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How to Clean Paint Brushes

Painting and need to switch colours? Avoid an accidental art project by cleaning your paint brushes properly with the advice in this article.


Reading Time: 5 minutes


Everyone love’s a bit of DIY every now and again – whether you want to transform your home, or simply freshen things up a bit, a fresh lick of paint can make all the difference. Of course, it’s essential to use tools that are clean and in good condition – which is why we need to properly clean paint brushes after every use. If you’re a little unsure about the methods for cleaning paint brushes, follow these simple tips, including advice on removing both oil-based and water-based paints.

When cleaning your paint brushes, don’t leave them to soak in water or solvent for too long, as this can damage the bristles.

Cleaning Paint Brushes

You don’t need to buy new brushes every time you paint – a little care and attention when you clean them will keep them in tip top condition, meaning you’ll be able to use them again and again. Before you begin, consider buying two sets of brushes – one for oil paints and one for water or latex paints. This will make cleaning your paint brushes easier in the long run as you’ll be using the same products.

What you’ll need:

  • Kitchen paper

  • Cleaning solvent

  • An old, clean jam jar or container

  • A fabric conditioner, such as Comfort

How to Clean Latex or Water-Based Paint Brushes

  1. First, remove as much excess paint as possible using paper towels.

  2. Basic dish soap and warm water is the best way to clean water-based paint brushes. Fill up a container and add a generous squirt of soapy water.

  3. Dip the brush into the soapy water, and use your fingers to work the soap into the bristles.

  4. Repeat until all of the paint has been removed, then rinse under running water.

  5. Blot with paper towels, and then shake the brush to remove any excess water (try rubbing the brush between your hands so that it spins).

  6. Dry the brush flat to prevent the bristles from curling.

  7. You can also use a fabric conditioner, such as Comfort, to remove excess latex or water-based paint, and leave your brushes in great condition. Following steps 3 to 6, instead of dish soap, mix together a solution of fabric softener and warm water (half a cup to one gallon).

How to Clean Oil Paint Brushes

  1. Do not allow oil-based paints to dry onto your brushes – any paint left on the brush will cause the bristles to set and become brittle.

  2. The best way to clean oil-based paint brushes is to use a cleaning solvent that is suited to the type of paint (such as varnish or gloss paint, for example). Always follow the instructions on the label, and keep away from children.

  3. Decant some of the solvent into a container or clean jam jar.

  4. Dip the paint brush into the solvent, working the product into the bristles.

  5. Spin the paintbrush in your hands over a bin to remove excess product.

  6. Repeat the process using clean solvent until all the paint has been removed.

  7. Blot away any excess solvent and spin the brush, then dry flat to prevent the bristles from curling.

  8. When using solvent, remember to read the instructions first. Take proper precautions such as wearing protective clothing, keeping the area well ventilated, and chemicals away from children.

  • Blot away any excess paint with paper towels.

  • Clean water-based paint brushes in soapy water or a fabric softener solution.

  • Clean oil-based paint brushes with a specialist paint-removing solvent.

  • Spin brushes to remove excess water or solvent.

  • Always dry flat to prevent bristles from curling.

Originally published