With acrylic paints becoming more popular among artists due to their versatility, durability, and low cost among other reasons, there is also the need to know how to clean acrylic paint brushes properly. As with any other artist tool, the proper cleaning of your brushes is important in order to preserve them and ensure that they will last you a very long time.
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Let the paint dry
Acrylic paints are great for beginners because they’re easy to clean up and don’t require fancy equipment or expensive art supplies, but they can be a pain to deal with if you don’t know how to clean them properly. Acrylic paint is water-based and dries quickly, so it’s best to clean your brushes as soon as possible after use.
The first step in cleaning acrylic brushes is letting the paint dry completely on your brushes before cleaning them. This prevents smearing or smudging when you try to remove it later. If you’ve been painting for a while, it may take several hours for the paint to dry on the bristles. You’ll want to wait until the paint is totally dry before moving onto Step 2 of this process.
Use warm soapy water
Acrylic paint is a water-based medium, meaning that it mixes with water to form a more fluid consistency. When acrylic paint dries, it becomes a solid substance, which means you can use an acrylic brush to apply multiple layers of color without having to clean the brush between each layer.
However, it’s still important to clean your brushes after every painting session in order to prevent the bristles from becoming stiff and brittle. If you don’t clean your brush immediately after using it, the paint will dry inside the bristles and cause them to become matted over time.
Warm soapy water is all you need to keep your brushes clean and ready for use again. Follow these steps:
- Fill your sink with warm water (about 105 degrees Fahrenheit) and add several drops of mild dish soap such as Dawn or Palmolive. You don’t need much soap — just enough to create suds when you swirl your brush around in the water.
- Soak the bristles of your brush in soapy water for at least five minutes so that they are completely saturated with soap bubbles before you begin washing them out with clean water. This allows any excess paint particles trapped inside
Get all the soap out of the brushes and then dry them
If you have a brush cleaner, use it. If not, pour some rubbing alcohol on the brush bristles to get all the soap out. Then dip the brush into water and swirl it around until all the soap is gone from inside the bristles.
If you have any paint left on your brush, rinse it off under running water until there are no more paint particles coming off in the water.Dry your brushes well with a towel or paper towels. Be sure to fully dry each one before putting it away so that mold doesn’t grow inside your brush handle.
Remove stubborn dried acrylic paint
Cleaning medium may be used if necessary to remove stubborn dried acrylic paint. Cleaning mediums are like thinner, but they can also clean brushes.
- Clean the brush with soap and warm water.
- Rinse the brush thoroughly and wipe it dry with a paper towel. If you want to clean your brush more thoroughly, you can use a cleaning medium, which is like a thinner that dissolves the paint on the brush so you can remove it.
- Dip your brush into the cleaning medium and swirl it around in an open container until all of the paint is off of the brush.
- Rinse out all traces of cleaning medium from your brush by swishing it around in some water.
- Dump out any remaining water and let your brushes dry on their own or with a blow dryer if necessary.
Flat or angular brushes
Acrylic paint is made of a polymer emulsion that dries into a hard film. The only way to remove acrylic paint from brushes is to clean them with solvent-based solvents like mineral spirits.
A brush can be used to apply more than one color of acrylic paint in a painting session, so you need to clean your brush frequently. Acrylic paint dries quickly, and if the brush has dried paint on it, it will be difficult or impossible to clean it out later.
Flat or angular brushes can be cleaned against the edge of a container to remove dried acrylic paint. You can also use the point of an X-Acto blade for this purpose. The edge of the blade will cut through any dried material and allow you to scrape it off with your fingers.
One part vinegar and three parts water overnight
- Soak brushes that are extremely dirty in 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water overnight. Rinse well and allow to dry completely.
- Remove paint residue by gently rubbing the brush against a paper towel or a rag folded into quarters, or soak it again in the vinegar/water solution.
- Follow up with soap and water if needed. Make sure brushes are completely dry before storing them in their original packaging or a brush jar, which will help prevent mildew from forming on the tips of the bristles.
Clean paintbrushes after each painting session
Clean your paintbrushes after each painting session. This will keep them in good shape for the next time you use them. If you leave paint on them, it can dry and become sticky, which makes it more difficult to clean later.
Use warm water and dish soap to clean your brushes. Do not use hot water because it can damage the brush handles and bristles and cause the glue holding the bristles together to break down.
Hold your brush so that the water flows through it in a gentle stream. Be careful not to bend or twist the brush as you rinse it out; doing so will loosen bristles from their sockets and damage the brush’s shape.
After rinsing out all of the paint, gently squeeze any excess water out of your brush by rolling it between your hands or pressing it against an absorbent towel or paper towel until no more water comes out of it.
If you clean your brush sufficiently, you will make less mess when you paint and you’ll use your acrylic paints for a longer time because the brush is clean. That way you also have to buy acrylic paint less often.