How to Clean Dried Paint Brushes

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Imagine you’re in the middle of a painting project and you have to step out to run a few errands. Later in the day you return to the project to find your paint brush coated in dried gummy paint. Many of us have found ourselves in this situation, wondering how to revive a crusty brush and get back to work. Keep reading to learn how to reclaim brushes encased in old dried paint and how to soften brushes that were temporarily abandoned. There are insider paint brush storage tips, too!

3 Easy Steps to Clean Dried Paint Brushes

After paint has dried on a brush, it may still be possible to clean and reuse the brush. Here’s how to clean dried up paint brushes in three simple steps:

  1. Remove as much paint as possible from the brush by running the brush firmly against the rim of the paint can several times.
  2. Clean paint out of the brush bristles using the appropriate cleaning agent:
    • To clean water-based paint out of a brush, use warm, soapy water.
    • To clean oil- or latex-based paint out of a brush, use mineral spirits (also known as paint thinner).
    • To clean shellac or varnish out of a brush, use denatured alcohol or household ammonia.
    • Work the cleanser through the bristles using your fingers. Rubber gloves are handy for this task.
  3. Rinse the brush with fresh water until the rinse water runs clear.

How to Soften Paint Brushes

There’s a big difference between a brush that has paint that’s started to solidify on it, and a brush that has paint on it that dried up a long time ago. Don’t worry – petrified paintbrushes are not necessarily destined for the trash can. If you have mineral spirits on hand, soak the brush in a jar full of it. The trick is to suspend the brush so that the bristles are not resting on the bottom of the jar. Just throwing the brush in the jar will curl the bristles over and destroy the brush, which defeats the point of this project. To suspend the brush in the solvent, attach a large clamp to the brush handle and rest the clamp on the mouth of the jar.

If you don’t have mineral spirits at home, there are products on the market made specifically for cleaning brushes. Some of these products are biodegradable, emit far less toxic fumes, and are considered greener options.

How to Store Paint Brushes

Practicing smart paint brush storage techniques will extend the useful life of all your brushes. The first and most important step in paintbrush storage is to clean the brush properly and thoroughly after use. When you have a clean brush that you need to store, get some heavy paper. A paper grocery bag or craft wrapping paper work well. Fold the paper to conform around the shape of the bristles, and then tape or tie the paper closed around the brush. Make sure the paper doesn’t squeeze the bristles. This storage method ensures that the brush will retain its shape as it dries.

If your painting project is incomplete but you need to briefly step away, place your wet paint brush in a plastic bag. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible. You can leave the wet brush in the plastic bag for a few days, and then pick back up where you left off.

If you don’t have mineral spirits at home, there are products on the market made specifically for cleaning brushes. Some of these products are biodegradable, emit far less toxic fumes, and are considered greener options.

How to Store Paint Brushes

Now that you know how to restore and keep your paint brushes, we hope you enjoy creating many more works of art. When it’s time to get those paintings professionally cleaned and restored, Art Recovery Technologies will be ready to help. Request assistance from ART’s restoration experts online or call us directly at 800-227-0796.