Cleaning Artist Brushes

November 1, 2011

Dirty artist brushes.Quality artists' paint brushes are an investment. It is important to wash them thoroughly at the end of every studio session or they can become permanently damaged. A proper cleaning will help maintain the shape of the tip, and extend the life of the ferrule and hairs as long as possible.


Ten Steps to Cleaning Artists' Brushes

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 148 Posts
November 2, 2011

I use acrylic paints for my yard art projects, and cleaning my brushes is an important step. I have found that if I squirt a little hand sanitizer into the palm of my hand, and work it into the bristles, it does an excellent job of removing the paint trapped in the brush.

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December 15, 2014

As an artist I sometimes forget to rinse my brushes out well. By the time I get back to it it is completely stiff and dried with paint. The way I rescue these brushes is to fill an old plastic cup with enough Murphy's oil soap to cover the bristles and let it sit overnight.

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October 27, 2011

I don't use my good oil painting brushes for acrylic. I keep them just for oils, which I clean in white spirit*.


The sediment settles after a few days, and the clean spirit pours off carefully into another jar.

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September 4, 2009

I am an amateur artist. I use acrylic paint.The brushes that I use are nylon bristles. These are smaller brushes, one inch is the largest size, such as the the brushes that are sold by Donna Dewberry. I have other brushes, that cost less.

Anyway I have read suggestions people have written about brush cleaning, Murphy's Oil Soap, hot vinegar, etc. I have stronger cleaners, but would like to hear other people's ideas. Thanks.


By Lois Kersti Brouillette from Bellevue


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 213 Posts
September 4, 20090 found this helpful

Everything I know about brushes & painting in 10 minutes typing:

I'm fortunate to be able to paint for a living. I do botanicals on pottery, tiles for installation, custom wall murals & paintings on canvas & have been doing this for over 20 years. Usually I work with glazes, but when I do paintings or wall murals I work with acrylics.

As you know Acrylics dry out quickly, so the trick is to always keep a glass of water right next to you then throw the brush into the water right after you've used it. (but NOT if it's a liner, script-liner or a longer brush that will bend) This works well with square shaders, rounds & filberts. Don't keep your brush in the water for very long though or the handle can split. Just keep a coffee-mug of water on a plastic (dollar store) tray with several paper towel's stacked on it & dip the brush into the water then if you won't be cleaning it within 10 minutes or so, just lay it wet, flat on the papertowel & be sure to keep it wet until you get around to washing it! To slow the drying of acrylics & to help the paint slip easily into bumps & stipples on a wall I like to use an additive that makes the paint more slippery & slows drying time. This can be a medium, but they also make special liquid additives that are made mainly to slow paints drying time.

Cleaning: For regular cleaning of brushes I use plain Dawn dish washing soap on my synthetic brushes & baby shampoo on the ones made from hair. Once the Acrylic paints dry on your brush, (as you already know) you have a big problem! There are several things you can try: some use Nail polish remover, either made for artificial nails or the stronger "regular" kind. On some brands you can use Alcohol. But once the paint dries on your brush you may as well throw it away or use it as a "scruffy" brush.

Fixing Bent Brushes: But here's a trick you can use for a liner that's been bent. Spray hairspray on to the brush then straighten it back to it's normal shape then put it into the freezer overnight. Sometimes this will work, sometimes not, but with the price of brushes it's at least worth a try! ...I have saved many a good brush this way & if at once you don't succeed, try it a second time... You never know it just might save your brush!

Donna Dewberry: I saw Donna Dewberry selling her large set of brushes on QVC or HSN the other day & I found them far to big (at least for my detailed application). I thought she was selling to many large/wide/big brushes & the ones with the long handles I thought to myself, Why would anyone want that long of a handle because it's harder to do detail with a long handle. I think it's best to buy your brushes, not in a big set like hers, but one at a time. If you DO need each brush in the set, then by all means, buy the whole set, but in the set's she's selling on HSN or QVC she is selling multiple brushes of the same size & shape with the only difference on some is a longer handle, etc.

Donna Dewberry has helped a lot of people have the courage to learn to tole-paint & for that I'm grateful, but I am so glad I've developed my own style because most people that have learned from her stay with her (look-a-like) style & all look the same (but, then again all of my students' work can basically look the same too!) I guess what I'm saying to all you new painter's out there is I believe it's important to learn & grow & develop your very own style! I'd never want anyone to look at my work & think that Donna Dewberry had done it.

Brushes: My favorite brushes for both Acrylics & glazes are Golden Taklon synthetic brushes. I like the Duncan Ceramics brand. I've had some of my Duncan ceramic brushes for over 20 years & they still work & look like new. Duncan is made to paint over rough pottery so they hold up well & aren't pricey. "Royal" brand brushes (golden taklon) are some of the least expensive brushes & are great starter brushes. If you buy a dozen you can get a 60% or bigger discount. When I teach classes I'll buy a dozen of each brush needed for the class then pass the savings on to my students minus the shipping cost If they prefer to buy the brushes, otherwise I offer the use of my brushes free of charge. I wish I could find the exact site that sell them wholesale like this but it's in my other computer that's being serviced. I do have some good Grumbacher brushes which I bought new (20 years ago) at a swap meet & these have outlasted many of the cheapie brushes but I see no reason to spend the money unless you really need a specific brush for a specific reason.

Acrylics: What's the difference between cheapie Acrylics & better brands? It's pigment, pigment, pigment. The more you pay, the more pigment you get in the medium. I prefer Liquitex when doing a custom mural because I won't have to double-coat my colors, but when I'm doing something for myself or something small, I see no reason to spent the money & will use the 50 cent brands. Except with yellow! Yellow pigment is naturally transparent, so spend more & buy the very best yellow you can find, otherwise you'll spent to much time going over & over & over your yellow time & time again! If you buy the best yellow you can find, you can spend less on the other colors.


With all this typing, I must say, I too am curious how others clean their brushes, both regular cleaning & the ones that have dried-on acrylic paint.

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September 13, 20090 found this helpful

Thank you to Cyinda and those that have responded to my questions.I learned some things too. I was especially interested in the information about a medium to help acrylic paint blend better. I wouldn't enjoy painting if I didn't have something to help.Tke main thing I use is Folk art blending meadium. Also I look for other ideas, such as aloe gel, and I have even used antibacterial dish soap etc. The one thing you don't want to use is anything that has alcohol, it seems to curle the paint. I mainly paint on black card stock. Sometimes I use the silver or gold paint and sometimes a little glitter, I don't want to make it look tacky.

My paint brushes are comparable to barbie dolls, some of them get thrown away and some get haircuts. I have not perfected that but try to use a hair scissors or embroidery scissors.I try to trim the brushes on the sides, if you get close to a light you can see the bristles that are sticking out. One more thing and I can imagine others feel this way.If people ask me what I want, I tell them I don't want a bouquet of flowers, bring me brushes instead.We have a little stress in our family because my husband has a neurologic, physical disease called arachinitis, he has incredible pain, but he is such a wonderful guy.Thanks I got a little lengthy in my thank you. Lois Kersti B.

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October 6, 20101 found this helpful

Another way to straighten crooked bristles on a brush is to stroke them on a cake of soap or add some liquid detergent. Shape them, let them dry and they will be straight again. When I am out painting, soap is always available.

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