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How To Quickly Clean A Paint Brush

Last Updated on January 2, 2020

How to Quickly Clean Your Paintbrush

Image credit: CC0 Public Domain, Pxhere

You may be surprised to hear this, but cleaning your paintbrush doesn’t need to be a nightmare. In fact, when you do it the right way, it can be a quick, easy process that prolongs the life expectancy of your painting equipment without adding an inordinate amount of frustration to your day.

It’s all in the knowing how. In this guide, we highlight a quick and easy technique that will make it as easy as possible to clean your paintbrush.

Time Is of the Essence

Paint dries on a spectrum. While it may be many hours before the paint on your wall is safe to touch, the paint on your brush will become difficult to move within a relatively short amount of time if you aren’t careful.

The best thing you can do for yourself post-painting job is to start cleanup right way. The drier the paint becomes on your brush bristles, the less likely it is that you will be able to give it a complete clean.

The last thing any of us want to do after a long day of work is, well, more work, but in this instance, it will be time well spent.

If you were not able to clean the brush right away, it may be necessary to spend some time picking dried paint from the brush before beginning the next steps in the process. Steel wool or brush combs may be able to assist you in this process.

Step One: Wipe Off as Much Paint as You Can

The more paint you can get off the brush before initiating the more involved steps of the process, the better off you will ultimately be.

To remove excess paint, simply wet the bristles of the brush, then wipe it repeatedly on a paper towel until no more paint will come off the brush.

wipe off paint on brush

Image credit: United Soybean Board, Flickr

Step 2: Time for the Solvent

Paint, by design, is not meant to be easy to remove. This means that most of the time, a little bit of solvent will be needed to get the job done properly.

Fill a bowl or bucket (depending on the size of the brush) with an appropriate solvent. Then, run the brush bristles slowly through the solution so that all affected areas are exposed to it. You may wipe the brush on the side of the bowl to help further spread the solvent.

Note that the type of solvent needed will depend mostly on the paint you were using. Water-based paints may be cleaned simply with water. However, if you used oil paint or something of that variety, mineral spirits may be needed for optimal results.

When in doubt, look to the paint can. Often, it will include information on the types of solvents that you should use.

acetone can

Image credit: evan p. cordes, Flickr

Step 3: Dish Soap

Now that you’ve soaked the bristles of your brush, it’s time to…soak the bristles of the brush. (Yeah, there’s a lot of that with this task.) At this point, the solvent should have done its job of loosening and largely removing the paint that’s stuck on your bristles.

Now, you need to remove the solvent and any lingering paint from the brush. To do this, fill another bowl with water and dish soap and soak the bristles thoroughly with the new solution. With your fingers, carefully massage the bristles to ensure complete coverage.

Rinse the bristles out one last time to remove any lingering paint. Once the brush has been rinsed out, it will be to your benefit to dry the bristles of the brush off on a paper towel before storing.

At this point, any paint that can be removed from the brush should be gone.

dish soap

Image credit: Your Best Digs, Flickr


The process above will help you to preserve your paintbrush. However, it’s also important to remember that no paintbrush lives forever. Though you will occasionally hear about the handyperson who’s been using the same painting gear for decades, this is usually not the case.

While it’s always a good idea to make preservation the goal, there is also wisdom in knowing when to give in. If you can’t remove all the paint on a brush, it will affect the quality of subsequent jobs, and add lots of frustration to your life. Why go through all of that over a tool that costs a few dollars?