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Cleaning and Storing Craft Paint Brushes

Updated on February 7, 2018
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Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

I love to craft in different media. I use acrylics, water colors, glitter glue, modge podge, and more. So naturally, I have a lot of paint brushes for different projects. I have gone and ruined a few brushes, walking away and leaving material on them to dry. It's not intentional, but my craft budget is limited and it started to drive me crazy replacing my brushes. So I developed new habits about caring for my craft paint brushes and you can too.

Let's face it, paintbrushes, especially the good ones are an investment. So, taking care of them saves time and money too. Makes sense, right?

Crafters need to keep their brushes cleaned and well conditioned. No matter what grade of paint brush you have bought, it's important to keep them clean. Otherwise, you will wind up spending your craft dollars replacing them. Keeping them clean and ready to go, just makes your whole experience more rewarding !

How To Store Your Brushes

Make sure that brushes aren’t resting against the tips of other brushes, or they can become deformed. Many artists keep their brushes rolled in canvas sleeves with individual pockets for each brush, or in drawers. As long the head is undisturbed, a brush should be fine stored vertically with the head up or horizontally. Avoid packing them up too tightly.

If a brush is beyond repair, you can try soaking the brush in fabric softener for about 30 minutes, then rinse off.

If you have a paint brush with really built up paint, you can try placing some hand sanitizer on a plate.Work your brushes up and down in the Hand Sanitizer smashing down the bristles on the styrofoam plate while still keeping their natural form. Do Both sides. Keep going until paint runs dry. Rinse under running water and dry.

If you are able to, the best option is to use separate brushes for oils, water based paints, gesso, masking fluids and glues

Time required: 15-30 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Cost: Minimal


  • Soft cloths or tissues
  • Soap or other cleaner
  • Turpentine if using oil paints


1. Wipe as much paint off your brushes as you can. Use a soft cloth or tissue. The more you are able to wipe off the better. Squeeze outward as you wipe. moving from the base of the brush outward. Be gentle so that you do not pull the bristles out..Never use a lot of pressure to force paint out of a brush. The goal is to keep the shape in your brush.

2. Rinse the brush in turpentine if you have used oil paints, or lukewarm water if you have used water based paints. Don't use hot water or it may cause the bristles to fall out.

3. Wipe the brush again with a clean dry cloth

4. Wash gently using a little bit of mild soap (or a gentle dishwashing liquid). Dab the brush gently onto the piece of soap, then work up a lather in a small container (or the palm of your hand if you're not using any toxic pigments or solvents).

5. Rinse and repeat until there's no trace of any color coming out. Over time a brush may become stained, but don't stop rinsing until you're sure there's no paint left.

6. Rinse once more in clean, lukewarm water to remove any traces of soap. Shake off the water.Use your fingers to gently shape the brush head into its correct shape.

7. Leave brush to dry at room temperature. Ensure it's not resting on its head as it will then dry misshapen. Standing it on the back of the handle works well. Always clean the brush between colors and color changes. A simple wipe won't do it. You'll carry color onward.

Before You Start Cleaning Your Brushes

Work out most of the remaining paint by painting sheets of newspaper brushing back and forth in an "X" motion until the brush is pretty dry before you start cleaning it

More Cleaning Tips

  • Make sure to clean carefully the ferrule or base of the paintbrush. Lots of stuff can accumulate there. If you don't clean it right, you will lose the shape of the brush
  • Pat or wipe off excess paint to keep the brush as clean as possible while you’re working.
  • For acrylic paint, use a brush cleaner, or soap and water. Watercolor paint will require only rinsing in water. In either case, try not to get paint on the handles and the ferrules (the metal ring or clamp that holds the bristles in place and attached to the handle).
  • Acrylic paint dries very fast, so make sure that you don't leave brushed aside to clean later. Always have some cleaner or water available to clean brushe
  • The area near the ferrule is often the hardest to clean, but it’s actually just as important for maintaining a brush’s shape as the tip. Any paint residue that coats the bristles at their base will prevent them from coming together at the top. Gradually, your brush tip will become more and more spread apart until it no longer holds its shape.s as you change colors
  • Never place brushes vertically in water or solvent for any length if time. It will destroy the shape of the brush. he pressure on the brush can permanently misshape the bristles, bending them or spreading them out so they no longer come to a point. If they are left too long to rest on the bristles, most brushes will never regain their original shape.
  • After cleaning, use your fingers to gently work the hairs of the brush back into its natural shape. Then allow your brushes to air-dry completely before putting them away.
  • Also soaking the bristles for an hour in a budget hair conditioner greatly softens old bristles. Be sure to rinse well afterward. The old conditioner can be wiped off and reused. Trim off any wayward hairs with a pair of scissors and your brushes will last way longer.
  • Apply Vaseline to natural hair brushes before storage. Should keep hair from drying out and breaking. Only a small amount should work nicely

Use Shampoo On Brushes Before Long Term Storage

When you know you’ll be putting your brushes away for a while, a simple rinse in water (or mineral spirits for oils) isn’t good enough. Work brush soap or shampoo into the bristles of the brush all the way down to the ferrule, and rinse thoroughly with lukewarm to cool water until no trace of paint or suds are left. Some folks use dishwashing liquid and even ammonia-based glass cleaner for particularly stubborn water-soluble paints.

Another Brush Storage Tip

Make sure that brushes aren’t resting against the tips of other brushes, or they can become deformed. Many artists keep their brushes rolled in canvas sleeves with individual pockets for each brush, or in drawers. As long the head is undisturbed, a brush should be fine stored vertically with the head up or horizontally. Avoid packing them up too tightly.

Using Brushes For Glue ?

If you are using your paint brushes to apply glue or glitter glue, wipe them off right away with a paper towel and wash them ASAP ! Better than that, have special older brushes dedicated just to glue ! I buy cheap glue brushes and use them over and over again

Did you find this information helpful? Would you like to share a hint about cleaning or storing paint brushes? We'd love to hear from you ! Stop by and say hello

© 2014 Linda F Correa


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