How to Clean Paint Brushes – A How to Guide

two paint brushes soak in jars

by Rocky Vuong - August 18, 2021

Cleaning brushes after a paint job isn’t the most exciting thing to do, but its importance shouldn’t be downplayed. Neglecting to clean your brushes can cause bristles to stick together, creating a hard block that’s no good to anyone.

If you’re painting regularly, whether for a hobby or professionally, you need to know how to clean paint brushes and rollers.

But before you start, have these tools on hand:



  • Bucket
  • Wire Brush
  • Safety Glasses
  • Gloves
  • Paint respirator




  • Warm water
  • Soap
  • Turpentine


How to Clean Paint Brushes with Water Based Paint


The good news is that water-based or latex paint is probably the easiest and quickest to clean up. Just make sure to clean your wet brush immediately to prevent paint from drying. However, if you do have brushes with dried paint on them, follow these steps:


Step One:


Begin by making a solution in your bucket by mixing warm water with soap. Plunge your paintbrush in the bucket and swish it around to help soften and remove the paint. Once the paint bristles are clean, rinse with warm water and dry by shaking the brush.

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Step Two:


If there’s still paint remaining, grab your wire brush and begin combing through the bristles. This will take a little bit of elbow grease, but it’s essential to get all of the paint off. Proceed to plunge your paintbrush into the water again and swish until there’s no more paint. 


Step Three:


You can use mineral spirits like turpentine or thinner if soapy water isn’t effective, but it’s not recommended if you’re using water-based paint. Pour a small amount of turpentine into your bucket, dip your brush, and rinse with warm water. Because turpentine releases fumes, you’ll want to wear your safety glasses, respirator and gloves for this step.


Step Four:


After the paintbrush has been adequately cleaned, dry it by shaking it out or blotting the bristles with a paper towel. Finish by putting your brush back in its proper storage container.


How to Clean Oil Paint Off Brushes


Oil-based paints will be a little more challenging to clean off of your paintbrushes and require more materials. You’ll need to use soap, warm water and turpentine to get the paint off. As you’ll be using turpentine, wear your safety glasses, gloves and respirator.


Step One:


Begin by filling your bucket with turpentine and dipping your brush. Soak your brush for several minutes, then swish it around in the turpentine to get any excess paint off. Use a rag to blot any remaining paint from the bristles for a clean brush.


Step Two:


If paint remains, use your wire brush to scrape off as much as possible. Wash your bucket and pour in your turpentine a second time, dipping and swishing your paintbrush around to ensure a extensive clean.


Step Three:


Dry your brush by blotting with a paper towel or shaking it out and finish by placing your brush back in its storage container. Alternatively, you can wash your brush in a bucket filled with soapy water and dry it afterwards.


How to Store Paint Brushes


Place your paintbrush in its original packaging and store it away. Paintbrushes can also be stored in jars, with the bristles facing up and the handle-side downwards.

If you’re in the middle of painting and need your brushes to maintain their shape overnight, wrap the bristles with a cling film. Use masking tape to seal the handle and keep it in a dry place for when you next need your brush.


Other Storage Tips


  • Ensure to separate water based and oil based brushes


  • Hanging your brushes upside down will allow the water to drain out from the bristles while drying them thoroughly


  • If you lose your paint brush cover, make a new one using duct tape and cardboard. Your paint cover should be similar in size to the paintbrush


How to Clean Rollers


Like brushes, you’ll want to clean your roller as soon as possible to prevent paint from drying. Cleaning rollers can save you time and money, as you can reuse them for the next project.


Water Based and Oil Based Paint


Step One:


A paint roller is similar to a sponge. It works by soaking in your paint which can be then rolled onto your surface. First, reclaim your excess paint by using a putty knife or 5 in 1 tool to scrape it off back into its tin. You’ll want to do this several times in a downwards motion.

Step Two:


Roll your roller against some newspaper to soak up the moisture and excess paint. Repeat this process until no more paper is soaked with paint.


Water Based Paint


Once you’ve collected as much excess paint as possible through rolling, place your roller into a bucket filled with warm soapy water. Let it soak for a few minutes and work your roller around until the paint is completely gone.

Rinse the roller off with warm water then blot it with a paper towel.


Oil Based Paint


Step One:


After putting on your safety gear, pour thinner into a flat container. Submerge your roller into the thinner and start rolling it around. Allow your roller to soak for a few minutes.


Step Two:


Take your roller out of the container and scrape off any excess paint and thinner that’s still on it with a putty knife or 5 in 1 tool. Wash your container and replace with more thinner. Dip your roller in the turpentine again and repeat until all the paint is removed. 


Step Three: 


After your roller is clean, use paper towels to blot it and remove as much of the thinner as possible. Finish by placing your roller in a standing position on a paper towel and let dry. If you lay your roller down, you risk flattening its fibres for an uneven roll in your next project.


How to Clean a Paint Brush – An FAQ


Not sure if you’re cleaning your paint brushes correctly? Let’s go through the most commonly asked questions, so your bristles stay soft!


Can you Save a Dried Paintbrush?


Yes. A dried paintbrush can be restored and become soft again. You can follow the methods listed above for a thorough clean.

Is it Ok to Clean Paint Brushes in The Sink?


You can clean your water based paint brushes in the sink if it’s connected to a public sewer system, as applying warm soapy water is usually enough to remove paint. Do not wash oil based paint brushes in your sink as these paint types are hazardous. Instead, use a container designated for this purpose, i.e. a bucket.


How Long do You Soak Paint Brushes?


Leaving your paint brushes to soak in water for a long time can cause the bristles to deform and bend. Water can also dissolve the glue that binds the paint brush bristles and handle together by removing the ferrule.

We recommend soaking your brush in water for two hours, and drying it with a rag afterwards.


What Can I Use to Clean My Paint Brushes with Water?


For water based paints a mixture of warm water and soapy suds will do the job. Pour this solution into a bucket to clean your brush, and you’re good to go.


What is The Fastest Way to Clean Paint Brushes?


This will depend on the type of paint you’ve used. Using a thinner or mineral turpentine for oil paint is the quickest way to break down the paint. You can easily clean water based paint with warm water and a bit of soap. In either case, make sure you have a container to place your brush in while it soaks.

Using a hose to rinse brushes can also speed up the cleaning process.


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Interested in reading other articles on removing paint? Read our metal paint removal guide to learn more!

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