How to Clean Dried Paint Brushes? – Learn Now

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Does the sight of dried, hardened paint on your brushes make you cringe? Cleaning up neglected brushes can be a frustrating task.

Clean Dried Paint Brushes
Clean Dried Paint Brushes

Don’t toss out those old brushes just yet; let’s bring them back to life!

Methods to Clean Dried Paint Brushes

To clean dried paint brushes, there are several effective methods available. These include using rubbing alcohol, vinegar, dish soap, solvents, and fabric softener.

Using rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a great tool for cleaning dried paint brushes. Here are some steps to do it:

  1. Get the dirty brush and a can of rubbing alcohol.
  2. Pour some rubbing alcohol into a small dish.
  3. Dip the brush in the alcohol. Make sure all bristles soak in it.
  4. Leave the brush in the dish for 20 minutes.
  5. After 20 minutes, take out the brush.
  6. You will see dried paint start to come loose.
  7. Take an old toothbrush or small scrubbing brush with soft bristles.
  8. Gently scrub at the dried paint on your brush’s bristles.
  9. Rinse your brush under warm water.
  10. Use your fingers to make sure all paint is gone from your brush.

Using vinegar

Vinegar works well to clean hardened paint brushes. Here is how you use it:

  1. Fill a pot with vinegar.
  2. Put the brush in the pot. All the bristles should be in the vinegar.
  3. Heat the pot until the vinegar starts to boil.
  4. Keep an eye on it and wait for 20 minutes.
  5. Make sure you turn off the heat after that time.
  6. Wait for things to cool down.
  7. Now, use your hands or a soft – bristled brush to get rid of dried paint from your brush.

Using dish soap

Dish soap is a common tool for cleaning dried paint brushes. Follow these steps to clean your brushes:

  1. Put some dish soap in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Dip the brush into the mix.
  3. Gently rub the brush in your palm.
  4. Rinse with clear water.
  5. Shape the bristles back and let it dry.

Using solvents

Solvents can help remove dried paint from brushes. Here are some solvents you can use:

  1. Rubbing alcohol: Soak the brush in rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, then rinse it with warm water.
  2. Mineral spirits or paint thinner: These solvents are good for oil- or latex-based paint. After soaking the brush, clean it with warm soapy water.
  3. Lacquer thinner: Use this solvent for cleaning shellac or varnish out of a brush. Rinse the brush well with warm soapy water after using lacquer thinner.

Using fabric softener

Fabric softener can also be used to clean dried paint brushes effectively. Here’s how:

  1. Fill a container with warm water and add a few drops of fabric softener.
  2. Swirl the brush in the mixture, making sure the bristles are fully submerged.
  3. Let the brush soak for about 10 to 15 minutes to loosen the dried paint.
  4. Gently massage the bristles with your fingers to help remove any remaining paint.
  5. Rinse the brush under running water until the water runs clear and all paint residue is removed.
  6. Pat dry with a towel or paper towel.
  7. Reshape the bristles by gently combing them with your fingers or a brush comb.

Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Paint Brushes

To properly clean and maintain paint brushes, it is important to remove excess paint immediately after use, rinse the brushes with water or solvent depending on the type of paint used, and store them properly to prevent drying.

Remove excess paint immediately after use

After painting with your brush, it’s important to remove any excess paint right away. This will prevent the paint from drying and hardening on the bristles, making it easier to clean later.

Simply wipe off the excess paint using a cloth or paper towel. Don’t forget to do this step every time you finish painting to keep your brushes in good condition and ready for use next time.

Rinse brushes with water or solvent depending on the type of paint used

To clean your paint brushes, make sure to rinse them with either water or solvent, depending on the type of paint you used.

If you used water-based paints, simply rinsing the brushes with water should be enough.

By properly rinsing your brushes after each use, you can keep them in good condition and ready for your next painting project.

Store brushes properly to prevent drying

To prevent your paint brushes from drying out, it’s important to store them properly. After cleaning, make sure the bristles are completely dry before storing them.

One way to do this is by suspending the brush with the bristles facing downward so that any excess water or solvent can drip off.

You can use a peg or clip attached to a hook or wire for this purpose. Another option is to lay the brushes flat on a clean towel until they are fully dry.

This will help maintain their shape and prevent the bristles from becoming misshapen or splayed.

By storing your brushes correctly, you’ll be able to keep them in good condition and ready for your next painting project without having to deal with dried-out bristles.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Cleaning Paint Brushes

Scrubbing too aggressively can damage the bristles of the brush and make it less effective for future use.

Scrubbing too aggressively

Scrubbing too hard when cleaning dried paint brushes can damage the bristles and reduce their effectiveness.

Instead, gently work the cleaning solution into the bristles using small circular motions.

This will help loosen the dried paint without causing any harm to the brush. Remember to be patient and take your time, allowing the cleaning agent to do its job.

By avoiding aggressive scrubbing, you can effectively remove dried paint from your brushes while preserving their quality for future use.

Using the wrong cleaning agent

Using the wrong cleaning agent can damage your paint brushes. Some cleaning agents are too harsh and can break down the bristles or leave them stiff and unusable.

It’s important to choose a cleaner that is specifically designed for paint brushes, or use gentle alternatives like dish soap or vinegar.

Avoid using strong solvents or abrasive cleaners, as they can ruin the brush bristles and shorten their lifespan.

Always read the label on any cleaning product to make sure it is safe for use on paint brushes before applying it.

Letting paint dry on the brush for too long

If you let paint dry on your brush for too long, it can become really difficult to clean. The dried paint will harden and cling to the bristles, making it challenging to remove.

This can result in damage to the brush, leaving it stiff and unusable.

To avoid this problem, make sure to clean your brushes immediately after use by rinsing them under warm water or using an appropriate solvent depending on the type of paint used.


Cleaning dried paint brushes is essential to maintain their longevity and optimal performance.

By following the methods mentioned, such as using vinegar, rubbing alcohol, dish soap, solvents, or fabric softener, you can easily remove dry paint from your brushes.

With proper care and maintenance, your paint brushes will be ready for your next masterpiece!


Can I clean dried paint brushes with water?

Yes, you can clean dried paint brushes with warm soapy water by soaking the bristles and gently scrubbing them until the paint is removed.

How long should I soak the dried paint brushes?

It is recommended to soak the dried paint brushes in warm soapy water for at least 30 minutes to soften the dried paint before cleaning.

What if there are stubborn stains on the paint brushes?

If there are stubborn stains on the paint brushes, you can use a brush cleaner or mineral spirits to help dissolve and remove the dried paint.

Do I need any special tools for cleaning dried paint brushes?

No, you don’t need any special tools for cleaning dried paint brushes. Warm soapy water, a container, and a brush cleaner (if needed) are sufficient for most cases.

How should I dry cleaned paint brushes?

After cleaning, shake off excess water from the bristles and reshape them with your fingers. Then lay them flat or hang them upside down to air dry completely before storing them away.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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