3 Ways to Clean Paint Brushes

Written by: admin@makezilla

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Three easy ways to clean your paint brushes.

We've all done it, let paint dry on our paint brushes and then kicked ourselves later for it. I know that some of us have even thrown those brushes away thinking that we've missed the opportunity to save it's beautiful bristles--tsk tsk. This Instructable will show you three different methods for removing paint from your brushes and save you a little money at the hardware/art store for your next painting adventure. 

Please note, that these methods will not restore your paint brushes to their original brand new condition but they will restore the paint brush to a state where you can use them again!

Step 1: Solvents

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This is method #1, and the method that most of us have heard of. It's fast and effective, if you have just used your paint brush

Materials:

  • Appropriate Solvent (look at your paint and suggestions below)
  • Paper Towel or Old Rag
  • Paint Brush in Need of Cleaning
  • Old Cup, Bowl, Bucket, or Tupperware 
  • Disposable Gloves

Steps:

  1. Remove as much paint as your can from your paint brush by brushing it along an old rag or paper towel. You want as little paint as possible still on your brush for a faster cleaning in the solvent. 
  2. Pour a little solvent into your vessel. I prefer to use an old tupperware or glass jar. Make sure that your paint washing vessel is clearly marked so that it doesn't end up having food put into it. Place your paint brush into your  solvent. 
  3. Begin by swirling and moving your brush back and forth in the solvent. Continue until all of the paint has been removed.
  4. Once your paint brush has been cleaned, rinse any remaining solvent off by running your paint brush under water. 
  5. Remove any remaining solvent or water on a paper towel or old rag. 
  6. Reshape your paint brush bristles and store until you're ready to paint again. Let your brush dry. 


Solvents to Consider:

  • Use water to remove water based paints.
  • Use mineral spirits or paint thinner to remove oil based paints.
  • Use denatured alcohol for shellacs.
  • Use mineral spirits for varnishes.
  • Use water if your are removing a water based glue. 

Check your paint type or at your local hardware store if you are unsure which solvent to use. It is also important to wear gloves and other protective clothing items like aprons when working with certain solvents. Again, if you are unsure, use gloves and other protective items. It is also recommended that you work with solvents in a well ventilated space. 

A Final Note: Paint Thinner is considered a hazardous waste substance. Only use it if you have to and please dispose of it properly--see your city regulations for a hazardous waste dump or their preferred disposal method for paint thinner.

Step 2: Vinegar

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Method #2, vinegar, is especially effective for paint brushes with hardened paint that has been there for some time. 

Materials:

  • White Vinegar
  • Cooking Pot
  • Old Dirty Paintbrush
  • Stove Top

Steps:

  1. Pour vinegar into your pot. If you don't want to use a pot from your kitchen, pick one up just for paint brushes at your local thrift store. 
  2. Place your brush into the pot of vinegar. All of the paint covered areas of your brush should be covered with vinegar. If not, add more.
  3. Bring your pot of vinegar to a boil and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. A lid is a good idea here unless you want your entire kitchen to smell like vinegar. :)
  4. Remove your pot from the heat and let it cool for a minute or two. 
  5. Take the brush out of the vinegar. Be careful, as the vinegar, pot and paint brush may be hot. Wait until you can safely touch the brush.
  6. Using your fingers, comb the brush bristles. The paint will still be attached to the brush when you first removed it from the vinegar but will fall away as you continue to comb the bristles. 
  7. Rinse your brush in cold water. The remaining loosened paint will wash away. 
  8. If necessary, repeat steps  1-7 until all of the paint is gone. The number of times you'll have to repeat will depend on how long your paint has been hardening on your brush.
  9. Reshape your paint brush bristles and allow the paint brush to dry. Store your brush for your next painting masterpiece.

Step 3: Fabric Softener

Picture of Fabric Softener

Method #3 involves the helpful addition of fabric softener to quickly remove paint from your brushes. 

Materials:

  • 1/8 Cup Fabric Softener (you can buy it or make your own here!)
  • 4 Cups of Warm Water
  • Bowl or Bucket
  • Paper Towel or Old Rag
  • Dirty Paint Brush

Steps:

  1. Remove as much paint as your can from your paint brush by brushing it along an old rag or paper towel. You want as little paint as possible still on your brush for a faster cleaning in the solvent.
  2. Pour 1/8 Cup of Fabric Softener and 4 Cups of warm water into your bowl or bucket. Mix.
  3. Swirl your paint brush in your mixture until you see paint starting to come off. The paint should settle to the bottom of the bucket. 
  4. Once your paint brush has been cleaned, rinse any remaining softener solution off by running your paint brush under water.
  5. Dry your paint brush and remove any remaining solvent on a paper towel or old rag.
  6. Reshape your paint brush bristles and store until you're ready to paint again.

If you'd like to make a bigger batch for more paint brushes or rollers scale to the following: 1 Gallon of warm water and 1/2 Cup of Fabric Softener. Mix two ingredients in a FIVE Gallon Bucket. Continue to follow steps above.  

Step 4: Start Planning

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You've got clean paint brushes! Start planning your next artistic adventure.

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