How to Clean Hardened Paint Brushes: The Ultimate Guide

If you’ve ever tried to clean a paint brush that’s been used for more than one color, you know it can be a daunting task. The paint seems to have hardened and is now caked on the bristles. In this blog post, we will teach you how to clean hardened paint brushes quickly and easily!

There are a few different methods you can try, depending on the severity of the hardened paint.

Cleaning Paint Brushes with Fabric Softener

Note: this method only works with water based paints like latx or acrylic.

Fabric softener is only required in small quantities. In fact, the ratio of fabric softener to water should be around 1:32. So, add 1/8 cup fabric softener and 4 cups of water to this mixture. Depending on the size of your cleaning brushes or rollers, you may need less or more fabric softener and water

  1. If possible, remove any remaining paint from the brush.
  2. Mix fabric softener and warm water in a bucket.
  3. Begin swirling your paint brush in the mixture until paint starts to come off and sink to the bottom of the bucket.
  4. Once clean, rinse off any remaining solution in the sink. Wipe on a paper towel when finished.
  5. Let dry and store. Important: Allow the brushes to dry straight down on a flat surface. Water will seep into the handle if the brushes are allowed to dry upright, causing damage to the brush.

How to Clean Paint Brushes with Vinegar

To clean your paint brushes, you may utilize common white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. This is the most cost-effective way, but it’s also my least favorite because I despise the smell! It’s also more time consuming than washing with fabric softener. Because the technique entails boiling the vinegar over an open flame, it is only suitable for water

White Vinegar to clean brushes:

  1. Pour any white vinegar into a pot and bring it to a simmer or boil.
  2. Once heated, place your brush in the hot vinegar.
  3. Let sit for about 20 minutes.
  4. Wash them with warm, soapy water, and use your hands to remove the dried paint.
  5. Rinse thorough and let dry horizontally on a flat surface.

Apple Cider Vinegar to clean brushes

  1. Pour enough apple cider vinegar into a jar to coat the bristles of the brushes.
  2. Let sit overnight.
  3. Scrub out remaining paint. Rinse and let dry on a flat surface.

How to Clean Paint Brushes with Solvents

This is the most well-known technique, and it’s also quick and efficient. Unlike fabric softener or vinegar, you may not have solvents on hand, so this method might necessitate a trip to the shop. Solvents are also typically more expensive than household items.

So long as you purchase the appropriate solvent or paint thinner for the paint you’ve used, this method works with oil or water based paints.

Cleaning oil paint brushes is a completely different process from acrylic paint. The only thing that will get the oils out of your brushes is the appropriate solvent, such as turpentine or mineral spirits.

  1. Remove any excess paint from the brush.
  2. In a non-food container, add a few drops of solvent and swish the brush in it until all of the paint has come off.
  3. Pour any remaining solvent from the brush into a cup, then wipe it on a paper towel.
  4. To dry, reshape the bristles and place the brush horizontally.


No matter which method you choose, the key is to be patient and gentle with your brush. After all, you don’t want to damage the bristles in the process of cleaning them! With a little bit of care, you should be able to get your paint brushes looking like new again.

Cynthia Williams
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