Cleaning Paint Bushes

By Robert Robillard on Remodeling

Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes

Learning how to properly clean brushed with oil paint can save you money and improve the longevity of the brush and the quality of your paint project.

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. It only takes one slip-up of waiting too long, or not prepping your brushes for cleaning to lose a brush to hardened paint. ,

Choosing The Correct Brush

In order to clean a paint brush from oil paint, it first must be the correct bristle type to clean. I suggest using a high-quality china bristle or Ox hairbrush designed for use with oil paints.

What You Will Need

  • Wire brush designed to clean paintbrushes
  • Paint thinner
  • 3 separate quart containers
  • Paintbrush
  • Clean rags

Steps To Clean An Oil Brush

If you follow these processes on how to clean oil paint brushes, then your brushes will have a long life span and provide good quality brush strokes.

Wrap In Paper To Soak

One of the first things I do when done using a brush is to wrap it in newspaper and set it in a quart container of paint thinner, to soak. Ensure you fill the container to cover the brush ferrules and let the thinner do its job.


After a day of soaking, I set up two more Quart buckets of paint thinner and start the manual cleaning process.

Wire Brush the Bristles

I unwrap the brush and re-dip it into the container it was soaking in. I then place the brush down on a rag [or end of a trash barrel] and using the wire brush, stroke the China bristles from the ferrule to the brush tips.

Rinse and Repeat

I repeat this dip and wire brush process 2-3 times in each Quart bucket. As I progress the brush gets continually cleaner and cleaner, and I finish by spinning the brush.

Spin The Brush Bristles

After spinning the brush, I store the brush back in its cardboard wrapping that I bought it in or wrap it in the news newspaper, securing it in place with a rubber band.

Cleaning Oil Brushes– 12 Steps

  1. Unwrap brush
  2. Dip brush into container 1
  3. Wire brush from ferrule to tips
  4. Repeat 1x
  5. Dip brush into container 2
  6. Wire brush from ferrule to tips
  7. Repeat 1x
  8. Dip brush into container 3
  9. Wire brush from ferrule to tips
  10. Repeat 1x
  11. Spin brush till dry
  12. Store in an original cardboard wrapper

Re-Cycle Paint Thinner

Once done cleaning recycle the paint thinner back into its container. I keep two containers. One with fresh paint thinner and one with recycled thinner. The paint in the used thinner will eventually settle to the bottom of the container allowing it to be reused indefinitely.

The next time I clean an oil brush I use this thinner for my Quart container 1 and 2, reserving Quart container 3 for fresh thinner.






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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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