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How to Use Dish Soap to Remove Oil Paint from a Paint Brush

Updated on February 15, 2013


The easiest and most effective way to get oil paint out of paint brushes is to use a solvent like turpentine. However, one should not dispose of solvents down the drain and they can be hazardous to your health. In some cases, prolonged use can lead to headaches, dizziness, allergies and skin reactions such as dermatitis.

Keeping your brushes clean is important if you are to get maximum use out of them. Brushes that are well looked after can last an artist for many years.

As people in general become more environmentally conscious, many artists are actively seeking alternative ways to practice their craft which do not harm the environment or their health. Dish washing soap is a simple and non toxic way of cleaning oil paint from brushes and one technique which is commonly used is described below.

Things you Will Need

  • Odor free dish washing soap
  • Safflower oil (grocery store bought)
  • Three clean rags
  • A small container

Remove Paint

Using a rag, remove as much paint as possible from the brush. Starting from the ferule, work the rag into the bristles using your fingers and squeeze as much paint out of the brush as possible.

Safflower Oil

Pour a small amount of safflower oil in your container. Place the brush in the oil and coat as many of the bristles as possible in the oil. Work the oil into the brush using a clean rag and your fingers. Squeeze the rag around the bristles until you get as much paint out as possible.

Dish Soap

Wash out the container with dish soap and water. Dry it and pour some dish soap into the container. Pour in enough soap so that it covers all of the bristles right up to the ferule when you place the brush inside the container. Do not add any water as at this stage, the oil in the brush will just repel the water. Manipulate the brush inside the soap so that it thoroughly coats the bristles. Rub it on a clean rag and keep repeating the process until you see that all the paint has been removed. At this stage, the brush is ready to be washed thoroughly with the dish soap and water.


Many artists online have reported successful cleaning of brushes after oil painting using Murphy's Oil soap. /despite the name, the soap does not contain any oil, just potassium soap made from vegetable oil. It can be used effectively simply by following the steps described here for cleaning brushes using dish soap.

After Care

Most oil paint brushes are made from natural fibers which can become dry and useless after years of cleaning using solvent. One trick which revives them if used sparingly is treating them with a little hair conditioner. When you notice that the life is starting to go out of your brushes, simply wet them and coat the bristles with a small amount of conditioner and leave it to sit for about a minute. Thoroughly rinse the conditioner out so that absolutely none is left inside the brushes. Reshape the brush using your fingers and leave it to dry as normal.


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