How to Clean Paint Brushes

How to Clean Paint Brushes


Painting is fun, cleaning the brushes is not. But if you make it a habit to clean and maintain all your brushes after painting, you will save yourself a lot of trouble.

Handling Brushes when Painting

If you work with water anyway, you can just put the brush into the water container while you are not using it - right? In the long run that’s not a good idea, because many brushes have a wooden handle that gets soaked with water, expands, stretches the cuff, which then cannot hold the bristles anymore. Bristles that do not fall out will lose their shape after being in the water for too long and stick out in all directions.

But what to do with the brush soaked in paint, when you need it again in a few minutes? The best thing is to swing it briefly through the water, dab off the remaining paint on a paper towel, and leave it somewhere where it doesn’t smear everything with paint. I like to put mine across the edge of the water container or on some cloth or paper towel.

If you paint with oil-based paint, you should stick the bristles of the brush in aluminum foil during breaks. That way the paint does not dry out and the brush is fully ready for use.

In general, you should avoid putting the brush too deep into the paint when painting. On the one hand, it is much better to paint with the tip of the brush than with the cuff, but on the other hand, it is also very difficult to get the paint out of the bristles in the cuff because they lie so close together.

Cleaning your Paintbrushes

The cleaning depends primarily on which paint you work with. In general, the brushes should always get cleaned after painting. Watercolors may forgive you for not being washed off right away, but dried acrylic paint is a death sentence for every paintbrush. You can soak it in vinegar overnight and then rinse it with water, but I guarantee that your brush will never be the same again.

After cleaning the brushes have to air dry. For this purpose, they can be placed on a piece of cloth or paper towel to dry or placed in a container with the brush tip pointing upwards. If necessary, you can also gently press the bristles back in shape with your fingers.

What you should absolutely avoid when drying is putting the brush in a container with the bristles pointing down. The bristles take on strange shapes and can break off. If the brush cannot dry properly and remains moist, it is very likely that it will soon be populated by mold.

Characteristics of the different Paints

  • Watercolors & Guache
    • Water-soluble colors
    • Easy cleaning of the paintbrush with water
  • Tempera
    • Describes different types of colors: Some are water-soluble, some are not
    • Cleaning of the paintbrush with curd soap for oil-based tempera colors
    • Cleaning of the paintbrush with water for non-oil-based tempera colors
  • Oil Paint
    • Pre-cleaning the paintbrush with turpentine, which gently removes coarse paint residues
    • Thorough cleaning of the brush with curd soap
  • Acrylic Paint
    • Water-soluble before the paint dries
    • Easy cleaning of the paintbrush with soapy water (add some drops of dish soap)
    • If the acrylic paint has dried up, soak the brush in vinegar overnight, hope for the best, and rinse with water the next day
    • If you are using a synthetic brush, you can try cleaning it with acetone or alcohol

Store your Paintbrushes correctly

When storing brushes, it is essential not to put pressure on the bristles. It is a matter of personal taste whether you place them in a drawer or in a container with the bristles pointing upwards. With the latter, it can happen that they get a little dusty over time. So before you dip the brush into paint, you should get rid of the dust first.

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