How to Clean a Paint Brush

cpbphoto courtesy of torbakhopper flickr.com/photos/gazeronly/6979767787/Many people do not know how to clean a paint brush properly.  You should use different cleaning methods for the type of paint you use, whether oil based or water based latex.  Always check the cleanup directions on the paint can before proceeding.  Here are the steps for cleaning a paint brush.

Wet Water Based Latex Paint
If your paint brush has wet latex paint, all you need to clean the paint off is soap and water.  First start by removing as much wet paint as you can.  Scrape the paint brush against the inside of the paint can to salvage as much wet paint as possible.  Next, wipe off the rest of the paint using old newspaper or a stack of paper towels.  After that, add some liquid soap to a small container of water and stir it using the paint brush.  After the brush is clean, rinse it in running water and dry with a paper towel or newspaper.  You can use a mechanical paint brush spinner if you wish.

Dried Water Based Latex Paint
Follow the directions listed above to remove dried on water based latex paint.  You may need to soak your paintbrush overnight in soapy water.  If that does not work, consider soaking your paintbrush in warm vinegar.  Another option is to soak your paint brushes in a solution of 1/2 cup liquid fabric softener to 1 gallon of water.  If that step does not work, soak your paint brush in mineral spirits.  Use a paintbrush comb to comb out any dried on paint.  Once the dried on paint is removed from your paint brush, rinse the paint brush in running water and dry with newspaper or a paper towel.

Wet Oil Based Paint
If you have wet oil based paint on your paint brush, use turpentine, paint thinner, or mineral spirits to clean your paint brush.  Scrape off as much wet paint from your paint brush as possible into your paint can.  Wipe off the rest with a paper towel or newspaper.  Read the directions on your oil based paint can.  Most oil based paints and varnishes can be cleaned using mineral spirits, paint thinner, or turpentine.  Many shellacs require denatured alcohol for cleaning.  Fill a small container with the chemical suggested on the paint can.  Dip the brush up and down to remove the oil based paint, varnish, or shellac.  Continue this process over and over until the paint brush is clean.  An easier option for cleaning varnish off a paint brush is to suspend the paint brush in paint thinner for a few hours, then remove and wipe clean.  You can use a specialty paint brush comb to make sure the paint brush is totally clean and the bristles are straight.

Dried Oil Based Paint
If your paint brush is covered with dry oil based paint, first try using the paint removal method listed above for wet oil based paint.  If that does not work, try using a specialty brush cleaner solution sold at most larger home improvement stores.

Tips
-Have a separate paintbrush dedicated to oil based paints and another for water based paints to make cleanup easier.
-Do not leave a brush sitting in liquid more than a few hours if at all possible.  A natural bristle brush will be more tolerant of soaking, but a synthetic bristle paint brush will be unusable if left to sit in chemicals for several days.
-Do not pour cleaning solutions down the drain.  Dispose of them as you would other hazardous materials.

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