Fast Ways to Get Dried Paint Off Paintbrushes

Paint brushes with dried paint

A few weeks ago I did a YouTube video on how to get paint off your paint brushes (below). I had the intent to make it into a blog post but I’ve been ever so slightly busy. I created this because I had dried acrylic paint on a few brushes. These steps might work for oil paint but I’ve been using acrylic paint so my experience is only with acrylic paint.

I had a collection of paint brushes with dried acrylic paint on them. My daughter likes to get into my art supplies and leave the brushes out. I go around collecting the brushes and put them to the side until I manage to have free time. During that free time remembered to figure out how to get dried acrylic paint off my brushes.

Different Types of Art Paint

There are three common types of paint used in art. The three paints commonly used for art are acrylic paint, oil paint, and water color paint. Water color paint is one of the easiest types of paint to clean. In order to clean watercolor brushes all you need is water.

What is acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is the most commonly used paints. It is fairly affordable compared to other art paints. Acrylic paint is a fast drying paint. It begins to dry within a few minutes and turns hard when dried. It is a water-based acryl emulsion paint and adheres strongly to most porous surfaces. The water which keeps acrylic paint pliable evaporates from the paint leaving it hardened.

What is oil paint?

Oil paint is in essence pigmented oil. It is one of the most popular paints used by artist. Oil paint dries very slow. It especially dries slow when used in thick strokes. It can take weeks for oil paint to dry. The amount of light you expose to an oil painting can change the color of art work.

Will this remove dried oil and acrylic paint from paintbrushes?

I’ve mostly used this technique for cleaning dried acrylic paint off of paintbrushes. I have used this technique on a couple of paintbrushes I used to experiment with oil paints. This technique for cleaning dried paint off your art brushes works both for oil and acrylic paint.

What type of paintbrushes are there?

There are two common types of paintbrushes. Paintbrush types depend on the type of paint you use and the stroke results you are looking for. One type of brush bristle is synthetic bristle paintbrushes. Another type of brush bristle is natural bristle paintbrushes.

Synthetic Paintbrushes

Synthetic paintbrushes are affordable and accessible compared to natural hair paintbrushes. Synthetic brushes can be used for oil paint and water color paint but are ideal for acrylic paint. Synthetic bristle paintbrushes hold less water than paintbrushes with natural hair bristles

Natural Hair Paintbrushes

Natural hair paintbrushes use animal hair. They are generally more expensive than paintbrushes with synthetic bristles. These paintbrushes also hold onto more water than synthetic bristles. Paintbrushes made from animal hair are ideal for water color paint and oil paint. Paintbrushes with natural hair bristles require careful care from chemicals which can be found in acrylic paint. They are also more prone to bristle damage with acrylic paint.

Can you clean dried paint from Natural or Synthetic Paintbrush Bristles

This method is ideal for cleaning old paint from paintbrushes with synthetic hair/bristles. If you are attempting to clean dried paint from paintbrush(es) with natural bristles you’d want to use rubbing alcohol in intervals. I have only used this technique for paintbrushes with synthetic fibers and lack the experience to confidently tell you to use alcohol or acetone to clean your natural hair paintbrushes.

How to Clean Dried Paint Off Your Paintbrushes Fast and Easy

Any who, it’s very simple. I experimented with two recommended options: alcohol and acetone nail polish remover. Acetone works fast but I realize one is more likely to have alcohol on hand so, I’ll leave tips for using alcohol as well.

What you’ll need:

  • Acetone or Alcohol
  • Small Cup – Preferably disposable
  • Your Brushes
  • Dish Soap
  • Dish Sponge or Towel (optional)

Step 1: Fill your cup with just enough alcohol or acetone to cover your paint brush bristles.

Step 2: Put your paint brush in the liquid and let sit for a couple of minutes. Swirl around after until you notice the paint coming off. If you use alcohol, let it sit a few minutes longer before swirling around gently.

Step 3: Once most of the paint is off rinse under water and clean with dish soap. You can scrape off any small stubborn specs with your nails or a sponge.

Step 4: Reshape bristles by gently wiping the brush on a dry towel/napkin.

Boom! You’re done.

Now, you want to make sure you take care of your brushes in the future as doing this repeatedly is sure to dry them and make them rough and brittle.

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