How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes

How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes – Cleaning Acrylic Brushes

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DIY projects are all fun and games until it comes to the clean-up. After you have created your latest artistic masterpiece using your favorite acrylic paints, your paintbrushes are more than likely going to be covered in paint. And unless you know what you are doing, attempting to clean them can result in an even bigger mess with a very good chance of damaging your brushes. We will share our tips for cleaning acrylic paint brushes to ensure that you can keep them in the best possible shape and working condition for years to come.



What Type of Brush Are You Using?

When it comes to cleaning acrylic paint brushes, the type of brush you have will determine the correct cleaning method. While we cannot guarantee that your brushes will be “as good as new”, we can assure you that they will be clean and ready to use for your next project. The first thing to remember when it comes to looking at how to clean acrylic paint brushes is that there are two types of paintbrushes: natural and synthetic.

Cleaning Acrylic Paint Brushes


Synthetic Paintbrushes

We do not want to bring you down, but synthetic brushes can be difficult to clean, especially when it comes to acrylic paint. In most cases, the synthetic bristles will dissolve or break down when exposed to cleaning solutions. While we have a few solutions for cleaning these brushes, we advise you to use caution when cleaning synthetic paintbrushes.


Natural Fiber Paintbrushes

These brushes are a lot easier to clean, which means you have a better chance of successfully removing acrylic paint. This is due to the resilient nature of the natural fibers, making them resistant to most chemicals. While they are more expensive than synthetic brushes, the initial expense pays off in the long term as you do not have to replace the brushes as frequently.



How to Clean Acrylic Paint Off Brushes

Removing acrylic paint from your paintbrushes can be done with common household items, although not all of them are suitable for use on synthetic brush bristles. This is why we recommend using natural fiber brushes when discussing how to clean an acrylic paint brush, as they do not disintegrate when exposed to harsh chemicals.

How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brush



Most households have acetone in their medicine cabinets. It is also used in most nail polish removers. This solvent is a powerful acrylic brush cleaner and is strong enough to penetrate paintbrush bristles and remove any acrylic paint build-up. Acetone has a strong odor and should be used in a well-ventilated, open area with good air flow. It should also be kept out of harm’s way and in areas free of animals and children.


Isopropyl Alcohol

This solution is a great alternative to acetone as an acrylic brush cleaner, as it carries a less powerful odor. It works in the same manner as acetone, penetrating the brush bristles to remove any paint build-up. Acrylic paint removers often contain this solution as the active ingredient. While the odor is less pungent, it remains a harsh chemical and needs to be stored safely.



How to Use an Acrylic Paint Remover

Regardless of whether you are using acetone or isopropyl alcohol, the usage instructions will remain the same. Please note that when working with chemicals, you need to work in a well-ventilated area that will not leave you overexposed to the fumes. So, let us look at how to clean dried acrylic paint brushes.

How to Clean Dried Acrylic Paint Off Brushes

Using a glass jar, pour enough alcohol or acetone in it to cover the brushes’ bristles. Leave your brush to soak in the solution for a few minutes. Once the brush has soaked, remove it from the solution and wash it thoroughly with soapy water. Dishwashing soap is our preferred option as it can penetrate the bristles and provide a more thorough wash. Repeat this process if there are still bits of acrylic paint that need to be washed off.

Another quick fix when it comes to acrylic paint cleaning up is to wash your paintbrushes with hand sanitizer. This solution makes use of ethyl alcohol and offers the same results as alcohol or acetone. All you need to do is squirt some hand sanitizer into the palm of your hand and then rub it onto the brush. Leave the brush in the solution to sit and soak before washing it off with soapy water. Do not leave it overnight as this can damage the bristles.



Additional Tips for Cleaning Acrylic Brushes

If the abovementioned solutions do not give you the results that you were looking for, and you really want to save your brushes from acrylic paint, we have a few options that you can try before admitting defeat. Let us look at how to clean acrylic paint off brushes without solvents.

Cleaning Acrylic Brushes


Hair Comb

This is a more physical form of acrylic paint removal. For this, you can either buy a cheap comb or use an old one. Ideally, you want to use a fine-tooth comb for the best results. Another pro tip is to wet the brush before attempting to remove the paint, preferably with linseed oil. Firmly hold the bristles at the base to prevent them from breaking and run the comb through the bristles, removing acrylic clumps as the comb passes through. You should be able to glide the comb through and release any acrylic debris.


A Quick Haircut

This should be a last resort and is exactly as the name implies: You will need to trim your paintbrush.
In most cases, this will destroy your brush, so exercise caution when attempting to do so. Damaged brushes can be used on different projects to create different effects or can be gifted to your children or grandchildren to use for their artistic crafts. If you have reached this point, you may want to have a quick conversation with yourself about the future of your brushes. They will never be the same and you will more than likely have to go out and buy a new set.



