What's the BEST way to clean my paint brushes?

Leah Deverett
by Leah Deverett

I love to paint! But I always run into the same question as I'm finishing up - what is the best way for how to clean paint brushes? I usually clean them with warm water but it doesn't always do the job. I don't want to use any chemical that would ruin the brushes. Any suggestions? icon Thanks!

  31 answers
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Jan 08, 2017

    Try using a little mineral spirits.

  • Linda Keser Linda Keser on Jan 08, 2017

    Depends which type of paint, latex or oil based. You can use warm water, then hair conditioner on the latex. You have to use mineral spirits or other chemical on oil based.

  • Stacy Stacy on Jan 08, 2017

    If you are going to paint again the next day, put brush in a plastic airtight bag and put in the fridge. Always put your brush in plastic is you are not actively using it...even for a few minutes.

    Once you are done painting, best to clean the brush well and asap. Soak in warm water with dish detergent and use a knife to scrap the matted paint off the surface and take a fork down the bristles. Rinse, rinse, rinse, soak more, rinse, rinse, rinse and then wrap a newspaper page or other absorbent paper around the brush to dry in its perfect brush form. I store my brushes still in their paper as it protects the bristle from being jacked until I use it again.

  • Stacy Stacy on Jan 08, 2017

    If I am using an oil/enamel based paint. I use non-odor mineral spirits until I think it is clean clean clean and then treat it with the warm water process above. It is amazing how much residual one still gets out of the brush. ..and may have to use a lot of dish detergent and many soaks/rinses until there is no oil left on the surface of the soaking container. Wrap with paper.

    ps - I like the hair conditioner idea mentioned above and will try it next time.

  • Deanna Nassar Deanna Nassar on Jan 08, 2017

    Use a putty knife to scrape paint off the brush and into can. Clean can lip with old rag or paper towel before putting top back on can. For oil paint use mineral spirits, linseed oil, or other similar solvent. For latex use soap and warm water until rinse runs clear. wrap in newspaper or replace in cover that brush came in for storage. I was married to a painter for 20+ years.

  • Kath Kath on Jan 08, 2017

    Hello Paint Brushes, if oil based use nail polish remover (vented area) if water base Dish soap works best in warm water.

  • Carol Goldfinger Carol Goldfinger on Jan 08, 2017

    Put a large rubber band across center of paint can. Use to wipe excess paint off brush while painting and resting brush. When finished cut and throw away. No need to clean paint out of rim any more.

  • 169756 169756 on Jan 08, 2017

    We usually use warm water and dish soap, squirting on the dishsoap then pressing the brush back and forth into the sink. Seems to pull a lot of the paint out that way. I also will use a flea comb if there is a lot of paint stuck in it.

  • William William on Jan 08, 2017

    WOW! A lot of great tips!!! I use an old comb and comb through the brush while cleaning. Dawn dish soap, mechanics hand cleaner, mineral spirits depending on type of paint. Wrap the bristles with newspaper or brown paper bag to keep the shape.

  • Robin Robin on Jan 08, 2017

    for latex paint just have a bucket of warm water, use soap if you think it will help , and taking the handle of the brush between your palms place the "brush" end into the water then rub your hands back and forth to make the brush roll between your hands. change the water as needed. You can use a stiff wire brush to help remove any stuck paint or a comb as someone else mentioned. They actually sell a tool at the home improvement store that twirls the brush, and wire brush combs. Oh and never dry your brush with the bristles down always up!

  • Donna Avery Donna Avery on Jan 08, 2017

    for latex paint, using warm tap water, rinse out as much paint as you can, easily. Fill a small container with water and liquid fabric softener, enough to cover the bristles of the paint brush. I just pour in a splash of inexpensive fabric softener. Let them soak for an hour, then finish rinsing. The paint comes out easily and quickly. Hang to dry

  • David David on Jan 09, 2017

    Whenever I finish a decorating job, I throw the brushes out and get a new set when I start another job!

    The brushes are so cheap at the home store it is not worth the bother to clean them.

