How to Clean Paintbrushes?

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Paintbrushes are not simply painting tools, they are wands you can create magic with! Perhaps the second most upsetting feeling you can experience as an artist is dirty paintbrushes, first not being able to paint a scene how you want. Clogged and stiff paintbrushes will not only bring down your mood, but also ruin that new acrylic painting idea you’ve had on your mind for the longest time.

Notoriously tough to wash, dried and dirty paintbrushes can be a hassle for even the most experienced acrylic artists. This nuisance gets worse if you keep avoiding it. As much as we hate to break it down to you, the brushes will not clean themselves. However, you don’t have to do much either! Just follow these simple paintbrush cleaning steps and you can start your new painting right away.  

Why Should You Clean Your Paintbrushes?

It is only fair to admit that most of us want to spend maximum time painting, not scrubbing brushes in the cleaning bucket. Though it sounds like a troublesome chore, the cleaning process can become fairly easy if you simply streamline your steps. Ultimately, you get clean brushes and save time, which is always a win-win!

Keeping your brushes well-washed and in good condition are two essential parts of the painting process. Regardless of the type of brush you’re using, round or pointed, flat or square, fan or filbert, they must all have straight, fine bristles that aren’t pointing in absurd directions.

Clean your paintbrushes so that they return to their original form. This also prevents them from drying out. Once the bristles are washed, they are no longer hard and stiff. This minimizes the damage to the fibers and increases their usage time.

Another issue is improperly or inadequately cleaned paintbrushes. You could be sitting peacefully, thanking the heavens above for accomplishing the tiresome task of washing brushes, only to find out there’s still dried paint between the bristles. This will mostly show up when you get down to painting when there’s discoloration or insufficient bending of the bristles.

Fortunately, you’ll find the solutions to these seemingly big problems in this guide. From cleaning brushes to ensuring proper and correct cleaning, and doing all this within a budget, we have covered it all!

How to Clean Your Paintbrushes

1. Wipe off the Solids

Start with wiping off all the paint solids you see on the brush. You can use old notebooks, paper towels, rags, or wipes. Scrub all the solids away. When you think the brushes are clean, do it one more time.

2. Rinse the Brushes

Next, it’s time to rinse the brushes in a bucket filled with lukewarm water. Ensure that the bristles are completely soaked, leaving them there for a few minutes.

3. Add Artist’s Soap

You can now find special artist soaps and washes commercially or online. Add at least 4.5 ounces of it to the bucket, scrubbing the brushes along the bucket’s floor a few times. A true artist may even hear their brushes enjoying this bubble bath!

4. Swishing and Scrubbing

Swish and clean the brushes a little more. However, please be gentle, as you only want to get the dirt off, not the bristles.

5. More Artist’s Soap

Wipe the brushes across the artist’s soap again or add some artist wash into the bucket. Now, carefully swish your brushes in the water; this will get at least 80% of the clogged dirt out of the bristles.

6. Rinse in Clean Water

Now that the paintbrushes are well-scrubbed and swished, it’s time to get all the lather out. Put the brushes in another clean bucket of water and move each from side to side to fully remove the soap.

7. Examine the Art

Cleaning brushes is no less than art. Only correct and proper cleaning of the brushes will result in a flawless painting. Once you have rid the brushes of all lather, examine each with your fingers. Touch and swipe through the bristles gently, ensuring all the soap is washed off.

8. Dry the Brushes

Now lay all your squeaky-clean brushes on a dry and new paper or bath towel. However, please be sure not to leave the damp brushes upright, as this wrecks the hair. Standing damp brushes left to dry can lose bristles as water trickles down their ferrule, loosening the glue. Lay them down side-by-side and allow them to air-dry.

9. Ridding of the Mess

Now that your beloved brushes are clean and dry, it’s time to get rid of the mess left behind. Please refrain from pouring the gunky paint-bucket water down the drain as this can cause environmental damage, especially to marine life. Simply collect all the messy water into a larger, old bucket and put it aside for evaporating. This will take days, but you will be causing a lot less ecological harm.

10. Get Back to Painting!

That’s it! You now have an almost new set of paintbrushes, all ready to be used and get dirty again. Paint away!

Tips for Cleaning Your Paintbrushes

  • Don’t let acrylic paint dry on your brushes. The sooner you wash it off, the longer the paintbrushes will serve you.
  • Keep the paintbrushes in overall good condition. Apart from the bristles, the ferrule, as well as the body, should be well-cared for as this allows you to dab, spin, and tilt the brush, leading to the creation of different effects, such as intensifying light on the canvas.
  • Completely dry paintbrushes are a big no. The paintbrushes must be rinsed and rid of any residual paint before being put down. Keep them moist to keep the bristles and the ferrule in the right shape and form.
  • Please avoid getting excess water in the ferrule, as this will eventually damage and rust it.
  • To prevent water from dripping down the ferrule, always dry the brushes horizontally, not vertically.
  • Not all types of paint are good for the environment. If you’re using acrylic paint, please refrain from washing it down the drain. Wipe the brushes on a paper towel, trash the used towels, and evaporate the dirty water.
  • Use mild artist soap and avoid lathering the brushes for long periods.
  • Rinse the brushes well and absorb excess water before putting them down.


Clean brushes are just as vital as any other step to creating magic in the form of a painting. Whether painting for online art galleries or in-home canvases, invest in high-quality brushes and maintain them to achieve a flawless finish for your artwork.

Gary Rhode
Gary Rhode