Close this search box.
How To Clean Paint Brushes(Without Paint Thinner)

How To Clean Paint Brushes(Without Paint Thinner)?

Table of Contents
Picture of Meroy

I'm Meroy. I'm passionate about the stationery industry and have extensive experience in this field.

I will show you the best and most popular stationery here, providing more convenience and fun for your work and life!

Table of Contents

Bulk buyers of pen brushes, rejoice! Enjoy our customized solutions and great prices designed for your success and quality assurance.


There are many ways to clean paintbrushes, but I least support using paint thinner because it contains toluene and xylene, which are very harmful to humans and the environment.

So, how to clean paint brushes (without paint thinner)?

Next, I will introduce you to the detailed steps for cleaning acrylic brushes, oil brushes, and stiff paint brushes, but I will also tell you some efficient methods to take care of your precious paint brushes.

Keep reading!

Introduction How To Clean Paint Brushes

how to clean acrylic paint brushes?

Acrylic is a water-based paint, and water-based paints also include latex. Water-based paint is easier to clean off the paintbrush; use warm or soapy water.

Next, let’s take a look at the detailed steps of cleaning.

Step 1: Rinse With Warm Water

  • Immediately after use, rinse the brush under warm, running water to remove most of the paint.
  • Attention! When rinsing the brush under the faucet, rinse with the bristles facing down so it doesn’t deform the handle or force paint down to clog the ferrule.
  • Using your hand, start at the ferrule end, the metal band that holds, or the metal band that holds the bristles.
  • Use your fingers to gently massage the bristles, and work the paint out of the bristles until the water runs clean.

 Right Way:

Step 1 Rinse With Warm Water

Wrong Way:

Wrong way

Step 2: Use Brush Comb

  • Use a comb to comb through the bristles, starting at the roots. This will remove the paint you can’t see, which may dry out and cause the roots of the paint to harden on the outside of the brush.
  • Repeat this step as needed.
  • Flush loose paint with water.
Step 2 Use Brush Comb

Step 3: Use a scrub pad

  • If there’s still some paint on the brush, you can use a scrub pad, gently remove the remaining paintbrush, and let the running water remove it.
  • Never use a wire brush because that can damage the filaments and shorten the life of the brush.
  • Never leave your brush soaking in water or solvent; this can cause the wooden handle to swell and contract, leading to cracking and splitting.
Step 3 Use a scrub pad

Step 4: Shake off Excess Water

  • Gently shake the brush to remove excess water.
  • Repeat as needed.

  • If there is still moisture, blot it with newspaper, paper towels, or a clean cloth until the brush is dry.

Step 4 Shake off Excess Water

Step 5: store in package

  • Permanently save the package known as a keeper that came with your brush; it’s part of the tool; it’s sized perfectly for the brush you’re using and will help the brush retain its shape over time.
  • If you did not keep your packaging, you could preserve your brush by wrapping it in glossy magazine paper.
  • If you use the brush for a few hours or the next day, place it in a ziplock bag or plastic wrap to keep the bristles moist.
Step 5 store in package

Supplies Checklist: Cleaning acrylic Paint Brushes

  • Brush Comb
  • Scrub pad
  • Paper towels or clean cloth(optional)
  • Paintbrush package(optional)
  • Magazine paper(optional)
  • Ziplock bag or plastic wrap(optional)

how to clean oil paint brushes?

Cleaning oil paintbrushes tends to be more involved than cleaning brushes used with acrylic or latex paints, primarily due to the nature of the paint and the solvents required.

Oil paints are not water-soluble, requiring specific solvents like mineral spirits or turpentine to break down the paint. These solvents can be more hazardous and require proper ventilation and disposal than the simple soap and water needed for acrylic and latex paints.

But most people don’t like constantly being exposed to these harsh chemicals, so I found an alternative method of cleaning paint off my brushes.

Let’s take a look at how to clean oil paintbrushes.

Step 1: Wipe off excess paint

  • Before using any cleaning solution, wipe off as much paint as possible with a rag or paper towel.
  • Press the bristles of the paintbrush with your fingers to push the paint out from the base of the bristles.
  • This protects the bristles and minimizes mess.
Step 1 Wipe off excess paint

Step 2: Use vegetable or baby oil

  • Use a small amount of vegetable or baby oil to dissolve the paint instead of paint thinner.
  • Apply oil to the bristles and gently rub the bristles with your fingers until the paint begins to come off.
  • Do not press too hard, or you may damage the bristles.
Step 2 Use vegetable or baby oil

Step 3: Use Bar Soap

  • Once most of the paint has been removed, clean the brush with warm water and mild soap.
  • Wet the soap first, use the bristles to draw circles on the soap, and when a large amount of foam appears, squeeze out the foam with your fingers, and then rinse with water to remove the paint from the roots of the bristles.
Step 3 Use Bar Soap

Step 4: Use dish soap

  • Squeeze an appropriate amount of dishwashing soap on the pen washing tray, then use the brush head to circle on the pen washing tray. After foam appears, rinse the bristles.
  • This step can be repeated twice or thrice until the bristles’ paint is clean.
Step 4 Use dish soap

Step 5: Rinse and dry

  • Rinse thoroughly and reshape the brush.
  • Rinse with warm water and gently rub the bristles with your fingertips.
  • After cleaning, squeeze the water out of the bristles and reshape the brush with your hands.
  • Lay the brush flat or hang it with the bristles facing down when storing.
Step 5 Rinse and dry

Supplies Checklist: Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes

  • Rag or paper towel(optional)
  • Vegetable or baby oil(optional)
  • Bar Soap
  • Dish soap

how to clean a hard paint brush?

