How To Clean Paint Brushes

Are you tired of throwing out paintbrushes?

When I first got into home improvement, I’d toss my paintbrush each time I finished a project.

I was clueless about properly cleaning them and thought it’d be far more complicated than it is.

But, when I started purchasing the higher-quality, more expensive brushes, I decided to give cleaning them a go. And it was easy.

If this is your first time cleaning paintbrushes, here’s what to do.

How to Clean Paint Brushes: Step by Step

how to clean paint brushes

Step 1: Use Up Any Remaining Paint on the Brush

Before cleaning, use up all the paint on the brush. To do this, paint on a piece of scrap cardboard or newspaper until no more color comes off.

Step 2: Get Your Solvent Ready

A solvent is a liquid that breaks down a solid. And when it comes to cleaning paint brushes, it’s what gets all the paint off your bristles.

Different types of paint require different solvents.

For latex paint – This is the most common type of paint and what you’re probably using if you’re painting your home’s interior. Your solvent for latex paint is a simple mixture of warm, clean water and dish soap.

For oil-based paint – For oil-based paint, you’ll need to use mineral spirits or turpentine to clean your brush. Since these substances aren’t safe for the skin, you’ll want to get a pair of nitrile gloves.

Now, fill a small bucket or tall cup with the solvent-you’ll be using.

Step 3: Swirl Your Paint Brush in the Solvent

Put your paintbrush in your cup filled with solvent and let it sit for a few seconds. Then swirl the paintbrush around the cup and scrape it on the sides.

You can use your fingers to work through the brush and remove paint from the bristles. Alternatively, you can use a brush cleaner or a brush comb.

(If you’re working with oil-based paint, put your nitrile gloves on first. However, if you’re cleaning up latex paint with soap and water, there is no need to worry about gloves.)

If there’s still dried paint on the brush, let it soak in the solvent for a while longer.

Step 4: Wash Out the Brush

With the paint removed, take your brush to the sink and wash it with warm soapy water. Rinse it thoroughly.

(It’s not recommended to wash paint out in a sink because it can adversely affect your septic tank. So, wash and rinse your paintbrush in the sink only after removing the paint with your solvent.)

Step 5: Dry Your Brush

After rinsing, shake your brush to remove water and then blot dry with a paper towel or rag. You can also lay the brush on paper towels to air dry. 

Keep the brush flat so that bristles dry correctly, and flip the brush over in between dry time.

Step 6: Store Your Paint Brushes Flat

Once the paintbrush is fully dry, you can store it for your next project. Keep the paintbrush flat so the bristles don’t get distorted.

How Do You Clean a Paint-Hardened Brush?

how to clean hardened paint brushes

Are you dealing with a brush coated in dry paint? Getting it clean and in usable condition will be a real challenge.

But if you want to give it a try, here’s what to do:

Start by soaking the paintbrush in an appropriate solvent. For latex paint, the best solvent is soapy water.

You’ll need to use a paint thinner like turpentine or mineral spirits for oil-based paint.

Allow the brush to soak until the solvent appears the same color as the paint. Once you notice this, work through the bristles with your fingers. (If you’re using paint thinner, wear appropriate gloves.)

If all the paint doesn’t come loose, soak the brush longer.

Once the paint is loose, wash the brush with soap and water, rinse, and pat dry.

How Do You Clean Paint Brushes to Keep them Soft?

The only way to keep your paintbrushes soft is to clean them immediately after use. When you do this, cleaning up is a breeze, you won’t have random dried-on paint, and the brush bristles dry softly.

However, there is one caveat – if you were forceful with your brush while painting or have repeatedly used the same brush, it likely won’t dry as softly as you’d like.

Are You Supposed to Wash Paint Rollers?

Are You Supposed to Wash Paint Rollers

Unless you’re using a super expensive specialty paint roller, it’s much easier to toss them than wash them. You can easily replace paint rollers, and cleaning them will probably lead to a huge, paint-filled mess.

But if you want to save your paint rollers and are using latex paint, here’s how to do it:

  • Scrape off excess paint with a putty knife
  • Drop the roller into a bucket filled with warm water and dish soap
  • Use your fingers to massage the paint out of the roller
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Dry standing up so that fibers on the roller don’t get matted

Final Thoughts

Cleaning paintbrushes is incredibly easy, and the sooner you clean them, the better condition they’ll be for future use.

The most important thing is to use a proper solvent. If you try to use an inappropriate solvent, it will do nothing to clean your brush.

Luckily, all you need for latex paint is soap and hot water.