How To Clean Paint Brushes

How To Clean Paint Brushes

Without question, the most essential tool for painting is the brush. It’s what you need to get the job done, and a quality brush makes all the difference especially when painting interiors.

In this article, we’re looking at the best ways to clean your paint brush. Keeping your brush clean will prevent excess paint build-up, so you don’t have to buy new brushes each time you paint your walls.  Let’s get right to it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to properly clean a paint brush.

Materials Needed

  • Dish soap
  • Plastic gloves
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Paint thinner
  • 3 plastic buckets
  • Cloths for wiping

Clean Brush With Cleaning Chemicals

Once you have your materials ready to go, here’s how to properly clean a dirty brush.

This method utilizes chemicals for maximum effectiveness. If you want to attempt cleaning your brush without these chemicals, skip ahead to our section below:

  • Step 1 – Remove excess paint: If possible (as in you’ve just finished painting) wipe all wet paint off the brush against the side of the can. Remove all wet paint before cleaning.
  • Step 2 – Paint Thinner: Fill a bucket with enough paint thinner to submerge brush. Soak brush thoroughly in paint thinner, and work the bristles with your hands (don’t forget your gloves). Work until bristles become fully moveable, and dried paint is loosened.
  • Step 3 – Spin Brush: Place brush in empty bucket, or outside over a layer of newspapers. Spin brush thoroughly to dry (you can do this manually or you can purchase a paintbrush spinner). This dries the brush and removes excess paint.
  • Step 4 – Repeat: Dip into paint thinner again, work bristles as much as you need. Spin to dry. Repeat this process to remove as much paint as is reasonably possible.
  • Step 5 – Lacquer Thinner: Once you’ve repeated the above process to desired effectiveness, dip the brush into a bucket of lacquer thinner. Work the bristles with your hands to remove any remaining paint.
  • Step 6 – Spin (again): Once again, spin brush to dry. If necessary, press the brush dry with a wash cloth.

Alternative Method – Chemical Free

If you aren’t a fan of using heavy chemicals and harsh substances to clean your brush, then here’s a “green” alternative for you to consider.

NOTE: We won’t lie to you, this method won’t be as effective as the method above. It’s also most effective immediately after you’ve used the brush, so that the paint is still wet. Additionally, it is only an effective method for cleaning water-based or latex paint, which is considered easier to clean.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Step 1 – Scrape: If you’re cleaning right after you paint, be sure to rub off as much paint as you can. Use the side of the can, or (of course) the surface you are painting to use as much of the wet paint on the brush.
  • Step 2 – Rinse: Fill a bucket with soapy water, and give the brush an initial soak. Swish it around, and work it with your fingers for maximum effectiveness (wear gloves to prevent stains).
  • Step 3 – Spin: Hold the brush in an empty pail, or lay some newspapers outside. Then, spin it as fast as possible to remove the soapy water, as well as the paint.
  • Step 4 – Rinse Again: Give it another rinse. This time, use a bucket of clean water to do the job. Work it with your fingers to get the job done.
  • Step 5 – Wrap: To keep the brush’s shape, you’ll want to wrap it in a layer of construction paper. Fold some paper around the brush so that the bristles are in the proper place, and tape it shut. Leave for a few hours for it to dry.

Paint Brushes

How to Properly Store Brushes to Prevent Damage

Cleaning a petrified brush is very much a band-aid solution. You can avoid this problem altogether if you take proper care of your brushes to begin with.

For starters, be sure to clean the brush each time after you use it. It seems like a headache, but it greatly extends the lifespan of your brush, and keeps it working like new.

Second, you need to properly store your brushes so they don’t become damaged over time. The best way to store your brushes is to hang them up. Most brushes are built with a peg-hole at the top of the handle, which is meant for this very purpose. Use a peg board to hang your brushes. This keeps the bristles from bending out of shape, and allows them to fully air dry after they’ve been spun.

Type of Brushes

To round out our list, let’s take a look at the best brushes for painting.

Before you even worry about cleaning a brush, you should make sure that the brush you are using is high quality. There’s a temptation to think that any brush can do the trick, but you’d be surprised at the difference that a high-quality brush will make. A quality brush better holds paint for smoother, easier, more consistent strokes.

Here are the top brush types we would recommend:

Polyester Brushes: A polyester-bristled brush is one of the most popular types you will find at any paint supply store or hardware store. Polyester is a versatile material, and holds its shape quite well with time. They have an ideal stiffness to apply consistent, even pressure throughout your paint job.

Nylon/Polyester: Quality brush bristles can also be made with a nylon/polyester blend. Nylon is known for its durability, and polyester holds its shape extremely well. The two factors combine for a brush that will keep true for many paint jobs to come.

Overall Brush Quality: It’s not only about the materials. It’s also about the overall quality of construction. Give the bristles a good tug to make sure they are evenly secured to the brush. Also give the handle a feel to see whether it will feel good in your hand for extended periods of work.


Thanks very for reading our guide to cleaning your paint brushes the right way. Hopefully, you can see the importance of taking proper care of a paint brush – which includes everything from proper cleaning, to proper storage, to proper usage. Cleaning a paint brush might seem like a pain, but you’ll thank yourself when your brushes are in top condition for your next job.

Remember, the work isn’t done until the tools are clean!