Don’t you hate it when you use a paintbrush for a project, have every intention to put it in a ziploc and put it in the fridge, but you forget. Then it’s found a few days later, all dried up and crusty. NO! It’s the worst! I’m here to help you learn how to clean dry paint brushes.
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I paint quite a lot doing the different projects throughout my home, so I use a lot of paint brushes. It’s not uncommon to find what I like to call the “paint brush graveyard” in my fridge.
Last time I checked, there were three or four in the fridge from my son’s room. I let those dry overnight uncovered in the garage.
Different Methods for Cleaning Dried Paint From Brushes
I’ve researched a few different methods to clean a dried paint brush, here are the most popular:
- soaking in alcohol
- dish soap
- paint brush rescue from klean strip
- solution of laundry detergent and water
*All these tips are for removing water based paints from dry brushes like acrylic and latex only. Not oil.
Method 1-Soaking a Dry Paint Brush in Alcohol
I thought this method might work really well because alcohol does well for getting paint out of clothes. But it in fact did not work well. The bristles felt very stiff and brittle and it didn’t do the best job getting the dry paint off the brush.
Method 2-Soaking the Paint Brush in Vinegar
There are 2 different ways to approach this method: apple cider and white vinegar.
Note: Both of these methods are really stinky because…vinegar, so beware.
White Vinegar Method: Heat white vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. Place the brush in the vinegar and let sit for about 20 mins. Wash the paint brushes with warm soapy water and dry horizontally so the water doesn’t drip on the wood handle and damage it.
Apple Cider Vinegar Method: Place enough apple cider vinegar in a glass jar to cover the bristles. Put the brush in the vinegar to soak overnight. Remove brush and wash in warm soapy water. Dry horizontally. A brush comb helps remove all the paint when washing. I didn’t use this method because I didn’t have any apple cider vinegar.
Method 3-Using Soap to Clean Dry Paint Brushes
I used two different kinds of soap on the brushes, murphy’s oil soap and dish soap. Both methods worked fairly well, but do require some time and maybe extra tools like a brush comb.
Murphy’s Oil Soap: This is the longest method. Before soaking the brush in the murphy’s oil soap, try to remove as much paint from the brush as you can with water and a brush comb. Soak for a couple of days. Rinse well. For a dry paint brush, may need to leave for a week or more.
Dish Soap: Add a 1/2 cup of dish soap to hot water. Mix together. Place your dry paint brush in the solution and leave for 30 mins. Scrub clean under warm water.
Method 4-Paint Brush Rescue from Klean Strip
My favorite way to clean really dry paint brushes is using these bags of paint rescue from klean strip. Just add water before adding the paint brush to soak in the solution overnight. For dry paint brushes, soak 24-48 hours til the paint is loosened.
When the brush is free of most of the paint, use a brush comb to remove the remaining paint and rinse well under warm water. Lay flat to dry.
I didn’t have any klean strip rescue bags when I wrote this, but I wanted to include it as an option.
Method 5-Laundry Solution
The next method I tried was a specific laundry solution. I like this one because like the vinegar solutions, you probably have these ingredients on hand at home.
Mix 1/3 cup laundry detergent and 2/3 cup of warm water. Combine well and place the paint brushes in the laundry solution. I left mine for 30 minutes, if your paint brushes are really dry, soak overnight.
The results on this one were my favorite by far, hardly any scrubbing and the paint came off so easily!
Other Methods to Try
Fabric Softener: Same as the other methods, soak for about 30 minutes in the fabric softener and rinse under warm water to remove the paint. I didn’t try this one, but sounds like the laundry solution and might help condition the bristles on the brush.
Hot Water: If the brush hasn’t completely dried, I can usually work the semi-dried on paint off with a brush comb and really hot water. A completely dry paint brush will need some help with cleaner or some other agent.
Mineral Spirits: Since I know I’m going to be asked, mineral spirits is a good way to remove oil based paint. Let the dry paint brush sit in the mineral spirits for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly with hot water.
Most of the methods worked well at cleaning the brushes, but the vinegar and alcohol did leave the bristles a bit brittle.
How to Care for Your Paint Brushes
Tips-Don’t leave your paint brushes out where you will forget them. If they are left out exposed to air too long, these methods will be applicable.
In between coats of paint, place brushes in plastic wrap or plastic sandwich bag. Store in the fridge overnight if need.