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How to clean and care for paintbrushes

by Michael Boyle on June 12, 2019

Investing in high-quality paint brushes for your painting will produce a better finish thanks to their superior bristles, and properly cleaning those brushes when you finish painting will mean they will serve you for years.

What you’ll need

  • Old knife or similar
  • Paper towels
  • White spirits (for cleaning oil-based or gloss paints)
  • Water and optional washing-up liquid (for emulsion paints)
  • Clean glass container (e.g. old jar)
  • Rubber gloves (optional)

Step 1: Wipe off excess paint

The first thing to do is to scrape off as much of the excess paint as possible, using the back of an old knife or similar implement. This has the added benefit of not washing chemicals into the water system. If your paint brushes are still wet then wrap a paper towel around them. This will soak up a lot of paint.

Step 2: Clean the bristles

Once you’ve scrapped off the excess paint you can begin cleaning the rest of your paint brushes. You can just use water (and maybe add some washing-up liquid) for emulsion paints, while for oil-based or gloss paints, use white spirits. And if you don’t have white spirits, you can even use vinegar! It will take longer, but works just as well…eventually.

Step 3: Stir, rinse and repeat

Stir your brushes in whatever cleaning solution you’re using. It’s best to do this in a glass container (such as a clean jar), particularly if using white spirits, as a plastic container may not be strong enough. Keep stirring for a minute or two, and squeeze as much water out as possible (you might want to wear rubber gloves). If there’s still paint in your brush, then wash again, rinse again, and so on, until all the paint is gone.

Step 5: Leave your paint brushes to dry

It’s a good idea to hang your brush up to dry, rather than leaving it stand in a jar or other container, as that way the bristles don’t get bent and it retains its shape better for future use.