How To Clean Paint Brushes- Most Detailed Guide

clean paint brushes

If you want your paint brushes to last as long as possible, you need to clean them properly.

Whether you’re using lacquer, oil-based paint, or water-based paint will affect how you clean a paintbrush. Oil-based products need a petroleum- or citrus-based solvent to remove them, whereas water-based paints can be cleaned up with soap and water.

How Often To Clean Paint Brushes

Any kind of paint that is applied should be thoroughly cleaned off a paintbrush after each use.

The only exception is if you must take a brief break—say, an hour or so—but intend to finish the painting job when you get back to it. To place the brush “on hold”, wrap the bristles and the ferrule (the metal component that holds the bristles to the brush handle) in plastic cling wrap. This will stop the paint from drying on the bristles, making it harder to remove later.

clean paint brushes

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sink
  • Old bucket or disposable container
  • Rags
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paintbrush comb
  • Paintbrush spinner


  • Paint thinner
  • Mineral spirits
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Newspaper

How To Clean Paint Brushes

Use Water-based Paint

Acrylic, latex, watercolor, and tempera are all examples of water-based paints.

1. Use Up The Paint On The Brush

You must get rid of as much of the wet paint as you can if the brush was still filled with paint when the project was completed. To remove paint from the brush, gently squeeze the bristles up and down along the edge of the paint can or container. Be careful not to pull on the bristles, as this will damage them. Most are simply glued into the ferrule using epoxy, so handling them too vigorously will pull them out

Alternatively, continue painting until the bristles stop releasing paint onto a newspaper or scrap of wood.


Avoid dipping the brush too deeply into the paint when painting. Only about one-third of the length of the bristles should be painted. If the paint is not too deeply embedded in the ferrule, cleaning will be simpler.

2. Mix A Cleaning Solution

Prepare a mixture of hot water and dish soap in a small bucket. Depending on how many and what size paint brushes you are cleaning, you may need more or less. One teaspoon of dishwashing liquid should be mixed thoroughly with one quart (four cups) of hot water.

3. Swish And Squeeze The Brush

Swish the paintbrush in the cleaning solution while wearing gloves and make sure it is completely saturated. Squeeze the bristles with your fingers to help the paint release, and then wipe the bristles off the bucket’s sides.

Excess paint can be removed with a paintbrush comb. From the ferrule to the brush’s edge, work the comb through the bristles.

4. Rinse And Dry

Rinse the brush under hot running water after all visible paint has been removed. Make a brand-new cleaning solution, then repeat the procedure if the paint is still stuck to the bristles.

Squeeze out any extra rinse water gently. Shake the brush ferociously or use a paintbrush spinner (which forces water from the brush using centrifugal force). Brushes can be dried flat or slowly by hanging them up with the bristles down.

5. Dispose Of The Cleaning Solution

Pouring the cleaning agent down a drain or toilet is safe.

6. Cleaning Brushes That Are Stiff With Dried Water-based Paint

You’ll need to add a second step if the water-based paint has already dried on the brush.

The brush should soak in the cleaning mixture for an hour or even overnight. Make certain that the solution is only contacting the paint-coated bristles. To see if the paint is coming off the bristles of the brush, check it from time to time. Repeating the cleaning and soaking as necessary, carry out the remaining cleaning procedures.

clean paint brushes

Use Oil-based Paints

Enamel paints are a common name for oil-based paints. Either alkyd oil (synthetic) or linseed oil (natural) is added with the colored pigment. Oil-based paint brushes need to be cleaned with more than just soap and water.

1. Remove Excess Paint By pressing the brush against a container’s edge or smearing extra paint onto a newspaper, remove as much paint from the brush as you can.

2. Choose A Cleaning Solvent Several products will remove oil-based paint from a brush,

Paint thinner is the collective term for a substance that typically contains either turpentine or trimethylbenzene (a chemical solvent). The product is potentially toxic and flammable1.

Mineral spirits: A 100% petroleum distillate with minimal fumes, mineral spirits are still flammable.

Citrus-based solvent: These solvents include terpenes, which are organic compounds derived from plants. Compared to stronger chemicals, they remove paint more gradually. Despite being biodegradable, they still contain some dangerous chemicals.

3. Allow The Solvent To Work Pour some of the solvents into an old glass jar or another disposable container while working in a well-ventilated area away from open flames. Use just enough to completely envelop the brush’s bristles. For the purpose of removing the paint, dip the brush into the solvent and swirl it around. While wearing gloves, work the solvent into the bristles with your fingers before using a paintbrush comb to remove all of the paint.

4. Finish With Soap And Water, Rinse, And Dry Once the paint has been completely removed, remove the solvent by combining hot water and dishwashing liquid. After working the soapy water into the bristles, thoroughly rinse the brush in hot water. Dry the brush with an old cloth after gently squeezing out the extra water. The brush can be hung up to dry or set down on a flat surface.

5. Dispose Of The Solvent Properly Never pours paint thinners or oil paints into a sanitary sewer or sink drain. To allow the solvent to evaporate and the paint to dry, leave the open container in a well-ventilated area. For safe disposal, abide by the municipal guidelines in your area. An indoor location might not be the best choice because this process could take several days and the fumes will remain flammable the entire time. Make sure that children and pets cannot access it if you leave it outside.

How To Clean Paint Rollers

1. Scrape the excess paint off the roller into the paint can or over a trash can using a metal multi-tool with a curved edge or a putty knife.

2. Remove the roller cover from the paint roller frame and give it a warm water rinse. If necessary, you can add a small amount of mild dish soap. Just make sure to rinse everything well to avoid creating suds on your upcoming painting job. Once the water is crystal-clear, the roller is clean.

3. Let the roller completely dry by letting it air dry; ideally, stand it upright to prevent one side from flattening.

4. Use soapy water and a sturdy scrub brush (one that you don’t use for dishes or anything food-related) to remove any dried-on paint from the paint roller frame. Rinse the frame thoroughly and then allow it to air dry.