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How to Clean Your Paint Brushes


You should always start each new painting job with clean tools. An investment in high-quality paint brushes is wasted if they are not properly cleaned and stored after use. By learning the best way to clean your paint brushes, you can save money and improve your painting process. Start each project the right way with our guide to cleaning your paint brushes.

Why it is Important to Clean Your Paint Brushes Properly

Trade quality brushes can last for years when cared for correctly. They are an important investment for anyone looking for a professional finish. By cleaning them properly and thoroughly at the end of the job, they will last longer and work better. It’s worth spending an extra few minutes on cleaning now to save you time and money in the future. 

How do You Clean Your Paint Brushes

Use up what paint is left on your brush.

Press the bristles against the inside of the paint can to squeeze off the remainder of the paint. Whatever paint remains, brush it off onto newspaper or an old cloth. The more paint that you remove from the bristles the easier cleaning will be.

Choose the right solvent 

To clean your brushes you need to use the appropriate solvent. The instructions on the paint can will point you to the correct option for your paint, however here is a general guide: 

In both cases, you should wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. When using mineral spirits or turpentine you should use a suitable container, work away from other surfaces to avoid stains and dispose of the solution correctly. We recommend that you contact your local council to find out about suitable waste removal services in your area.

Clean the brush 

To clean your brush, place enough of the solvent or water solution into a plastic bowl or container to completely submerge the bristles, but do not dip your dirty brush directly in. 

Slowly stir the brush in the solvent for 10-30 seconds. Wipe and squeeze the bristles on the sides of the bowl to remove excess paint. Remove what paint is left by working your fingers or a brush comb through the brush, this will loosen the paint without damaging the bristles. 

If the paint has already dried it may be necessary to soak the brush. Change the water or solution as needed until all the paint is removed.


Rinse the brush

Rinse the brushes or rollers under a tap until the water runs clear. Pat dry with a clean cloth or shake vigorously above a paint pail/cardboard box. Make sure to remove all the water before storing. Using a brush cleaner and a brush/roller spinner can speed up the process, helping you to properly preserve your tools.

Store your brushes 

To store, lay the brush flat or hang with the bristles pointing down. If your brushes are new, save the packaging and use it for storage as the packaging will help the brush retain its shape. Look here for more information on how to properly your paint brushes.


Over time it's normal for the bristles of any brush, synthetic or natural, to harden. Instead of throwing them away we advise doing these things to keep your bristles soft.

Start by boiling the brush in vinegar, if any hardened paint remains, scrape it off, boil again, apply conditioner then place the brushes in a plastic bag. Submerge the bags in hot water to ensure the conditioner works its way into each bristle. Remove after an hour and rinse the brush off. Do this regularly to keep your brushes in peak condition.


Cleaning Your Brushes After Using Different Paints

How to clean your brushes after using acrylic paint and emulsion

For both oil and water based paints we advise cleaning immediately after use. Use the correct cleaning solvent as detailed above, using the wrong product can damage the bristles.

When possible it is best to use one set of synthetic painting tools for oil based products and another for water based products, this will make cleaning easier and help make your brushes last longer.

How to clean your brushes after using woodcare products

When cleaning woodcare products (stain, varnish etc.) you want to first scrape off as much of the products as you can. Then like with oil and water based paints pour the appropriate solvent, mineral spirits or turpentine for oil based stains and warm soapy water for water based stains, into a bucket.

Immerse the brush for a few minutes, turning it upside for the solvent to penetrate the bristles. Remove and repeat this process then rinse off with hot water and soap before patting the brushes dry. Wrap the brush in paper and sit it flat overnight before hanging it on a hook.

More Decorating Tips & Advice

Cleaning your brushes only takes a few minutes but it makes a big difference in helping to keep your tools protected. Remember, if you plan to use the brushes again the next day, you can save time on cleaning and simply wrap the bristles in cling film to stop the paint drying out. If your painting project is complete follow these simple steps to properly clean your tools.

For more helpful guides on how best to store your brushes, how to use your paint brush like a pro and the difference between budget and trade quality paint brushes look to our tips and advice blog. 

Shop trade quality paint, paint accessories and cleaning solutions today at The Paint Shed. We have everything you need for the perfect paint job from start to finish.