How To Clean Paint Brushes: A Professional Painter's Guide

How to Clean Paint Brushes

When you finish your DIY painting project, one of the first things on your mind will be how to clean your dirty paint brushes.

Don’t worry! As a professional painter and decorator, I own several high-quality paintbrushes, and I make sure that I thoroughly clean them after every use.

In this article, I will look at the best practices for cleaning paint brushes and rollers, the tools and materials needed, and step-by-step instructions. Also, I will share how you can effectively dry your brushes once you finish cleaning.

However, you should keep in mind that just because your paint brushes are clean, you still need to give it some time before it’s safe to use or sleep your newly painted room.

Tools and Materials Needed to Clean Brushes

Before diving into the cleaning process, gather the following tools and materials:

  • Used container (for paint thinner or water, depending on the type of paint used)
  • Mild liquid soap or brush cleaner
  • Cleaning comb or wire brush
  • Old rag or paper towels
  • Sink or bucket

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Brushes

  1. Act Quickly: Don’t let the paint dry on your brushes. As soon as you finish your painting session, start the cleaning process. This will prevent the paint from hardening, making it much easier to clean.

  2. Remove Excess Paint: Use the edge of a container to scrape off any excess paint from the brush gently. Be careful not to bend or deform the bristles.

  3. Rinse with Water or Paint Thinner: Depending on the type of paint you used, rinse the brush with water or the appropriate paint thinner. For water-based paints, use water; for oil-based paints, use paint thinner. Swish the brush in the container to loosen the paint.

  4. Soap Up the Bristles: After rinsing, apply a small amount of mild liquid soap or brush cleaner to the bristles. Work it into the bristles using your fingers to remove any remaining paint.

  5. Clean the Ferrule: The ferrule is the metal part that holds the bristles together. Make sure to clean it thoroughly, as paint residue in this area can damage the brush over time.

  6. Use a Cleaning Comb or Wire Brush: For stubborn paint or to deep-clean the bristles, use a cleaning comb or wire brush. Gently comb through the bristles, starting from the base and working your way towards the tips.

  7. Rinse and Repeat: Rinse the brush with water or paint thinner again, repeating the process until the water or thinner runs clear and there’s no more paint residue left.

How to Clean Paint Brushes Without Paint Thinner

If you prefer to avoid using paint thinner, you can clean your brushes with just water and soap. Follow the same steps as above, but use warm soapy water for both rinsing and cleaning the bristles. It may take a bit more time and effort, especially for oil-based paints, but it’s a safer and more environmentally-friendly option.

How to Clean Paint Rollers

Cleaning paint rollers is similar to cleaning brushes. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Scrape Excess Paint: Use the curved side of a container or a putty knife to remove excess paint from the roller.

  2. Rinse with Water: Rinse the roller under running water until the water runs clear.

  3. Soap Up the Roller: Apply mild liquid soap to the roller and work it in with your hands to remove any remaining paint.

  4. Rinse Again: Rinse the roller thoroughly until no soap or paint residue remains.

How to Dry Paint Brushes and Rollers

After cleaning, shake off excess water from the brushes and rollers. Use an old rag or paper towel to pat them dry gently. To maintain the shape of your brushes, hang them with the bristles down or lay them flat.

If time is not on your side, you can use these tips to dry your paint brushes and rollers quicker:

  • Use a fan: Position a fan near the drying area to increase air circulation. The moving air will help evaporate the water or solvent from the brushes and rollers more quickly.

  • Hang brushes with the bristles down: If possible, hang your paint brushes with the bristles facing downward. Hanging your brushes upside down will help to draw water or paint thinner away from the ferrule, preventing moisture from getting trapped and prolonging the drying time.

  • Use a hair dryer: You can use a hair dryer on low heat to speed up the drying time. Hold the hair dryer at a distance from the brushes or rollers to avoid overheating or damaging them.

Remember that it’s essential to let your brushes and rollers dry thoroughly before storing them to prevent mould or mildew growth. By following these tips, you can ensure that your paint brushes and rollers are ready for the next project in no time.


So there you have it. Act quickly, use the right materials and be diligent when cleaning, and soon you’ll have clean brushes that look as good as new.

When you have cleaned your brushes, you’ll need to store them somewhere. I recommend using protective covers or wrapping them in wax paper to maintain their shape and protect the bristles. Also, to avoid the brush bristles warping, store your brushes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

If you feel like saving yourself the hassle and mess that goes into cleaning paint brushes after reading this, you can contact our painters and decorators in Kennington to take care of your paint job!