How To Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes While Painting

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I have been painting now a little over a year and I can’t tell you how many paint brushes I have ruined. Especially when I very first started.

If you have been having the same issue as well, I think it is time we both learned a bit about how to keep our paint brushes cleaner. Both while we paint and afterwards as well, there are a number of things we should be doing and not doing to ensure that our brushes last.

There are a number of things that I have learned to do over time naturally as a result of making some of these mistakes regularly. There are some critical mistakes I have been making right up until researching for this article and writing these words.

I will be following these steps going forward to ensure I’m taking better care of my brushes. If you have been having issues you should too.

Once we both develop better brush habits we can then look at investing in some of the more pricey brushes to add to our paint kit!

Steps To Take While Painting To Keep Your Brushes Clean

STEP 1: To keep your brushes clean when painting, try to avoid saturating the bristles of your brush too much.

When paint gets all the way up to the metal thingy, the ferrule, that is where it can be tricky to get out. This is the easiest place to not clean properly and where the paint will end up drying the most.


So instead try to keep the paint at the end of the brush as much as you’re able to. Try not to load it with more paint then you actually need in one swoop.

When it starts to get too saturated with paint be sure to wipe some off. Keep your brush as clean as you can as you go.

STEP 2: Never leave your paint brush in your water. This will be bad for it in two ways.

First, it isn’t good for the bristles of the brush to be mushed for an extended period of time. They loose their spring and awesomeness that way.

Second is that if you are soaking the metal part of the paint brush, the ferrule, then it is likely to cause it to rust over time.

So always wash your brush thoroughly in your water when you are done with it for the moment and place it horizontally until you’re ready to use it again. Which brings me to our next step.

STEP 3: Before you set your brush down to wait for later use, be sure to wipe off all of your excess paint on a paper towel or a rag.

Then rinse your brush off in your water by swirling it around in it to get more of the paint off of the brush.

Next, wipe your brush off again on your towel or paper towel and repeat as necessary until mostly clean. (these are steps 1-3 over at

STEP 4: Keep the brushes you’re using wet for as long as you want to use them. If you are using multiple brushes and want to come back to one in a little bit be sure to get it wet periodically until you’re ready to use it again.

This is another step designed to ensure paint doesn’t start to dry in the bristles while you’re in the middle of a painting session.

If we both start following these 3 basic steps more regularly it will make cleaning up acrylic paint brushes after our painting session is done much easier.

How To Clean Up Acrylic Paint Brushes After Your Session

Once you finish your painting session there are a number of other key things to know about cleaning your brushes.

You, of course, want to be sure to clean your brushes IMMEDIATELY after ending your session or after you are done using it.

This is the one mistake that gets me most of the time. In the middle of a painting session I may put a brush down that I’m not going to be using again for a while and forget about it.

Either that or I finish painting and sit down to take a break but then forget to go back and clean up.

Now, when it comes to actually cleaning your brushes there are a number of ways to go about proceeding that you should know about.

I’ve gathered some of these other steps from various other artists on the web and haven’t yet put them to practice myself but will be in my next painting session.

One site that is very similar to mine but made by someone who appears to be a far more experienced artist is Thaneeya has a series of articles on “how to clean your paintbrushes” that I learned a lot from and was quite fun to read as well.

Let me try to sum up some of what I have learned from her articles and a few others around the web. If we follow the 4 steps I outlined to do while painting that should make this process much quicker.

STEP 1: Using a gentle stream of warm water, rub the brush through your fingers watching to see if pigments are still coming out of it. Usually they will be at this point.

STEP 2: Apply some hand washing soap directly to the bristles of the brush. There is also special artist soap you can get for this step as well.

Then work your brush in tiny circles in the center of your hand or squeezing the brushes bristles through your fingers. Perhaps a little bit of both?

Again keep a close eye out for any colors being excreted.

STEP 3: Make sure all the soap is rinsed out. Afterwards give it a push in your palm or squeeze in your fingers to see if you see any color is coming out still.

If you do, it is not clean enough yet and repeat all of these steps until it is. Another option is to dry it on a paper towel or rag where you can see if there is any residue of colors in the water coming off the brush.

As long as colors are still coming out it is not clean enough!

Other Key Points to Know!

For the last year, I have foolishly been using dish soap to clean my paint brushes.

Apparently dish soap isn’t good for the bristles of the paint brush.

I’m not entirely sure at this point how they are bad for them. I suspect the chemicals are more damaging and cause the bristles to get stiff and lose their spring.

So instead of using dish soap something a bit more gentle like hand soap would be much better.

Alternatively, there are all kinds of acrylic paint brush cleaners to choose from as well. It’s basically soap made specifically to clean acrylic paint from your paint brushes.

Up until writing this article I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I may have to do a whole page on the various acrylic paint soaps available to choose from soon.

Finally, the last thing you should know, when you are done cleaning your brushes be sure to lay them down to dry horizontally on a towel.

This too is another mistake I have been making for over a year now. If you’re like me you may be letting them dry standing bristles up in the silverware compartment of your dish rack.

The main reason you don’t want to do this is again to help protect the ferrule from degradation.

As the bristles dry of course gravity is going to bring that water right down into the ferrule causing it to rust over time.

Now that we have both learned how to better take care of our paint brushes lets take a look at the variety of brush brands and professional levels to choose from!

I don’t know about you but I have always wondered what the difference was between the different levels of brushes one finds in the isle of Micheals. Besides the prices that is!

Be sure to stop by again soon to brush up on your brushes with me too!

Marc Spagnuolo

Hey there! Thanks for reading my article! I'm Marc the creator of this website. I'm a growing artist and web creator seeking to share what I'm learning in the hopes that it helps someone out there like you. I hope you found this information useful. If you're interested in learning more about me and my story click on my name or on my picture!

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