Whenever we’re painting, it makes us feel as if we’re entering a new world; in fact, it’s better than that.
It sometimes feels like we’re creating that new world ourselves, so it’s pretty understandable how we can get lost in it and forget our chores, even after the painting session—chores, such as cleaning our brushes.
You know you can relate to us if you have several dried up and dirty brushes lying around yourself.
Don’t worry, though, because we will teach you how to clean acrylic paint brushes.
We will share with you our tried-and-tested techniques in dealing with dried acrylic paint, which is the main factor that makes our paint brushes challenging to clean, as well as tips on how to care for your brushes better moving forward.
What Kind of Brush Do You Have?
The first thing that you need to do is to determine the type of brush you have.
You see, each type reacts differently to the cleaning process that we’re about to share with you.
There are two main types of brushes: synthetic and natural.
Aptly named, these are brushes have synthetic bristles.
If you have left them with paint for too long, then you can check if you can still remove them with good ol’ soap and water.
If you can’t, then you might want to consider getting a new brush instead.
You see, most of the solutions that we will share with you will require the use of chemicals that synthetic bristles simply cannot take.
What Else Can You Do With Your Synthetic Brushes?
Well, we’re not discouraging you from giving the methods that we will share with you a go with your synthetic brushes, but another option that you can also try is trimming them.
Who knows? You might paint a project in the future that requires the unique brush that you can come up with.
Nothing is impossible with creativity.
Finally, if you ever decide to toss them out, you might want to invest in getting natural brushes this time around and practice the maintenance tips that we will share with you to make the most out of your money.
Natural brushes, on the other hand, have natural fibers like squirrel or badger.
They might be more expensive than synthetic brushes, but they are more durable and can survive even a wash with harsh chemicals.
How to Get Dried Acrylic Paint out of Brushes
As we mentioned above, the main factor that you need to deal with is the removal of the clump of dried paint that has hardened and rendered your bristles unusable.
There are different ways to do that.
Here are the steps that we prefer:
1. Using an Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer
A few spritzes of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your hand is enough.
Just rub your hand against the end of your brush; this will already work well in cleaning some of your brushes, especially those that are not too dry.
2. Using a Brush and a Comb
You can also remove bits and pieces of dried paint from your brush by using a soft toothbrush to scrub off the bigger pieces, and a fine-toothed comb to manually separate the clumps.
Just remember to hold the brush you’re cleaning firmly from its base, its ferrule, so that you won’t accidentally comb its bristles off.
This step is not enough to remove all the clumps, but it gets the job started and minimizes the dried paint that you would need to remove later on in the cleaning process.
3. Using a Cleaning Solvent
If combing out dried paint and subjecting it to a hand sanitizer cleaning doesn’t do the trick, then you can move on to the next step, which is using a liquid solution to melt away that dried paint.
So what kind of liquid solutions are we talking about? Again, here are our preferred options:
- Rubbing Alcohol
If your hand sanitizer doesn’t work, it’s probably because it’s ethyl alcohol.
You need something stronger like isopropyl alcohol, which is the main component of rubbing alcohol.
The higher the concentration of your isopropyl is, the more efficient it will be in breaking down your paint.
You will see it expressed as percentages in the bottle of your alcohol.
Another liquid solution that you can use to melt dried paint is acetone.
Acetone is the main component of nail polish remover.
Just make sure that your nail polish remover is not acetone-free as some of them are.
- Lacquer Thinner
Here’s another solvent that you can use to break down dried paint.
This solution is formulated to dissolve resins and plastics, so it should prove effective even with the toughest jobs.
A word of caution, though, before you use any of the liquid solutions, we shared above.
One is that they should only be used in well-ventilated areas and with utmost care since they can be toxic when inhaled.
They also shouldn’t come in contact with your skin except rubbing alcohol.
There are other chemical solutions out there that you can also use like ammonia, but we don’t recommend working with them anymore since they can be really hazardous to one’s health.
The thinner is a dangerous material to work with as it is, but we want to give you an option to save really messed up brushes.
How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes
Once you have chosen your preferred cleaning solution, here’s the complete step-by-step guide on how to clean your paint brushes:
1. Prepare Your Cleaning Solution
Put the solution in a glass jar, enough to cover the tip of your paint brush up to its ferrule.
2. Soak Your Brushes
Dip your brushes into the glass jar.
Double-check if its enough to reach the ferrule of your brush and adjust accordingly.
If it is, then allow your brushes to soak for 10 minutes.
You might be tempted to soak your brushes overnight, but we don’t recommend this for the following reasons:
- Subjecting your brush to harsh chemicals this long can ruin its bristles.
- Most of the solutions we mentioned above can evaporate quickly, so they won’t last that long if you don’t replenish them often.
