Just A Little Creativity: How to Clean Dried Out Craft Paintbrushes

How to Clean Dried Out Craft Paintbrushes

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How do you clean your dried out, yucky, gunky, hard as a brick craft paintbrushes that you accidentally left in paint overnight? Or in my case (often actually) for several days? This is a little trick that I've used for as long as I've been painting, but I'm sure it's not anything new. Painters have probably been cleaning their brushes this way since the year 300 BC, but I thought I'd just throw it out there to some new crafters who just may want to know the secret.
Are you ready? 
The solution is white vinegar. Yes, cheap, environmentally friendly, white vinegar from your kitchen. This will work on your craft paintbrushes (usually nylon bristles) and acrylic craft paints, most glues, mod podge, etc.

I simply pour a bit in a glass, and let my dried out craft paintbrush sit in it.  The length of time it will need to sit will vary depending on how thick the paint is on it. 
I do a lot of painting with my kids, so it's frequent that a brush will go unnoticed in paint for a few days. I've not lost a brush yet using white vinegar to loosen up the paint to clean it out. 
If you're particular, you may want to wet it only up to the base of the bristles, and not cover any of the metal part (called the heel & the ferrule) and the handle.

Once the brush sits in the vinegar for a bit, I rub the bristles under hot water, and scrape away the paint with my fingernail.

After this step, I let it dry. Then, use a regular hair comb to brush through the bristles. Sometimes I even run it under hot water again while I do this just to loosen up any remaining bits of paint.

Repeat the process for stubborn paint if you need to. The result will be a soft flexible paintbrush. 

I've found that some paints stain the bristles, especially nylon bristles, but this usually doesn't effect the softness of the brush once it's clean. 
Don't throw out those brushes! Save them with this easy solution, you'll be glad you did. 

*Make sure you check out another of my favorite cleaning tips- How to Clean Wax from Jar Candles!

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  1. Really? I've got a paint soaking in paint thinner right now! Going to try this trick next time. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Awesome. I have a couple of brushes to test this on. Thanks for the great tip!

  3. This is such a great tip. I use craft brushes on to touch up my walls from time to time and this is great for when I forget to clean them. Thanks!

  4. I didn't know!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  5. Thanks so much- now I need a tip for brushes that have oil paint in them- other than turps???