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How to Clean Paint Brushes the Right Way and When to Chunk Them

I am often asked about cleaning paint brushes; How do you clean them, what products do you use, what about cleaning paint rollers? Then there are those times when you would rather just throw a brush away rather than worry about cleaning it. When do you decide to clean your paint brushes versus chunking them?

After many years of furniture painting, furniture stripping and furniture refinishing, I’m ready to share all my thoughts about how to care and maintain your paint brushes.

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how to clean paint brushes
Close up on hands of a craftsman washing a brush cleaning after the painting work finished job

How to clean paint brushes after using oil based paint or water based paint

Supplies:

  1. Decide what solvent you need to use based on what paint you used. –Is it oil based? Try Turpentine or mineral spirits. — Is it water based? Try soap and water for cleanup. Sometimes good old hot water will remove the paint. — If you are using shellac based paint the manufacturer normally states to us denatured alcohol to clean brushes with. Always double check with the manufacturer of the paint to follow cleaning instructions.
  2. Once you’ve chosen the right solvent, immerse it for a few minutes by dipping it continually and then run your fingers through the bristles or use a paint brush comb to make sure the excess paint has been removed. If using water or soap, run it through the water until the brush runs clear and doesn’t have any excess paint. If using mineral spirits, continue to dip the brush in it and squeeze the bristles or use a paint brush comb until the paint runs clear.
  3. Before you store your brushes, make sure to dry them (pat them dry with a paper towel or blot them) as well as you can.
  4. Always store brushes upright or lay them flat. Don’t ever store them with the bristles facing down.
how to clean paint brushes

How to clean brushes after using paint stripper

You remove paint stripper from a brush just like you would remove an oil based paint from a brush; with turpentine or mineral spirits. A better idea is to use a disposable applicator like a foam brush or an old brush that you don’t mind disposing of. Since paint stripper doesn’t need to be applied evenly or smoothly, the quality of the brush should not matter.

How to remove dried latex paint on a paint brush

Sometimes paint brushes get that pesky dried paint if they aren’t fully cleaned after the last use. How do you remove that old dried up paint? Let the brush soak in warm soapy water for a few minutes and then try to remove the dried paint by running your fingers through the bristles or by using a paint brush comb. For really tough dried paint, let the brush sit in mineral spirits rather than water for long enough to soften the paint and then make sure to rinse it with warm soapy water.

brush with white latex paint on it

Can you put a paint brush in the fridge in between painting sessions so you don’t have to clean them?

The Fridge slows the drying process so in essence you can put a paint brush in the fridge for a short amount of time in between coats of paint. Be mindful of the paint odor and make sure you don’t put any substance in the fridge that might release toxins or fumes into your food. Make sure to completely seal the paint brush in a plastic bag before putting it in the fridge.

My general rule of thumb is that I will put a paint brush in the fridge only if I’ve used low to no VOC paint and if there is a short amount of time in between coats. I never leave a paint brush in the fridge overnight.

When do you know

How to clean paint off a paint roller

  1. Remove the roller cover from the roller base.
  2. To clean oil based paint off of paint rollers, dip the cover in the mineral spirits or turpentine until the roller is clear of the paint.
  3. To clean water based paint off of paint rollers, run water and add a mild soap to the surface until the roller is clear of paint.
  4. Once the roller is clear of paint, remove excess water or solvent from the surface and string them on a rope or dowel to let them dry.

Follow the same guidelines as you would with cleaning a paint brush, just make sure to remove the roller cover immediately after use. Don’t let the paint dry on the cover.

paint roller with paint on it

I hope this was a straightforward guide to knowing how to preserve those paint brushes so they will last a long time.

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