Once the 10 minutes are up, rinse your brushes in running water.
4. Clean the Chemicals out With Dishwashing Detergent
You can do so by preparing another glass jar, this time with warm water detergent.
Stir your brushes within the jar vigorously to remove any lingering chemicals.
- Rinse Again
Rinse your brushes in running water.
6. Check Your Brushes
Are they clean now?
If not, then you can simply repeat the process until they’re as good as new.
7. Dry Your Brushes
Are you done cleaning your brushes? That’s great!
There’s only one last step to do, and that’s to let your brushes dry.
You can do so by getting another sheet of paper towel and letting your brushes dry on top of it horizontally.
This will prevent moisture from seeping into your ferrule and ruining it if it doesn’t dry properly.
It can also loosen up the glue that binds your bristles.
Can You Wash Acrylic Paint Brushes in the Sink?
You might have noticed above that we require running water to rinse your brushes, and this might lead you to think that you can do the process in the sink.
After all, it’s convenient that way.
However, we don’t really recommend it since we’re dealing with toxic chemicals that can potentially contaminate your dishes, utensils, and cookware.
Hence, should you decide to rinse your brushes in the sink, be sure to have a paper towel ready to catch its droplets.
Throw away the paper towel right after.
Be sure to clean your sink thoroughly, as well.
Finally, don’t dispose of your chemicals through your kitchen sink.
Tips on How to Maintain Acrylic Paint Brushes
Congratulations! You have finished cleaning your acrylic brushes.
You now know how difficult it is to clean brushes with dried paint on them and the damage it poses to your beloved tools.
That’s why here are tips you can keep in mind to prevent this from happening again:
1. The Secret Is Not to Let the Paint Dry
Always have a tumbler of water where you can dip your brush into as you’re using it and especially after you’re done.
It can buy you some time before you need to rinse them if you don’t want to do this right after a tiring painting session.
2. Have a Supply of Water Near Your Painting Area
Get a jar, bottle, or cup and fill it with water.
Then place it near your working area wherein you won’t accidentally tip it over.
By having a supply of water near you, you will be able to refill your tumbler conveniently if it dries up.
3. Schedule Your Brush Cleaning Regularly
It’s ideal to clean your brushes right after each session to keep them fresh and ready before your next session.
That said, if you find this difficult to do with your irregular painting sessions, you can schedule your cleaning tasks instead.
You can do it three times a week, ideally on nights that you’re least busy.
It is also best to put it on your calendar and set a notification on your phone so that you won’t forget.
4. Schedule Cleaning Your Workstation Every Week
Cleaning your workstation can be a good time to give your brushes a deep cleaning, much like what we did above.
This is also the perfect time to clean the other art materials that you use for acrylic painting.
5. Separate Your Clean Brushes From Your Used Ones
Having a designated container for your clean and dirty brushes will save you time from cleaning even the brushes that you haven’t actually used.
We also recommend keeping your dirty brushes in storage and out of sight if you already have a building number of brushes in need of cleaning.
That’s it! By keeping the tips we shared with you in mind, we’re sure that you will be able to keep most of your beloved brushes clean most of the time and ready for action.
Some artists say that it’s easy to replace a brush.
You can always go out and buy a new one.
We don’t know about you, but we find this quite difficult.
We have brushes that can be impossible to replace because we’ve grown so used and attached to them.
They are our absolute favorites. How about you?
For your convenience, here are the points we have shared with you above to sum everything up:
- The success of your cleaning efforts largely depends on the type of brush that you are going to clean.
Synthetic brushes are not very durable and may not be able to tolerate cleaning solutions that contain harsh chemicals.
You’ll fare better in cleaning natural brushes.
- You can start by removing the dried paint clumps that you can remove.
You can use a toothbrush and fine-toothed comb for the task.
Just be extra careful that you don’t accidentally pull out the bristles as you’re doing so.
- Try using a hand sanitizer first.
Spritz it into your hand and rub your brush into it in circles until the dried paint breaks down, and you can easily rinse them away.
- For really stubborn cases, you can use a cleaning solution to help you melt the dried paint away.
You can choose from isopropyl alcohol, acetone, and lacquer thinner.
Just be careful with handling them as they can be toxic when exposed to it in large amounts.
- Finish the job with warm water and mild dishwashing detergent.
This will also help rinse away any lingering chemicals of the solution you’ve used.
- Dry your brushes horizontally.
This will prevent you from damaging your brush’ ferrule.
- Prevention is better than cure.
In the end, we recommend preventing your brushes from reaching this state again. Hence, we advise that you always keep them submerged in water if you don’t have the time to clean them yet.
We hope we have assisted you in how to clean acrylic paint brushes.