How to clean paint brushes – The Professional Way

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How To Clean Paintbrushes

How to clean paint brushes

Why do I need a “How To Clean Paintbrushes” guide?

The first question you might ask is why do I need to know How To Clean Paintbrushes? Surely leave them to soak in a tub of white spirit, press the bristles about to work it in then dry them off sorts them out? Well not quite, you see when you are painting walls you don’t want a brush that falls apart, bristles stuck in your paint pot or on your freshly painted wall. You want a brush that applies paint evenly and compliments your painting job.

So it really is worth spending a few pounds on a decent paint brush, we have listed a few of our favourites below. You aren’t going to pick these up for 10 for £10 in the local supermarket, but the difference in using them and the finished result is amazing! However, if you are going to go to that expense when purchasing a paint brush, you need to look after it. This involves priming the brush, cleaning it midway through the job, then cleaning, drying and storing it correctly afterwards. This will get you a better return on your investment, keep your paint brush lasting for years to come and make it like new for every job.

The professionals know how to maintain their brushes, they don’t just throw them away as they forgot to clean them and they went hard. In this How To Clean Paintbrushes article we will show you exactly how to take what the professionals do day in day out and apply it at home.

Hamilton 8 Piece

Professional 8 piece set featuring bristle and synthetic brushes.

Hamilton Perfection 8 Piece Pure Bristle and Synthetic Paint Brush Twin Box Set
Great value twin set; Durable and easy to clean varnished wooden handles.; Rust resistant stainless steel ferrule

Last update on 2021-04-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Axus Decor 4 Piece

4 piece silk touch set plus a silk cutter.

Axus Decor AXU/BMS4M Mink Silk Touch 4 Piece Brush Set (1.5", 2", 3" + 2" Cutter), Set of 4
Exceptional performance with all paints; Lasting beech wood handles; Exceptional control and accuracy

Last update on 2021-04-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Coral 3 Piece

Coral 3 piece synthetic set.

Last update on 2021-04-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases


​When thinking ahead to the final stage of how to clean paint brushes, we don’t want to make things difficult for ourselves, nor do we want something that takes us ages to complete! So before the professionals start painting for the day the first thing they do is prime the brush. This is as simple as if you are using a water based paint getting the paint brush moist with some water. If you are using an oil based paint dip the paint brush into a mineral such as white spirit.

We need to remember to wipe off and squeeze out any excess water or mineral before starting to paint.

Lunch time cleaning​

If you are going to be doing a full day of painting it is worth doing a brief clean at lunch time. As you are painting the walls you will find that some of the paint goes a bit too far up the brush towards the heel of the brush. This then isn’t applied to the wall and starts to dry on the brush.

A lunch time clean isn’t something that needs to be to thorough as you will be using them again after lunch, we simply recommend that you put the brush in some warm water and use a paint comb or wire brush to clean the excess paint off​. The brush can then be left to dry whilst you take a lunch break. Refer to our drying and storage section below for the best way to do this.

How to clean paint brushes?​

So the time has come, it’s the end of the day and you need to clean your brush. It is important we do this correctly to get our brushes looking like new, but without applying too much force or stress to the brush. We will then have a brush that lasts and can be used time after time, giving us a brilliant finished product time and time again.

Wipe off excess​

The first thing we recommend is that you wipe any excess paint from the brush. This can simply be using a rag or some shop roll ​ to get the excess paint off. Or by dipping the rag first in some water in the case of water based paints or mineral such as white spirit in the case of oil based paints. This will get the bulk of the paint off and reduce the amount that will build up when cleaning the brushes.

Water based paint​

If we are using water based paints, get some warm soapy water in a bucket and start to run the water through the bristles of the brush. When doing this be more concerned with getting the soapy water through the bristles and covering all of the brush then pressing the bristles against the bucket. We don’t want to damage the bristles and cause them to fall out.

Oil based paint

With oil based paint water is next to useless. In this case you will need to use a mineral based solution such as white spirit to get the paint off. Again don’t leave the brushes stood up for hours on end in white spirit, it will damage the brush and provide little in the way of cleaning the brush. Instead gently adgitate the brush in a bucket of mineral.

Cleaning tools

Do you have a paint comb? A paint comb is designed to work the paint from in between the bristles. These are invaluable and stop you getting your hands covered in paint also. You can see a great example from Hamilton below that if you click it will take you to Amazon where you can purchase it.

Hamilton Wooden Handle Paint Brush Comb
Varnished wooden handle; Staniless steel teeth; Superior build qulaity; From the Hamilton Perfection range of tools
£5.11 −3% £4.97

Last update on 2021-04-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

For water based paints use the comb to run through the brush heel to toe, whilst running under warm water where possible.

For oil based paints use the comb in the bucket of mineral solution to help work the paint from the brush.

Drying and storage

At the beginning of this guide on how to clean paint brushes we said that the drying and storage is an important factor in the longevity of your brush.

​First give the brush a shake and flick off any excess mineral solution or water from the brush. Then lay it down on it’s side to dry, this may take a while but it is well worth the wait. You can also consider a a paint brush spinner if time is key, they really do help!

Prodec Brush and Roller Sleeve Cleaner and Spinner
Instant paint brush & roller cleaner; Fits paint brushes up to 6"; Fits 7" & 9" roller sleeves with 1.75" diameter core
£17.22 −5% £16.35

Last update on 2021-04-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

It is important that you note one of the worst ways you can dry your brush is to stand it up, please lie it flat and allow it to dry. Storing your brushes should also be flat, this will increase the life of your paintbrush.

Want a great way to carry your paint brushes around or keep them all together? We have reviewed the Stanley FatMax Tool Bag, check out the review and see what you think.​

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About Mike Jones 191 Articles
I started doing DIY around the house and it soon developed into a hobby. I look for tools and products that are genuinely useful and get the job done. I enjoy writing product reviews, researching my buyers guides and putting tools through their paces. In my downtime, I like to run and I am a bit of a Netflix documentary geek.

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