To clean a hardened paintbrush, use vinegar, a tremendous natural solvent for water- and oil-based paints.

Follow these detailed steps:

Step 1: Heat vinegar to boiling

  • Prepare the Vinegar: Pour enough white vinegar into a small pot to cover the bristles of your paintbrushes.
  • Heat the vinegar on the stove until it just reaches a boil.
Step 1 Heat vinegar to boiling

Step 2: Pour vinegar into the jar

  • Transfer the Vinegar: Carefully pour the hot vinegar into a heat-resistant glass jar.
  • Be sure to do this step safely to avoid splashing the hot vinegar.
Step 2 Pour vinegar into the jar

Step 3: Add paint brushes to the jar

  • Soak the Brushes: Submerge the paintbrushes in the hot vinegar.
  • Ensure the bristles are fully immersed in the jar.
  • Allow them to soak until the paint starts to soften, which could take 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the paint’s thickness and age.
Step 3 Add paint brushes to the jar

Step 4: Combing brush

  • Remove Loose Paint: After softening the paint, take the brushes out of the vinegar one at a time.
  • Use a paintbrush comb or an old fork to comb through the bristles to remove the loosened paint gently.
  • This will help to clear out any remaining paint particles fully.
Step 4 Combing brush

Step 5: Cleaning paint brushes

  • Wash the Brushes: Once the paint has been combed out, wash each brush with warm, soapy water to remove any vinegar and residual paint. Rinse the brushes thoroughly under running water.
  • Reshape Bristles: Gently reshape the bristles to their original form with your fingers.
  • Dry: Lay the brushes flat on a towel to dry, ensuring they are straight and well-shaped to avoid further damage.
Step 5 Cleaning paint brushes

Supplies Checklist: Cleaning A Hard Paint Brush

  • Vinegar
  • Pot
  • Jar or small bowl(optional)
  • Paintbrush comb or an old fork(optional)

how to take care of paint brushes?

Taking proper care of your paint brushes can significantly extend their lifespan and maintain their performance, whether you use them for oils, acrylics, or watercolors.

Here’s a guide on how to take care of your paint brushes:

1. Proper Cleaning

  • Immediate Cleaning: Clean your brushes immediately after use. Paint left in the bristles can harden and become difficult to remove.
  • Gentle Handling: Avoid pulling or tugging on the bristles, and use a brush comb to remove the paint gently.
1. Proper Cleaning

2. Proper Drying

  • Reshape Bristles: After washing, reshape the brush head to its original shape with your fingers.

  • Drying: Lay brushes flat on a towel to dry. Or Hang your brushes with the bristles pointing down. Many brushes have a hole in the handle that will allow you to hang them from a screw or nail.

  • Avoid drying them vertically with the bristles up, as water can seep into the ferrule and handle, causing damage.

2. Proper Drying (2)

3. Proper Storage

  • Once the brush is dry, store the brush in its original packaging.

  • This helps maintain their shape and protects the bristles from being bent or damaged.
  • If you don’t have the original packaging, you can wrap it in newspapers or magazines or wrap the bristles.

3. Proper Storage

4. Use different brushes for different paints

  • Specific Brushes: Use separate brushes for oil, acrylic, and watercolor paints. Mixing these can lead to improper cleaning and accelerated deterioration.

4.Use different brushes for different paints

5. Occasional Conditioning

  • Natural Bristles: Occasionally applying a conditioner can help maintain theirness and pliability for brushes with natural hair.

5. Occasional Conditioning

6. Limit Soaking Time

  • Never soak brushes in water or solvent for an extended period. Soaking can cause the wooden handles to swell and crack and the ferrule to loosen.
6. Limit Soaking Time

7. Periodic inspection

  • Check for damage: Check your brush regularly for any signs of damage or wear, such as split bristles or loose handles.
  • Replace when necessary: Replace brushes that are too worn to work properly, as using a damaged brush will affect the quality of your painting.
7. Periodic inspection


When should change a new paintbrush?

1. Excessive Bristle Loss

2. Misshapen Bristles

3. Damaged Ferrule

4. Persistent Staining or Residue

5. Brush handle is cracked

Yes, cleaning your paintbrush every time you use it is highly recommended. Cleaning your brush after each use prevents the paint from hardening the bristles. Regular cleaning also helps maintain the shape of the brush and extends its lifespan.

I recommend choosing a brush with a wooden handle and a metal ferrule (that connects the bristles to the handle), as plastic parts are more likely to get lost with heavy use.

You can try different types and brands to see which one you like.

Custom painting brushes are also a good option if you want a specific size, texture, or bristle shape of painting brushes.

Putting a paintbrush in the refrigerator can help prevent it from drying out if you take a short break and plan to continue painting soon. This technique is beneficial for water-based paints like acrylics or latex. The cool temperature slows the drying process, keeping the paint on the brush workable for longer.

 MaterialFeatureCostFor Oil PaintsFor Acrylic PaintsFor Watercolors
Natural PaintbrushesAnimal hairSoft Edges, High DurabilityHigh✓ ✗ ✓ 
Synthetic PaintbrushesMan-made fibersVersatility, Durability in WaterLow✗ ✓ ✓ 

The number of times you can use a paintbrush isn’t fixed and depends mainly on several factors, such as the quality of the brush, the type of paint used, how well the brush is cleaned and maintained, and the painting techniques employed.

If you clean and store it properly, a good paintbrush should last a few years.


Honeyoung Stationery Supplier has shared tips on how to clean paint brushes and practical tips for maintaining them. You can try these methods to clean paintbrushes.

How do you wash paintbrushes?

If you have a better way to clean your paintbrushes, you can share it with us in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get A Quote