One of the questions I get all the time is how I clean my paint brushes. Well usually, I just clean a brush that is wet with paint with warm water to get all the paint out. But then I accidentally left a paint out overnight and thought the brush was ruined. So I thought I’d try a bunch of methods and learn how to clean dried paint brushes. Want to see what I found?
painting the wall in Nora’s bedroom
Here’s the thing, I paint all the time. It’s a weird day if I’m not painting! So that means that I clean out a lot of paint brushes. Especially when I paint a rainbow and use 12 colors and 12 brushes- lol. I searched for different ways for how to clean dried paint brushes and landed on 5 different methods.
So here’s what I did- I dipped 5 cheap brand new paint brushes in chalk paint and then let them dry overnight. And most of the next day in the sun. They were dried and hard on the brush. Aka a maker’s nightmare.
Then, I let them soak in 5 different solutions for 30 minutes. After soaking, I spent 5 minutes rinsing the brush under warm water to see how much paint would come off. Want to see what happened? It was a fun science experiment! I’m listing the methods from what worked worst to best.
METHOD 1- rubbing alcohol
For this one, put rubbing alcohol in the bottom of a cup. Pour enough in to cover the paint that’s on the bristles. I read that the paint would easily come off, but it didn’t. I worked hard on the paint and lots came off, but not all.
The downside with using rubbing alcohol when cleaning out a paint brush is that it can leave the brush brittle.
My favorite way to get paint out of clothes is with rubbing alcohol. I use it with a bristled brush and the paint comes right out. So I thought this would work really well, but it didn’t. I wouldn’t recommend using alcohol.
method 2- vinegar
Next, I tried soaking a brush in white vinegar. I like using vinegar for a cleaner so I had high hopes, but it worked just ok. Most of the paint came off after 5 minutes, but some didn’t. If you soaked overnight, I’m sure it’d work fine though.
method 3- dish soap
And now I tried adding dish soap to warm water. I did 1 Tablespoon, but would suggest using more. This came off pretty well! It was mostly clean in 5 minutes of scrubbing.
For the forth method, I used a product called Scrubby Soap. I’ll be honest, I had super low expectations. But this worked great! Here’s what I did- I scrubbed the paint brush with the scrubby soap. Then I let it soak just in warm water. When it had been in water for 30 minutes, I again scrubbed the paint brush with the scrubby soap and it came off nicely!
And here’s my favorite method! I used 1/3 laundry detergent with 2/3 warm water. When I went to rinse off the paint, it literally melted off. Every bit of paint came off cleanly in less than 2 minutes. Fast, easy, and using something I had on hand- sold!
Now I know what to do when I accidentally leave a paint brush out overnight with paint on it. Soak it in laundry soap! I used Purex, but I’m sure any brand would work too.
After seeing how good the laundry detergent worked, I wanted to try it again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. So I looked through my brushes and found two with some dried on paint on the bristles. I soaked them both in laundry detergent for 30 minutes.
Then I rubbed the brush in the Scrubby Soap while I rinsed it out. The dried on paint came off! Which felt great because I’d tried really hard before to get it off before. The paint had been on there for months! And now I have a new method for cleaning out paint brushes. It takes 35 minutes, but most of that is soaking. And now I have two of my good brushes back!
other paint brush cleaning methods you can try
My readers on Instagram were kind enough to send in their ways they clean paint brushes.
–Simple Green– I’ve never heard of this before, but a few people told me it works like a dream! It’s non-toxic without harsh chemicals, so I’d definitely be open to trying it!
–General Pencil Masters Brush Cleaner & Preserver– The instructions say- Rinse brush under warm water, swirl it in the cleaner until a Lather forms, then rinse. Repeat if necessary until brush is clean. I’ve heard it called miracle soap. I personally like to use what’s already in my house, but I’d definitely try this!
– Murphy’s Oil Soap– Here’s how to use this one: Soak your brush in Murphy’s Oil Soap for 24 to 48 hours. It will dissolve the paint and return your brush back to normal. This soap is also great for cleaning brushesregularly (without dry paint). Just put a dab on the bristles, rub it in with your fingers and rinse with water.
–White Spirit or Odorless Mineral Spirits– This one is good for removing oil based paint. Put a little in the bottom of a cup. Then rinse in hot, soapy water. Work the bristles thoroughly and rinse out with warm water.
–Wire brush– if you have stubborn paint on a brush, use any of the methods to clean it and then use a wire brush to remove the stuck on paint.
My sister grabbed me this $2 kids from the thrift store. It’ll go in the playhouse and will be so cute! The color isn’t right, so I thought I’d paint it green, Don’s favorite color. Here’s how I did it.
- Clean the furniture. Mix 2 Tablespoons of White Lightning or TSP in 1 gallon of hot water. Use a rag dipped in the solution to clean the entire surface of the furniture you’ll be painting. Wipe the piece clean with a damp rag to remove any White Lightning residue. Let dry prior to painting.
- Lay a drop cloth on the floor. Put a towel or drop cloth on the floor underneath the furniture you’re about paint. This will protect your flooring from paint drips.
- Since the finish was slick, I primed. I used one coat of Slick Stick to prime the piece. I let that dry throughly before continuing to paint.
- Spritz your brush. With chalk paint, you always want to start with a damp brush. Continue to spray the brush and furniture piece with water while painting.
- Start painting. Dip the paintbrush in the chalk paint and apply it thinly on the furniture. Brush in the direction on the wood grain until you’ve covered the entire piece. Note, you WON’T get full coverage with the first coat. If it’s streaky, don’t panic! I used Dixie Belle’s Farmhouse Green for this project.
- Let the paint dry. Usually you only need to wait 20 minutes between coats. While it’s drying, wrap your paint brush in a wet rag or plastic bag so the brush won’t dry out between coats. If you’re painting a big piece, you might be able to begin the second coat immediately without waiting since it’s probably been 20 minutes since you first started painting.
- Paint a second coat. Repeat the instructions for the first coat of paint. This time though, you should get full coverage. If you don’t (which can happen if you’re covering dark wood with a light cover) continue with a 3rd coat of chalk paint.
- Wash out the paint brush. Usually tap water will remove all wet paint. If needed, also use mild soap. Rinse the brush until the water runs clear.
- Seal the furniture. If you’re using a clear coat, apply it with a paint brush thinly to all surfaces. If you’re using wax, apply it with a lint free rag or applicator pad all over the furniture. Buff it in with the rag after. I like to use Easy Peasy Wax Spray for sealing furniture.
How’s that for an easy project?! I really need to start working on the first floor of the playhouse. It’s just studs and plywood. I know it’ll be super cute, but it’s a lot of work. Maybe this is the start I needed to get working on it! Fingers crossed.
Alright, I hope this post will help you if you have a brush you need cleaned. A brush with dried on paint doesn’t mean it’s garbage. Save your money and soak it. With a little elbow grease, it’ll be as good as new!
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