How to Clean Paint Brushes

How to Clean Paint Brushes

The number one home improvement undertaking is painting!  Yes, inside or outside of your home to perk it up with a new color.  Discussed here is how to clean your paint brushes, but first you will need to know what type paint you’ve used for the correct method to clean those brushes and how to store your brushes for your next painting project.

Types of Paint

Types of Paint

When choosing your paint color, check out the Pantone® color fan deck available at your paint store or big box store.  Paint suppliers will also have sample colors for you to take home to match for your décor.

  • Water-based Paint

Today, water-based paint has replaced oil-based paint used 50-years ago.  Water-based paint has less odor, low levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), dries fast, has a full range of color options, and is easier to clean the brushes.

  • Oil-based Paint

Many users still prefer oil-based paint.  It does have high levels of VOCs.  The odor is strong, the dry time is longer, and there are not as many colors from which to choose.  Brushes will need to be cleaned using turpentine or mineral spirits.

  • Latex Paint

Drying more quickly and easier to work with is latex paint; however, it’s not as durable as oil-based paint.  It’s great for painting walls and ceilings.  You will need to use two coats when painting from a darker color to a lighter color.  Latex paint or water-based paint doesn’t hold up when painting wood as does oil-based paint.

Paint Finishes

Different finishes can be from flat to high-gloss.  Consult your paint supplier if you’re a novice and need to know how to choose your finish for your paint application.  Some paints will have enamel in it that makes the dried paint surface less porous and harder.

Color Matching

Never buy cheap paint.  Remember that when you use a paint sample chip that once that color is painted on a larger surface wall it will look more intense in color.


If you had smokers in your home, you will first need to wash walls and then use a primer before you paint.  If your walls have never been painted, you’ll need a primer as well.  Latex-based primer is used with latex paint and oil-based primer works best with oil-based paints.  Consult with your paint dealer for more options.

Paint brushes

Best paint brushesYour investment in the best paint brushes will be a waste if you don’t clean those expensive brushes appropriately.  Storing those brushes the right way helps them keep their shape for the next use.

You don’t want paint flecks or hard bristles.  It only takes a few minutes to do the cleaning process.  You don’t want these messy bristles shown in the picture on the right.

Never dip a brush into a can of paint to cover the ferrule!

Paint brushesPaint is hard to remove from the metal and it looks unprofessional to have your brushes take on paint there.

Only dip the bristles into the paint can about half way.Paint brushes

Never let paint drip down the can sides or into the rim where the lid will reattach.

Paint drip downIf you do make a dripping mess, use this innovative Paint Can Rim CleanerThis gadget is wonderful and available on for about $13 to use only on gallon cans.

paint drip down the can sidesThe Wipe-It Paint Squeegee easily clips onto the paint can rim and can slide back and forth along the can to remove excess paint put back into the can.

With this paint shield clean up tool, you can remove excess paint from paint shields and other clean straight-edge tools by sliding back and forth through the slit in the multi-use paint squeegee.  This paint tool retrofits to any size paint shield blade.

This paint can tool has a magnetic strip on top of the clip that will hold your paint brush in place and allow paint to fall back into the paint can.  By allowing the paint to fall back into the paint can, you will preserve more paint and not have to worry about the waste or the mess!  I love mine and I’m a detailed girl!

Dirty brush

Use the paint left on the brush on what you’re painting.  Use old newspapers to remove more paint left in the brush bristles.  Read the label on the paint can for what to use to clean the brush.

  • Water-based Paint Brush Cleaning

Water-based paint cleans easily under a sink faucet using warm water.  Rub your fingers through the bristles until the water runs clean.  Let the brush air dry then return it to the holder that it came in.  If you bought a brush without a holder, wrap it in flat thick paper so that it holds its shape and stays clean.

  • Oil-based Paint Brush Cleaning

Fill an old coffee can, plastic container, or small bucket with turpentine or mineral spirits up to the ferrule or over it if it has paint on it.  Put the brush in the solvent wiping the brush on the inside of the container and squeezing the brush as you go.

paint brush combpaint brush comb toolRub the bristles with your fingers using rubber gloves and/or a paint brush comb tool.  If the paint has dried, let the paint brush soak for a while.  When thoroughly clean, pour some solvent in a clean container to remove any remaining paint.

Comb downward with the wide teeth to not break the bristles.

Let the brush air dry and put back into its package such as on this Purdy® paint brush.

  • Latex Paint Brush Cleaning

Latex brush cleaning is as easy to do as water-based paint.

Use dish detergent and hot water in a bucket, can, or plastic container.

  • How to Dry and Store Paint Brushes

Spin or shake paint brushes until dry.  You can use old rags to drag the bristles over as well.  Be sure your brushes are totally dry before storing so that they don’t get mold or mildew on them.

Store your brushes back into its original packaging, known as a ‘keeper’ that is made of hard waxed stock or a plastic ‘keeper’ available on some brands of brushes.  You can use thick paper or hang your brushes from a pegboard.  If the brushes have no hole at the top of the handle, you can drill one.  This will keep the bristles straight and soft rather than storing in a junk drawer to lose their shape.

How to Clean Paint Brushes | Purdy® Paint Tools demo video. 

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