off. The tough part about cleaning paint brushes is actually doing it well and getting rid of all the paint; that is the challenge. Knowing how to clean paint brushes is one thing and actually doing it well is another. Depending on the type of paint the brushes in question work with, different washing methods and washing solvents are available. One wrong call and you might as well throw the paint brushes out and buy new ones.

I hope this articles was informative and easy to follow. Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments and suggestions in the space provided below. Good luck cleaning your paint brushes.

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