How to Clean Paint Brushes: Paint like a PRO!

By Phil Benevides on How To, Painting

How to Clean Paint Brushes: Paint like a PRO!

When I first learned to snowboard, lesson one was how to stop. With that idea in mind before we go any farther with this ACC How to Paint like a PRO series, lets learn How to Clean Paint Brushes, before we even get them loaded with paint. Getting your brushes clean for the next project is the first step to paint like a PRO!

First and foremost, we’ll review some of the useful tools and supplies you’ll want to have before you dip your brushes into some fresh paint. We’ll dive into the different types of paints later in the series but for now let’s put paint into two categories oil based and others (latex, acrylic, and water based).

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Oil based paint is considered a hazardous household material and requires some solvents to properly clean it that are also hazardous. The “others” are not considered hazardous by most states and municipalities in the U.S. And you can comfortably clean your brushes with soap and water and feel good about letting residue flow down the drain assuming the drain in question is part of the water treatment pipeline.

Anyway, this article will focus on cleaning and maintaining your oil based paint brushes. Although we will also provide specific guidance for removing the “other” types of paint. And of course many of the methods showcased in this article are useful regardless of the type of paint you need to clean. So let’s finally get to those the useful tools and supplies…

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Basic Supplies

  • 5-Gallon Bucket
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Hazardous Waste Can
  • Small Paint Pails
  • Brush Comb
  • Brush and Roller Spinner
  • Soap and Water
  • Rags

This is a simple list with some common items you’ll find in any shed, garage, or workshop but to Paint like a PRO you’ll want a few task specific tools to keep your gear clean. The Brush Comb is one of the simplest and cheapest tools you can buy to ensure you get your brushes professionally clean. The Brush Spinner is another affordable tool, that quickly advances the cleaning of your brushes, and let’s be honest, it’s just fun to use.

When working with Oil Paint, soap and water just won’t cut it, so you’ll want some Mineral Spirits on hand, or the lesser version, Paint Thinner. And with those volatile chemicals you’ll want a way to safely contain the materials until you can dispose of the substances, so a Hazardous Waste Can is a must if you want to Paint like a PRO.

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Preparation is the key to a good paint job. And prepping your workspace ensures no errant paint or unfortunate spills stain the finished spaces. Same concept applies when cleaning your brushes, and because of the nature of the task, it can get messy, so preparation of the area ensures a healthier environment, clean hands, and clothing.

First and foremost if working with Mineral Spirits be sure to have an adequately ventilated area, again this is a hazardous material, so fresh air is a must when exposed to it’s fumes. Lay down drop cloths or plastic to prevent splatter, have rags, and have a trash barrel nearby. And finally whenever working with paint I’d recommend using a latex gloves to prevent additional clean up after clean up.

How to Clean Paint Brushes

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Set up three small paint pails of mineral spirits to advance your brushes from most soiled to least soiled. Soak a used brush in the first pail, allow the mineral spirits to absorb in the bristles then use your Brush Comb to loosen the paint from the base of the brush.

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After you remove excess paint from the brush you’ll want to dip the brush back into the first pail to saturate the bristle with mineral spirits then spin the brush into the 5-Gallon bucket to whip the remaining liquid off the brush with the Brush Spinner.

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After giving the brush a good spin, until its almost dry to the touch, you can move the brush to the next pail. This stepped approach keeps the mineral spirits clean as you go and keep the solvents working as you get through your brushes.

You can cycle through several brushes, as pictured above or you can work one brush at a time, keeping the spinner attached, dipping, combing, and spinning brush through the three pails of mineral spirits.

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At this point the brush should be clean and you can take a damp rag and wipe the brush to remove residual mineral spirits from the handle and ferrule. You can use this opportunity to shape the bristles back to the brushes desired shape. Just as you purchased your professional quality brush like a Wooster or Purdy Paint Brush, you can return the brush to it’s packaging to help it retain it’s shape use after use.

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After you’ve cycled through the brushes you need to clean and have cleaned up after your clean up you can store the pails with mineral spirits in covered pails. I label them for future use, and it helps identify which pails will get over saturated and will be disposed of first. Store in a appropriate storage location, away from heat.

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Now you are ready to tackle your next painting project, let’s get your skills up to a professional level with the Next Installment of ACC’s Paint Like a PRO! Sanding and Preparation: Paint like a PRO!

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About the author

Phil Benevides

Carpenter / Assistant Editor

Phil is a 28-year old Air Force Veteran who decided to transform his passion for construction and home improvement into a career. Inspired by his Grandfather who built his home from the ground up with his bare hands in Portugal, he received his formal training in Carpentry at the North Bennett Street School in Boston, MA.Phil continues to grow his skills as a carpenter and leader, while exploring new products, methods, and tools!

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