  • Cwh6899259 Cwh6899259 on Jan 09, 2017

    Dish soap works great. Rinse out brushes as much as possible, apply glollop of dish soap and rub into bristles (tip to toe). Let it sit for about 5 minutes and commence rinsing thoroughly. Flick excess water out of brush. Wrap flattenened bristle aligned brush in newpaper. Neatly fold the newpaper around the bristle end of the brush, making sure you are not bending around the bristles and let dry.

  • Gwen Barham Loftus Gwen Barham Loftus on Jan 09, 2017

    I use latex paint only and put all brushes and roller in freezer wrapped in plastic grocery bags if I am not done with the paint job. When I am ready to paint, I simply thaw out brushes, roller and paint pan and start again. When I am totally done with the paint job, I throw the roller cover away and the brush. Easy Peasy....NO clean up.

  • Fae Burgener Fae Burgener on Jan 10, 2017

    When using small brushes, like for picture painting, if using acrylic paint or oil, I use dish soap and rub the bristles in the palm of my hand to remove all the paint, When the bristles are dry I dip them in vodka. This keeps the bristles clean and soft. I have a small mini jar. and have used the same jar for over a year. Also on big paint cans. I take a good size nail and make about 3 holes around the lip of the can, Any paint that is on the rim or the lid will run in the holes. The lid gives it a tight seal so the paint wont dry out.

  • Linda Keser Linda Keser on Jan 10, 2017

    If your project isn't finished, you can seal the bristle part of the brush in a sandwich bag until you get back to the project. It keeps the paint fresh and won't dry out.

  • Joy Hammond Norton Joy Hammond Norton on Jan 10, 2017

    When using latex paint I wash them thoroughly using dish detergent if I need to, then I rub lather from a bar of soap into the bristles and let them dry. No need to rinse the soap out next time you paint. I have brushes I've had for several years that I'm still using.

  • Big Mike69 Big Mike69 on Jan 10, 2017

     Always clean your brushes with what ever you use to thin the paint. I could write a book on cleaning the brushes and unless those brushes are very expensive I just toss them and use cheap brushes when I can.

    Cost of chemicals and time involved to clean properly is not worth the price of a cheap brush.

    As a painter I have some pretty expensive camel hair brushes that are over twenty years old and used hundreds of times in different paints but still like new.

  • MaryAnn B MaryAnn B on Jan 11, 2017

    Never stand your bush on the bristles, hang it from a hook. An old coat hanger is great. If you stand it up by the handle with the bristles up to dry, water will enter the ferrule (the metal part) and rust. Buy cheap if you don't have to have a perfect finish and throw them away. A good brush will last for years if clean and stored correctly.

  • Karen Dolly Coppola Karen Dolly Coppola on Jan 12, 2017

    i rinse and use a brush comb with hot water and dawn dish detergent. doesn't matter what king of paint or stain, my brushes are always like new. I buy expensive angle brushes because that's what I like so I take care of my brushes :)  HYDE TOOLS 45960 Black/Silver Brush Comb by HYDE TOOLS

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  • Elizabeth Allen Laney Elizabeth Allen Laney on Jan 12, 2017

    fyi, I'm an artist who has worked as a house painter on restoration projects.

  • Evelyn Evelyn on Jan 12, 2017

    Pour some cheap fabric softener in a pail, add water to cover brush, let sit overnight. Wake up to clean dry brushes. Works on old hard paint on brushes as well.

    • See 2 previous
    • Nan13930673 Nan13930673 on Jan 19, 2017

      I would never leave a paint brush in water over night. When I clean excess paint off my paint brushes with a paper towel or newspaper. The I just put 1 cup of fabric softener in 2 gallons of hot water, swish the brush around in the water about 2 minutes. Run it thru running water working thru the bristles with your hands. if it needs it repeat the hot water/fabric softener again. It takes just a couple of minutes. If you do this every 2 hours while you are painting your brushes will never get bad. No need to submerge the brush.

