Tips for Cleaning Acrylic Paint Brushes

Updated on December 1, 2018
Robie Benve profile image

Robie is a self-taught artist who loves sharing what she's learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.

How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes

Acrylic paint dries very fast. To preserve the health of your paintbrushes it is extremely important to:

- Keep the bristles moist at all times while painting.

- Clean brushes promptly at the end of each painting session.

Tips for Cleaning Acrylic Paint Brushes
Tips for Cleaning Acrylic Paint Brushes | Source

Don't Let Acrylic Paint Dry on Brushes

Acrylic paint is easily washable with soap and water while wet, but it becomes extremely difficult to remove once dry, and it can definitely ruin paintbrushes if allowed to dry on the bristles.

Time Is Money

It’s important to remove any paint before it dries. As an artist, brushes are your working tools. You must keep them in good conditions so that they are able to do the job they were designed for.

By cleaning your brushes thoroughly, you extend their life and, in the end, save a lot of money in supplies.

Keep Your Brushes Moist

During your acrylic painting session, make sure to rinse your brushes before putting them down and to keep them wet so that no residue of paint dries on them.

When you change color paint or you switch to another brush, remove excess paint from the bristles with a paper towel and rinse the brush thoroughly, then lay the wet brush flat until you need it again.

Do not keep your brushes soaked in water, because this could lose or rust the ferrule and damage the handle. Also, in general, you should never leave a brush standing on its hair for a long time, in water or during storage, because it may bend and lose its shape.

How to Wash Your Brushes in 9 Steps

  1. Remove most of the paint from of your brushes using a paper towel or a rag.
  2. Wet with warm water
  3. Load you wet brush with a mild soap. You can use any non-aggressive soap. Many people like to use Murphy’s oil, the household cleaner. I often use hand soap or a laundry soap bar. They also sell specific brush cleaning soaps.
  4. Rub the soapy brush on the palm of your hand, in circles.
  5. Create enough foam to take off all residues of paint.
  6. Massage the bristles with your fingers to get all the paint out from the middle of the hairs.
  7. Rinse thoroughly and repeat until foam and water are clear.
  8. Dry excess water with a rag, being gentle on the bristles.
  9. Flat dry, making sure that hairs are not pushing against any obstacles that may bend them.

What brush-personality are you?

Are your brushes clean and neat?

See results

Massage the bristles with your fingers to get all the paint out from the middle of the hairs

Get all the paint from the middle of the bristles by massaging them with your fingers.
Get all the paint from the middle of the bristles by massaging them with your fingers. | Source

Tips on Washing Paint Brushes

At the end of a painting session, don't forget to clean all brushes right away.

Start by getting most of the paint off your brush with a paper towel. Squeeze off the paint, rub the brush on the paper to get as much pigment as you can off the bristles; then start washing.

Acrylic paint is not good for the environment, so avoid washing big amount of paint down the drain. It is much better for the water system if you wipe off excess paint with a paper towel and throw it in the trash can.


  • Use Mild Soap. Avoid dish detergent or other types of aggressive soaps.
  • Use Soap Sparingly. Not to be cheap, but because even the mild soap could dry and affect the brush bristles, plus it takes longer and more water to rinse.
  • Rinse Well. Make sure there is no soap residue whatsoever at the last rinse, or your first paint-stroke with that brush will be "soapy".
  • Absorb Excess Water with a rag, being gentle on the hair of the brush.
  • Lay Wet Brushes Flat. Flat is the best way for a brush to dry. Do not leave the brushes standing on their tip, this may damage the tip and compromise the shape.

Store Your Brushes Properly

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Keep your brushes clean and properly stored. Avoid any pressure on the bristles or they will deform. Upright in a container is ok.Or you may keep then in a brush case, also handy for traveling.
Keep your brushes clean and properly stored. Avoid any pressure on the bristles or they will deform. Upright in a container is ok.
Keep your brushes clean and properly stored. Avoid any pressure on the bristles or they will deform. Upright in a container is ok. | Source
Or you may keep then in a brush case, also handy for traveling.
Or you may keep then in a brush case, also handy for traveling. | Source

Ruined your brushes and need to buy new ones? I have this set and it's pretty good!

Paint Brushes for Acrylic Watercolor Oil Gouache Paint. Best Art Supplies Painting Brush Set. Professional 15pc Paintbrushes for Artists with Carry Case Travel Kit.
Paint Brushes for Acrylic Watercolor Oil Gouache Paint. Best Art Supplies Painting Brush Set. Professional 15pc Paintbrushes for Artists with Carry Case Travel Kit.

I'm usually skeptical about brush sets because of their (usually) lower quality, but this one is an excellent combination of affordable price and high quality. It contains a large variety of sizes and shapes, a great set for beginners until you figure out which brush best suits your style, then you can buy individual ones.

 

Questions & Answers

  • How should I remove old dried paint from the ferrules of brushes? Should I use Turpenoid?

    If it's acrylic paint that dried on the ferrule, I would try soaking it with window cleaner and then rub it off with your fingernail.

    For oil paint, I've got good results by soaking brushes with very dry paint in a cleaner by a company called Brush Flush. Everything cleans off like magic.

© 2013 Robie Benve

Comments

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    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      21 months ago from Ohio

      Hi Katie, I sent you an email with the links to the Feltmagnet acrylic painting web page and my profile page, where you can see all my articles. Hope that helps. : )

    • profile image

      Katie.mason10@aol.com 

      21 months ago

      I'm getting frustrated in that other Arthur's are in such an abundance and that im searching for Acrylic stuff and im getting all kinds of crafty things ideas. All I want to be able to read, learn how too is from you Robbie. I'm needing all the Acrylic items together.

      What do I need to do to obtain this?

      Thanks

      Katie and Sheldon

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      That's very interesting Josh! I never heard of using rubbing alcohol in the water before, I must try! Thanks for sharing. Happy painting!

    • profile image

      Josh 

      2 years ago

      Another way to make cleaning acrylic paint off of your paint brushes it to mix a little rubbing alcohol into your time water. The rubbing alcohol loosens the binding molecules of the paint and thus makes it easier to rince off and rubbing alcohol can be used to thin your paint if needed.

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      3 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Minnie,

      I understand... ruining one too many brushes is what made me do some extra research and learn what I should have done instead. Here I'm sharing what I now know for a fact, in the hope it can be useful to someone else. :) Thanks a lot for stopping by. Happy painting!

    • profile image

      Minnie 

      3 years ago

      This is very helpful as I have ruined some brushes

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      Hi torrilynn, we gotta keep those brushes clean, don't we? :) Thanks a lot for reading and commenting. Happy painting!

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Carol, how do you like washable oils? Are they similar to acrylics, but dry slower?

      Thanks for your comment. :)

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      Hi europewalker, cleaning up after a nice activity always kind of ruins the fun, doesn't it? I hate those times when I get sidetracked and hours later I realize I haven't cleaned up properly!

      Thank goodness I always keep mu brushes well rinsed, so I don't get paint globs drying on them, but still!

      Happy painting and thank you for your comment. :)

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 

      5 years ago

      Hi Robie,

      thanks for this really nice hub here.

      about proper cleaning tips for brushes.

      thanks and voted up

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      A great hub and saving these brushes which do add to the expense of painting. I have now added washable oils to my media..But my acrylics are here when I get in the mood. Thanks for a great hub..Voting up+++ and pinning.

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 

      5 years ago

      Helpful hub. I like to paint but I hate to clean my paint brushes! They are a mess. Voted up and useful.

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