Preventing an Acrylic Paint Build-Up on Your Brushes

The easiest way to ensure that your brushes last is to properly clean them after each use. This is a pretty straightforward process, as most acrylic paints are water-soluble. This means that by keeping a jar of water on hand while painting, you can prevent acrylic paint from building up and leading to damaged brush bristles. Simply dip your brush into the water, give it a quick swirl, and watch the paint dissolve. While water can be beneficial to paint removal, we advise you not to leave your brushes to soak overnight, as this will bend the bristles and inevitably damage your brushes.

Dried Acrylic Paint Brushes

Another pro tip for looking after your brushes is to follow a painting schedule. Although your water jar can help break down the paint build-up, regular breaks in-between to clean your brushes will go a long way in preserving your brushes. It will also help to refresh the paint color mid-project. Try to set an alarm or timer to go off hourly to remind you to take a break (to refresh and regroup) and clean your brushes.

When it comes to cleaning acrylic brushes, make sure that you clean the bristles at the base as well as the tip to remove any excess paint. If you want to go the extra mile, try to condition your brush bristles regularly in order to prevent them from hardening and becoming unusable. Ensure that there is no paint build-up when conditioning. We recommend a quick wash of your brushes with a soapy mixture before applying conditioner.


Assessing Your Clean-Up Process

The best way to determine whether your cleaning up process needs work is to look at the brushes you have in your studio. Do you see a common trend in terms of paint build-up? Is it mostly at the base, in the middle, or just the tips? Whatever you notice, this will point out the areas that you need to focus your cleaning on.

While we have mentioned different ways to clean and preserve your brushes, it is worth remembering that they may not work. When we look at how to clean dried acrylic paint off brushes, is important to remember that acrylic paint is difficult to remove and can damage your brushes when you try to remove them.

The best way to get the job done is to properly clean your brushes after use and inspect them before leaving them to dry. Once the paint has dried, you will need to figure out how to clean dried acrylic paint brushes, and that is an entirely different ball game.

How to Clean Acrylic Paint Off Brushes



Frequently Asked Questions


What Soap Should I Use to Wash My Brushes?

Dish soap or a mild detergent will help to remove acrylic paint build-up.


How Can I Clean My Brushes After Using Acrylic Paints?

The best thing to do when deciding how to clean acrylic paint brush is to wash your brushes as soon as you are done using them. Avoid soaking your brushes in solvents or water for extended periods of time as it can bend and damage the bristles. Try to use natural brushes for water-based paints and synthetic brushes for oil-based paints, as their respective cleaning methods work best for the brush’s bristles.


Do You Know How to Clean Dried Acrylic Paint Off Brushes?

Yes, and we will explain a few simple options to get you started. The first solution is to use soapy water. It is not as intensive on your brushes and makes use of existing products in your home. If this does not work, using acetone or an alcohol-based solution will work too – all you need to do is pour the solution into a jar, let the brush sit for a few minutes, and then wash with soapy water. As a last resort, you can always cut the bristles to remove any stubborn paint clumps.


Will Dried Acrylic Paint Damage My Paintbrush?

Yes. For starters, have you ever tried to use a paintbrush with dried-on paint? It does not work, restricts the motion of the brush, and can be messy. Secondly, you will need to remove the dried-on acrylic paint and this process can cause further harm to your brushes. An important thing to remember is that acrylic paints dry fast, which means that you need to be quick when it comes to cleaning them. When you are done using your paintbrushes, wash your brushes properly before leaving the brushes to dry. This extra effort will do wonders when it comes to preserving your brushes.


Do You Recommend Natural or Synthetic Brushes When Using Acrylic Paint?

We recommend using a natural brush when using acrylic paints. This is due to the water-based nature of acrylic paints as well as the more durable nature of natural bristles. It also prevents damage to the bristles when using harsh chemicals to remove acrylic paint build-up on your brushes. While synthetic bristles will melt and dissolve when exposed to acetone or alcohol-based solutions, natural bristles can withstand chemical exposure.


When I Clean My Brush, It Seems like The Color will Never Wash Out. Help?!

The easiest way to work around this is to schedule regular brush cleanings within your painting schedule. This prevents excessive build-up. It is important to ensure that the water runs clean when cleaning to ensure that the paint has been properly removed. If you are using a jar and not running it under the tap, try to keep multiple water jars on hand and replace used water to keep your brushes clean. It may seem tedious, but it needs to be done in order to preserve your brushes.


I Dipped My Brush in Water But the Paint Did Not Come Off?

Water alone will not remove the paint. You need to move, swirl, or agitate your brush in the water to remove the paint. Running water can also be effective when to comes to cleaning your brush – just be sure to massage the bristles as the water pours over it to ensure that you do not miss any of the paint.


Is There A Difference Between Brushes Used for Water-based Paints and Those Used for Oil-based Paints?

This is a tricky one. While there are brushes specifically marketed for use with oil-based and water-based paints respectively, you could use the same paintbrush for both. You need to bear in mind that the cleaning method associated with each paint will have an impact on the brushes, so do your research before deciding to invest in brushes. When in doubt, ask a salesperson or a fellow painter.


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