  • 1268409614 1268409614 on Jan 12, 2017

    I own sable hair detail brushes that are extremely expensive and I have had them for over 20yrs. now. I use softsoap and lukewarm water, then rinse in cold tap water, towel dry them, last but not least I coat them with almond oil. But I found another way to care 4 them. Wash them as you would wash your hair {shampoo&conditioner}

  • Barbara Cornell Barbara Cornell on Jan 13, 2017

    I am a volunteer for Christmas in Action, Midland, TX (a home repair for the elderly who are unable physically or financially to repair their homes) . We use hundreds of paint brushes on our projects. We have a paintbrush clean up area in our warehouse. A professional painter showed me how to clean brushes. He used Dawn dish soap and a wire brush under running water. It really helps if the volunteers will either wrap the brushes in Saran or put them in water until they get to the warehouse.

    Additionally, my mother painted with oil paint on canvas. In her classes she was told to use a hand cleaner with lanolin and it worked beautifully.


  • Nan13930673 Nan13930673 on Jan 14, 2017

    This is for latex paints as that is the only kinds I have used for years and I have the same brushes for over 10 years. First buy decent brushes. Then don't dip them in too deep into the paint. I also keep a 5 gallon bucket about 1/2 full of warm water with 2 cups of liquid fabric softener in it close by. About every hour I simply wipe all the paint off of the brush, either on the wall or trim or a paper towel, then rinse it a little under running water. Here is the important part though. Stick your brush in the fabric softener water in the 5 gallon bucket and swish it hard for about 60 seconds. Take out and wipe dry. It only takes about 3 minutes to do this. You can paint immediately again as long as it isn't dripping. Do this every hour and you won't have a gunky brush ever. When you are finished wash it with dawn dish detergent and water and the fabric softener water again. Dry hanging with bristles down with a paper towel wrapped around it.

    • See 3 previous
    • Clematis Clematis on Jan 23, 2017

      Loriq, I don't know how this helps arthritis , as I only read it yesterday..... It makes sense to me as I've been involved with nutritional supplements for the last 45 yrs and this advice, as I say sounds good for a few reasons. Drink Thyme tea 3 x p.d. Put 1 tsp dried thyme in a cup of boiling water, steep, strain and drink. I have a friend who drank it with Sage and honey to sweeten and it did wonders for her. It's an everyday herb so should not cause any problems..... unless you cannot eat herbs for one or other reason. Hope it helps. I have been taking A-tron and Digestron for my arthritis and it's kept it under control. They are nutritional supplements made by Sportron International. Digestron for the digestive system and A-tron is for the muscular skeletal system . I take Digestron because the whole body's good health starts with what we eat or don't eat and I find it helps the A-tron which contains glucosamine which builds connective tissue, to work better.

  • 1268409614 1268409614 on Jan 15, 2017

    Your welcome

  • Can do Can do on Jan 16, 2017


  • Eugene Brennan Eugene Brennan on Jan 16, 2017

    In general water is used for cleaning water based/emulsion paints from brushes and white spirit or turpentine will remove oil/gloss paint. You can also use a white spirit substitute cleaner. Some stains/varnishes can't be removed with white spirit and you must use a special cleaner/thinners. When removing oil paint, I usually clean my brushes in a bean can or similar, with a small amount of white spirit, empty this into a container, and repeat a few times until no more paint leaches out. Then I wash the brush in the can with very hot water and laundry detergent, rinse it wih cold water, shake out the brush and allow it to air dry. You can actually keep the dirty spirit and use it again. After a couple of months, the paint in solution settles out and the clear spirit can be decanted off.

    In any case it's best to read the cleaning instructions on the can of paint which should specify what you must use for cleaning.

  • Lorlq Lorlq on Jan 17, 2017

    I do this too when using oil based stains reuse all the time pour out into another container using cheese cloth filter with rubber band over the top of container old mayo jars work great no rust if left too long

  • Joan Joan on Jan 20, 2017

    I just painted my entire interior of my house including living room, 2 bedrooms, bath, kitchen, hallway and basement. I bought a couple of different sized brushes for each color and a couple of plastic paint trays (the metal ones rust). Nothing expensive (Ollie's or in NE Ohio, Marc's). As I was painting and needed to call it a night, I wrapped the brush in plastic wrap and refrigerated them until I could continue painting. By doing this, you don't have to wash them in between coats. Although I used latex paint, the brushes can get stained. When I was done with all my painting, I just threw them out. I mean I just painted my entire house! If I need to paint something else, I'll just buy another paint brush :). They're not expensive and to me, it's just not worth cleaning them :)