How to Clean Acrylic Paint from a Brush

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Proper brush care extends the life of your paintbrush.
Proper brush care extends the life of your paintbrush. (Image: bizoo_n/iStock/Getty Images)

It’s important to remove wet or dry acrylic paint from your paintbrushes to keep your artist tools fresh – and your creations beautiful. The prompt removal of paint from your brushes will help extend the life of your brush, and in the end, save you a lot of money in supplies. You can also restore life to a damaged paintbrush with a thorough cleaning.

Materials Used for Acrylic Paint Removal

Acrylic paintbrush cleaning options are widely varied. Some artists prefer mild cleaners like vinegar, dish soap and fabric softener. Others prefer rubbing alcohol, acrylic solvent or turpentine. Before selecting your preferred cleaning method, you must determine if you need to clean a wet or dry brush. Either way, you will need a small bucket or mason jar, paper towels or old rag, and access to warm water.

Removing Wet Acrylic Paint

The optimal time to clean a paintbrush is right after you’ve used it. Removing wet paint is easy and quick. One of the easiest ways to clean a dirty brush is to use warm water and dish soap. Squirt a drop of dish soap into your palm and run a little bit of warm water over the soap. Make a soap lather and apply the soap to the bristles. Work your fingers through the fibers, being careful to not bend the bristles. Rinse the brush under warm running water and pat dry with a paper towel. Allow the paintbrush to flat dry.

An alternative to dish soap is to use a mixture of fabric softener and warm water. Mix 1 tablespoon of fabric softener with 2 cups of warm water. Dip the dirty brush in the mixture for 10 seconds and then let the brush flat dry. If possible, it is best to not soak your brushes because this will loosen the bristles and the ferrule from the handle.

Removing Dry Acrylic Paint

Before tossing an old paintbrush, you can try to salvage it with a few tricks. While soaking brushes is not ideal, it is sometimes necessary to remove dried-on paint. Heated vinegar, acrylic solvent, rubbing alcohol and turpentine are all useful for removing dried-on paint. To use vinegar, heat it in a pan until it boils. Pour the heated vinegar into a bowl or jar and insert your brushes. Allow the brushes to soak 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the brushes and wash them with dish soap. If desired, soak brushes in an acrylic solvent or turpentine to help remove stuck-on paint.

Precautions

Some acrylic paints contain latex, so if you have a latex allergy make sure to wear vinyl gloves while cleaning the brushes. Always use toxic chemicals, such as acrylic solvent, turpentine and rubbing alcohol, in a well-ventilated area. The fumes can irritate your eyes and throat, so wearing a face mask and goggles is recommended, and always keep chemicals out of the reach of children.

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