Brush-up on your Paintbrush-Cleaning Techniques

by Cass Art

Your paintbrushes will give you hours of fun and satisfaction. All they need in return is a little TLC - on a very small budget at 10 minutes a clean. This can leave them looking like new for years as with any art materials.

What you will need: 

White spirit or paint-cleaning solution (for oil-based or gloss paints), washing-up liquid, an old cloth, glass jar, elastic band and rubber gloves, turps, 5-in-1 tool, 
fabric softener, paintbrush spinner, depending on which technique you use.


Clean your brushes every two hours while working with water-based paint and at the end of a painting. Wipe away excess paint with a cloth. Gently squeeze the bristles, but avoid pulling them out.

Rinse the brush in oil or turps if you've been using oils. Try warm, never hot water if you've been working with a water-based medium.

Wash gently using mild soap or gentle washing-up liquid if you've been painting with emulsion paints, white spirit if you've been using oil-based or gloss paints.

Use a minimum three changes of water or white spirit. Rinse and repeat until there is no colour coming out. Rinse the soap off and shake off the water. Leave the brush to dry. Don't rest it on its head.


Remove excess paint from the brush by scraping it with the tip of a 5-in-1 tool or the teeth of a brush-cleaning tool.

Blend several gallons of the following mix in a 5-gallon bucket: for each gallon of warm water, add ½ a cup of fabric softener, which can more easily dissolve paint. Dip your brush into the mixture, swish quickly through the water for 10 seconds. The paint will release from the bristles and settle to the bottom of the bucket. Use a paintbrush spinner to dry your brush quicker. To create one, begin with an empty 5-gallon plastic bucket with lid. Cut an 8-inch hole in the centre of the lid. Put a plastic rubbish bag in the bucket and snap on the lid. The lid keeps the splatter inside the bucket. Rub the tool dry with a towel.


Patience! Don't use lots of pressure to force paint out of a brush. Rinse it many times. Once the brush is clean, combing bristles to remove dried paint and reshape the brush is highly advised. Brush combs can be bought at most hardware and paint stores. If your painting job will take over a day, stretch some plastic wrap around paintbrushes and rollers instead of cleaning them for the next day. Treat a number of your art materials this well and they can last a lifetime.

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