How to Clean a Paint Brush (Guide)

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Do not toss that brush! We have all been there before. After you finish a painting job, you think to yourself, “Now I have to figure out how to clean a paint brush, so I don’t feel like I wasted money buying it.” Ponder no more. Simply follow these five easy steps to keep your brush good as new and ready for the next round.

5 Steps: How to Clean a Paint Brush

1. Use or Remove Excess Paint

Materials Needed:

  • newspaper
  • brush
  • paint can

When finishing off a project, remove the remaining paint by wiping the brush against the project in need of paint, or a piece of newspaper. You can also use the rim of the paint can and replace the unused paint into the can for future use. This step saves you more paint and makes cleaning much more manageable. You can use the comb to drip excess paint back into the can as well. Pull the comb gently through the bristles, holding the brush over the paint can. By allowing the excess paint to drip back in and getting between the bristles, the brush cleaning process becomes much smoother.

2. The Wash Cycle

Washing paint brush in small sink

Materials Needed:

  • gloves (optional)
  • oil-based solvent
  • hot soapy water
  • one small bucket or sink with running water

Now you are ready to wash the majority of the remaining paint off the brush. If you used oil-based paint, dip the tip of the brush into a mineral spirit type solvent and work it through the brushes with gloved hands. Be sure you get the mineral spirits in between the bristles to ensure the removal of as much paint as possible. A little bit goes a long way with the solvent, so dousing the brush is not necessary.

Other brush types and latex-based paint can be washed off using hot soapy water. Use your fingers to gently part the bristles and allow the soapy water to soak through the whole brush. Gloves here are optional but can prove useful if your water is too hot to touch, although such temperatures are not needed. Continue to rub the water through the bristles and don’t forget to wash off the handle if any paint dripped down.

3. Shake Off Residual Paint

Materials needed:

  • a pail of clean water
  • empty bucket

Most of the paint should be washed away now. You want to remove any remaining excess by choosing one of these options:

  • Spin the brush in a pail of clean water. You can do this by using your palms to spin the brush back and forth quickly. Be sure to shake the water off to check for remaining paint.
  • Shake the brush by making striking motions down towards the ground.
  • Spin the brush in an empty pail to catch the spray. If you wish to avoid having color spots on your floor, this is an excellent method to try.

A final rinse comes next, so do not feel the brush needs to be bone dry yet. Spinning off the excess is a step to help keep as much paint out of your rinse water as possible. If you see the paint is still in your brush, return to your wash water and repeat this step. Once you are satisfied, you can spin again and move to the final rinse step.

4. The Final Rinse

Materials needed:

  • a bucket with clean water

You have washed and combed out all the leftover paint from your project. Your brush should be free of all paint. The final rinse stage is to clean up the end of the brush where it meets the bristles and do one final rinse through the bristles. Use your fingers to gently part the bristles while submerged in the clean water. The water should come out clean. If there is any color leftover, repeat the washing step, and continue through spinning and rinsing again. Shake out the excess water or spin your clean brush in an empty bucket.

Congratulations! You now know how to clean a paint brush and can save money on those pesky cheap one-time-use type brushes. Now let’s wrap it up for next time.

5. Wrap For Storage

Wrapping up paint brush for storage

Materials needed:

  • a hook for hanging
  • heavy paper or aluminum foil for wrapping

For the best results, allow your brush to dry completely before putting it in storage. The best way to dry your brush is to hang it bristles down. When the bristles are hanging downward, any excess water is allowed to drip out and dry the brush more thoroughly. Once dry, set the brush down flat on a pre-folded piece of heavy paper or aluminum foil. Wrap the brush with the paper, leaving the handle exposed, loosely tieing or taping the paper to itself. By keeping the paper loose-fitting, the brush will not lose its shape.
If you choose to wrap with foil, be sure to wrap completely, but loose enough to keep the brush’s shape. Try to push out as much air as possible while maintaining the integrity of the bristle’s form. Doing this gives you the same brushstrokes next time as you had this time. Store the brush in a cool, dry place until you are ready to paint again. Either in the garage, hanging bristles down if possible, or on a shelf in the house. If you can not hang the brush during storage, be sure to set it down flat.


A clean paint brush, ready for the next project.

That is it! It is that easy! In just five steps, you have learned how to clean a paint brush AND save yourself a few dollars each time a project needs painting. The next time you have a big painting project or a friend needs some advice you can confidently give a helping hand…or a well-kept paintbrush! For all your projects, big or small, a well-kept paint brush can do it all! Remember to keep them clean of dried paint, dry them hanging bristles down, and store them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to paint again.

Do you have some cleaning tips of your own to share? Please feel free to comment below or give share your best cleaning tips for keeping paint brushes in your homes and out of your trash cans.



Ryan is a writer for He's been a hobbyist and painter for a long time, and now enjoys teaching others. His content primarly focuses on reviews and guides for painters and construction professionals.

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