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How to Clean Oil Paint Off Paintbrushes

Keep your paintbrushes looking like new with these cleaning tips.


  • Step 1: Prep with paint thinner The first step to cleaning oil paint off of a brush begins before you’ve even started painting. Dip your dry brush into paint thinner, carefully shake off the excess, and then proceed to paint.
  • Step 2: Don’t let it dry out Whenever you take a break, wrap the paintbrush in a clean rag that’s been soaked in paint thinner. Keep the wrapped brush out of the sun.
  • Step 3: Swish with paint thinner When you’re ready to quit for the day, fill a container to the halfway point with paint thinner, and swish the brush around for about 30 seconds.
  • TIP: Don’t soak the brush; the solvent will weaken the bristles.
  • Step 4: Comb Run a paintbrush comb through the brush.
  • Step 5: Swish again Fill another container with fresh paint thinner, and swish the brush around once again.
  • Step 6: Rinse Fill a third container with warm water, add a few squirts of dishwashing liquid, and gently move the brush back and forth in the soapy water, taking care not to hit the bottom.
  • Step 7: Drip dry Hang the brush by its handle to dry.
  • TIP: If you failed to follow these steps and you have a brush with hardened bristles, revive it by soaking it in hot vinegar.
  • Step 8: Dispose of paint thinner Dispose of the used paint thinner properly.
  • FACT: Sixty-three percent of Americans have more than two cans of paint stored in a basement or garage for touch-ups.

You Will Need

  • Paint thinner
  • A clean rag
  • Three clean containers
  • A paintbrush comb
  • Soapy water

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