How to clean acrylic paint brushes?

Clean acrylic paint brushes – Acrylic paints are famous for artists of all levels, offering vibrant colors and a fast drying time. But what happens when you finish painting and your brushes are covered in colorful goop? Proper cleaning is essential to keep your acrylic paint brushes in good condition and ensure they perform their best for years.

Whether you’re a seasoned painter or just starting, knowing how to clean acrylic paint brushes is key to maintaining their quality and longevity.

clean acrylic paint brushes

Understanding the Basics

Acrylic paint, with its water-based formula, can dry quickly, making it crucial to clean your brushes promptly after each use to prevent the paint from hardening and damaging the bristles. This step must be revised to avoid stiff, frayed brushes that compromise your artwork’s precision and beauty.

Why Cleaning Your Brushes Is Important

While tossing your brushes aside after a painting session might be tempting, neglecting to clean them can have serious consequences. Here’s why cleaning your acrylic paintbrushes is crucial:

Preserves Brush Shape

Dried acrylic paint can harden the bristles, making them stiff and unusable. Regular cleaning prevents this, ensuring your brushes maintain their original spring and shape for precise application.

Prevents Paint Buildup

Over time, uncleaned paint can build up at the ferrule (the metal band that holds the bristles), causing the bristles to loosen and fall out. Cleaning removes this buildup, extending the lifespan of your brushes.

Maintains Color Vibrancy

Leftover paint pigments can mix with fresh paint, leading to dull or muddy colors. Cleaning ensures your brushes are free of previous colors, allowing you to achieve pure and vibrant hues.

Promotes Hygiene

Dried paint can harbor bacteria, especially when cleaning water containers. Regular cleaning keeps your brushes hygienic and prevents the spread of germs.

How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes Step by Step

Now that you understand the importance of cleaning your acrylic paint brushes, let’s dive into the process. Here’s a simple and practical step-by-step guide:

clean acrylic paint brushes

Blot Away Excess Paint

Before rinsing your brushes:

  1. Remove as much paint as possible from the bristles.
  2. Use a paper towel or rag to blot away excess paint gently.
  3. Avoid scrubbing or wringing the bristles, as this can damage them.

Rinse with Tepid Water

Fill a container with lukewarm water (not hot!). Gently swirl your brushes in the water to loosen the remaining paint. Avoid dunking the entire brush in water, as this can loosen the glue holding the bristles in place. Rinse the brushes repeatedly until the water runs clear.

Lather Up with Gentle Cleanser

For a deeper clean, use mild dish soap or a dedicated acrylic brush cleaner. Apply a small amount of soap to your palm or a clean container and gently massage the bristles of your brush into the lather. Be gentle and avoid bending the bristles excessively.

Reshape and Rinse

Once the paint is removed, rinse your brushes thoroughly under running water to remove all soap residue. Gently reshape the brush head with your fingers while rinsing to maintain its original form.

Dry Thoroughly

After rinsing, carefully remove excess water by gently squeezing the bristles with your fingers (don’t twist!). Lay the brushes flat on a clean, absorbent cloth or towel to dry completely. Avoid placing them upright in a cup or container, as this can trap moisture and damage the bristles.

Bonus Tip: For stubborn dried paint, you can soak your brushes in a solution of warm water and a few drops of dish soap for a short period before following the cleaning steps above. However, avoid soaking for extended periods, as this can weaken the glue holding the bristles.

How to clean dried acrylic paint brushes

Discovering dried acrylic paint on your brushes can be frustrating, but fear not! With the proper steps, you can revive them and get back to creating.

clean dried acrylic paint brushes


  1. Soften the Paint: Soak the bristles in hot water or a vinegar solution to loosen the dried paint.
  2. Gentle Scrubbing: Use a brush cleaner or an old toothbrush to gently scrub the bristles.
  3. Rinse and Repeat: Rinse the brushes thoroughly under warm water, repeating the process if necessary.
  4. Conditioning: Restore the bristles’ softness with a brush or hair conditioner.

Prevention Tips

  • Clean Immediately: Clean brushes after each use to prevent paint buildup.
  • Store Properly: Store brushes upright or flat to maintain their shape.

Deep Cleaning Techniques

For stubborn dried acrylic paint or brushes that haven’t been cleaned properly for some time, try these methods:

Vinegar Soak

Create a solution of equal parts warm water and white vinegar. Soak the brushes in the mixture for several hours or overnight, then rinse thoroughly.

Acetone-Free Removers

Look for brush cleaners designed explicitly for acrylic paint removal. These products are formulated to dissolve dried paint without damaging the bristles.

Acrylic Paint Removers and Conditioners

Consider using a dedicated acrylic paint remover for heavily dried or neglected brushes. These products can help dissolve stubborn paint without harming the bristles. Additionally, paint brush conditioners can revitalize and soften older brushes.

Cleaning with Vinegar (Use with Caution)

While some artists recommend using white vinegar to clean acrylic paint brushes, this method should be cautiously approached. Vinegar is slightly acidic and can damage the natural oils in some bristles. If you use vinegar, dilute it with water and test it on a small brush area first.

Tips for Brush Care

  • Regular Maintenance: Clean your brushes after each painting session to prevent paint buildup.
  • Avoiding Solvents: Unlike oil paints, acrylics can usually be cleaned with water alone, without the need for harsh solvents like turpentine or mineral spirits.
  • Storage: Store your brushes upright or flat in a brush holder or container to maintain their shape and protect the bristles from damage.
  • Cleaning Large Brushes: Large acrylic paint brushes may require more than the basic cleaning routine. You can gently use a brush comb to remove dried paint particles between the bristles. Be gentle and avoid using excessive force, which can damage the brush.
  • Cleaning During Painting Sessions: If you’re working on a large project or switching between colors frequently, you should have a jar filled with clean water readily available. This allows you to quickly rinse your brushes between colors to prevent them from drying.


Properly cleaning your acrylic paint brushes preserves their quality and ensures a smoother painting experience. Following these simple steps and doing regular maintenance into your artistic routine, you can keep your brushes in top condition for years. So, next time you pick up your paintbrush, remember the importance of brush care—the brushstroke completes the masterpiece.

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