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Oil Painting Lesson - Cleaning Your Brushes

Updated on July 29, 2011

Environmentally Safe Oil Paint Brush Cleaner

Most artists working in the medium of oil paint, usually use turpentine as a brush cleaner. Vegetable oil is a cleaner, cheaper, safer and odor-free alternative. Not only is it safer for the environment, it is also good for people who have skin allergies to turpentines and turpenoids. It is also much safer for women who are pregnant that continue to use oil paints.

It is always a good idea to find a metal barrel at a factory to dispose your old paints and thinners.

Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes

Wipe excess paint off of brush with a newspaper or cloth.
Wipe excess paint off of brush with a newspaper or cloth.
Vegetable oil will help loosen oil paint from the bristles of the brush. It is safer for the environment.
Vegetable oil will help loosen oil paint from the bristles of the brush. It is safer for the environment.
A second option, which is less friendly for the environment, but does the trick.
A second option, which is less friendly for the environment, but does the trick.

How To Use Vegetable Oil as a Brush Cleaner

It is easy to use vegetable oil as a brush cleaner.

1. Wipe the excess paint off of your oil paint brush onto a newspaper or dry cloth.

2. Dip the dirty bristles of the paintbrush into a cup of vegetable oil and move it around.

3. Push the bristles against the edge of the cup to help squeeze out extra oil. Repeat as much as necessary until the majority of oil paint has been removed from the brush.

4. Dry off brush on a newspaper or on a dry cloth.

5. Wash the bristles of the paintbrush with soap and warm water.

6. Store your brushes so the bristles are up in the air to avoid crushing or mis-shaping them.

If your bristles are stiff because you forgot to wash them out from a previous painting session, let them stand overnight in fabric softener - this will help loosen paint from the bristles.

It is also a good idea to condition your bristles every once in a while by letting them submerge in fabric softener and then rinsing it out prior to use.

Vegetable oil is not as strong as turpentine. You may find it takes a tiny bit longer to clean the paint from the brushes, but, it is so much better for the environment, it's worth it!

If you don't like vegetable oil, the second best thing is odorless turpentine.

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    • profile image

      Levi Herris 

      3 years ago

      This is amazing tip to clean the brushes with vegetable oil but does it work well in all mediums specially acrylics. I normally use studio soap and glass cleaner to clean my brushes. To learn the steps you can watch this video tutorial - http://www.jerrysartarama.com/art-lessons/Artists/...

    • Laura Spector profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Spector 

      7 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Hi Steve PP,

      So glad to hear that you've tried it and like it! It'd be great to get schools using it too. And, thanks for the advice with the olive oil soap. I'll pass it on to my students. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Steve PP 

      7 years ago

      Laura,this is a great tip! I've just started using veg oil to clean and condition my brushes and it works a treat! Even with dried on paint. I washed them out afterwards using Olive Oil soap.

      Thanks for sharing the wisdom!

    • Laura Spector profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Spector 

      7 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Thanks dahoglund. I hope you do experiment with art - there are more reasons to, than not to! And, I hope the vegetable oil ideea will help save your lungs. Happy art-making!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      This is a useful tip. Although I don't do oil painting now I am thinking of experimenting a bit with art. So it is good to know.

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