How to Clean Up Acrylic Paints
The very qualities that make acrylic paint so special and enjoyable—like the fact that it dries quickly and is not water soluble when dry—can become dreadful traits when it comes to cleaning it up.
No matter what kind of brushes you use, natural or synthetic, they can all get ruined pretty quickly if you let acrylic paint dry on them. It can truly ruin the bristles of your brushes, and there is not much to do to rescue them after that happens.
I prefer to use synthetic brushes, because acrylics adhere more strongly to natural bristles, making them much harder to clean.
Since acrylic paint dries fast, it can be challenging to preserve your brushes, especially while working on a painting using different kinds of brushes at the same time.
The worst thing about acrylics is that they dry fast, and the best thing about acrylics is that they dry fast.— Debbie DeBaun
- Rinse your brushes well in between uses.
- Keep them wet during painting sessions – this does not mean keeping them soaked in water. Leaving brushes in water containers for very long will ruin them as well.
- Wash your brushes with warm soapy water right after your painting session ends, rubbing it in circles on the palm of your hand. Make sure you clean between the bristles too.
- Rinse well, squeeze it dry, and then re-shape the brush.
- Let your brush dry horizontally. If you store the brushes vertically when still wet, moisture will penetrate under the ferrule, ruining it in the long term.
If you follow these tips you'll be able to keep your brushes clean and sound, and save money in the long run.
Getting Paint Off Clothes
If acrylic paint gets on your clothes, you need to wash the stain immediately while it’s still wet with soapy water, rub well, and rinse thoroughly. If the paint is hard to get off, you can add washer detergent or spray spot remover and rub with a toothbrush.
Don’t let the paint sink into the fabric and dry, or it will be almost impossible to remove.
To avoid any stress about getting stains on your outfit, be careful about what you wear for painting. Pick something you don’t mind getting ruined, so you don’t have to worry if it gets stained. An apron can help protect clothes.
Getting Your Palette Clean
Depending on the material of your palette, there are different methods for cleaning dry acrylic paint.
Cleaning a Wooden Palette
I would not recommend the use of a wood palette for acrylic paint, because the porous surface of the wood absorbs a lot of paint and cleaning becomes a struggle.
Non-porous surfaces, like plastic, glass or ceramic are the best choices for acrylics.
If you already have a wood palette, you can consider covering it with plastic wrap or sealing it with acrylic medium to reduce absorption. Then you can follow cleaning tips for non-porous materials below.
Cleaning Plastic, Glass, and Ceramic Palettes
To get acrylic paint off non-porous palettes, first wipe off the wet paint with a paper towel and throw it in the trash, then wash your palette with soapy water.
If the paint dries, it forms a rubbery layer that can quite easily be peeled off and disposed of.
If you have a hard time scrubbing the paint off your palette, spray some window cleaner (i.e. Windex) on it and let it sit for a couple of minutes. This is my favorite way to clean up my palette. It's very easy.
Disposable Paper Palettes
Disposable paper palettes are very popular these days.
You can buy tablets of waterproof, tear-away paper sheets that are disposable, and you just trash them when you are done painting.
With disposable paper palettes, you completely avoid the hassle of cleaning up your palette.
Also, you eliminate all the problem of paint ending up in the waterways every time you wash your palette, causing water pollution.
I use them often, both for my acrylics and oil paints. I particularly like the light gray kind, it helps see the true value of the mixed colors.
I like using a light gray disposable palette, it helps see the true value of the mixed colors.
Leftover paint on your palette should never get washed down the sink drain. It is very polluting for the environment.
Wet Acrylic Paint and Carpet
Timing Is Key: Don't Let The Paint Dry
When you are cleaning up acrylic paint from porous surfaces or from brushes, the sooner you act, the better. Don’t let the paint dry, or you may never be able to clean up completely.
If for any reason you have to delay the cleaning, make sure that you keep the spot wet. Keep the paint from drying so it remains water soluble.
Removing a Dry Acrylic Stain from Carpet
© 2012 Robie Benve