cleaning acrylic paint brushes
Painting Tutorials

The Best Way To Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes

There are many different ways that you can clean acrylic paint brushes. Depending on how well you want to clean them you can use anything from warm water to a specialty cleaner. This article will examine some of the best ways to clean an acrylic paint brush.

What is Acrylic paint made from

acrylic paint brush cleaning
Some acrylic paint brushes may require a heavier cleaning

Before you learn how to clean brushes it is a good idea to have an understanding of the material. Acrylic paint is made out of an acrylic polymer. This is a type of plastic. Acrylic paint also contains pigments, water, and sometimes other additives. The most important thing to notice is that they are water based. That means that water factor into every acrylic brush cleaning method that we are going to look at.

Are Acrylic brushes different then oil brushes?

Yes and no. There are brushes that are marketed specifically for oil paint. You can also find some that are aimed primarily at acrylic painters. The acrylic brushes tend to be made of synthetic materials. The oil brushes are often made of natural fibers. Technically, you could use either type of brush for either paint. If you are using oil brushes for acrylic paint, check if they are made from natural hairs. These tend to be boar or sable brushes. Some people would recommend using a special brush cleaner for these brushes. I have used water alone to clean acrylic paint off of both types. I have never had any issues, but if you have very expensive brushes you may want to consider a special product.

What do you need to clean acrylic paint brushes

clean acrylic paint brushes
The best way to clean acrylic paint brushes

There are several different things that you can use to clean acrylic paint brushes. Here are the most common:

  • Water
  • Soap and Water
  • A specialty brush cleaner

Which one you decide to use will depend on several factors. This includes how expensive your brushes are and how well you want to clean them.

Cleaning Acrylic Brushes With Water

This is the method that I use the most often. I find that acrylic paint comes out very easily with warm water and a good scrubbing. This is the main way I have cleaned my acrylic brushes for many years. The only downside to this method is that it requires a fairly good scrub to get them totally clean. This will definitely shorten the life of your brushes. I usually use pretty inexpensive brushes and replace them often so it isn’t really an issue for me. It is also really hard to get them so clean that you can’t see any color in them. To get them that clean, you will definitely need some kind of added detergent.

Cleaning Acrylic Paint Brushes with Soap and Water

The next way to clean requires one extra product. I usually use a plain dish soap to clean them. You can often be a little bit more gentle when cleaning them this way. It is a really good idea to rinse them very well. This will help to remove any soap residue from your brush, so that you don’t get it in your paint next time you use it.

Using Acrylic Paint Brush Cleaner

There are many different products that are marketed as artist paint brush cleaners. These are usually a gentle soap with an added bristle conditioner. The conditioner helps to keep the bristles healthy. This is especially useful if you are using a natural bristle brush. Natural bristles are made from actual animal hair and they can dry out the same way that your hair can. It is less of a concern if you are using a brush with synthetic bristles. This is the best way to clean acrylic paint brushes. It will get them nice and clean and help to protect them so that they last longer.

How to clean paint brushes that have been left to dry

cleaning acrylic paint brushes
Cleaning dried acrylic paint brushes requires extra effort

This has happened to the best of us. You get so caught up in the painting that you are working on, that you leave a dirty brush on the table. The next time you go to paint you see that the paint has dried onto the brush. Despair not, you might still be able to clean the brush. Here is a what I do in this situation:

  1. Carefully run the brush under hot tap water for 30 seconds to a minute. The plastic in acrylic paint actually gets really soft when it is heated. This makes it much easier to remove
  2. Once the paint is softened, use your nail to scrape away the paint.
  3. Clean the brush with soap and water like normal.

This method should work on brushes that have a light amount of paint on them, especially if you do it soon after the paint has dried. Brushes with a lot of paint on them might be more difficult. This would also be the case for brushes that have been sitting for a while. In this case the paint might have fully cured and it wont work as well.

Some great acrylic paint brush cleaners

Now that you know how to keep them clean, lets look at some of the best products. These brush cleaners are designed to clean and protect your brushes. Many of them work with both acrylic and oil paint.

The Masters Brush Cleaner & Preserver

The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver – $3.08

from: Blick Art Materials

This is a very popular product. All you need to do is wipe your brush clean. Then you get it slightly wet and rub it into the actual container. It will work up into a lather and clean your brush. Then you can just rinse it clean in water. It is designed to be used with acrylic and oil paint. It is great for both natural and synthetic brushes.

Paint Puck Brush Cleaner

Paint Puck Brush Cleaner – $6.49

from: Blick Art Materials

This is actually a totally different type of product. It uses a specially textured silicone to clean the brushes. You place the silicone puck in a container of water and then scrub your brush into it.

Pink Soap Artist Brush Cleaner

Pink Soap Artist Brush Cleaner – $3.65

from: Blick Art Materials

This is a great soap to use to clean your brushes. The best part is that you can use it with acrylic or oil paint.

Bristle Magic Artist Brush Cleaner

Bristle Magic Brush Cleaner – $6.31

from: Blick Art Materials

Bristle Magic not only cleans, but reconditions your bristles. This is another great product to use for acrylic paint. Some people have even reported that it can effectively remove dried paint.

However you decide to clean acrylic paint brushes, there are lots of different options. Let us know which method is your favorite in the comments!