How to Clean Your Brushes After Acrylic Painting

Acrylic paint- be gone!
Tayler Tayler (75)
10 minutes

Painting might be a beloved pastime by many, but one of the most tedious painting tasks actually happens after the fact: brush cleaning.

I'm not talking about a quick whisk is a jar of water. I'm talking about the deep cleaning that should occur after every painting session, no matter how much or little you paint.

When left on a brush for too long, oil and acrylic paint can affect your bristles by making them stiffer. They can also lose their shape over time, which means less precise strokes overall. That's why it's important to know how to clean your brushes after acrylic painting.

Curious about cleaning your brushes after oil painting? Don't worry. We have a guide for that, too. Check out our How to Clean Your Brushes After Oil Painting guide.

Now, grab your brushes, and let's get started.

Paper TowelsPaper Towels ×1
Paint brush ×1
Wide-mouthed Mason JarWide-mouthed Mason Jar ×1
Dish soap ×1

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Acrylic painting.

You know the drill.

Have a seat and paint yourself a masterpiece using acrylic paint. Get those brushes nice and dirty.

You know what they probably say somewhere, clean brushes are a painter's/devil's workshop.

Anyway, with dirty brushes on hand, here's how to clean brushes after acrylic painting.

Paintbrush in water.

Depending on how many brushes you have, you've probably been giving your brushes a minor wash as you've been painting. This can be as simple as filling a container (like a trusty mason jar) with water and dunking your brush in the water between uses.

This quick-wash practice is acceptable if you're using the same brush repeatedly. Acrylic paint dries fast which means you have to paint just as fast to keep up with it. Despite this, you'll want to remove as much excess paint as you can.

Remove excess paint from your brush
  • Dip your brush in water.
  • Gently rub your brush back and forth on a paper towel.
  • Repeat the two steps above until you see little to no paint on the paper towel.

Now, let's deep clean those brushes.

Brushes in jar.

The process of removing the more stubborn pieces of acrylic paint can deviate according to household items and cleaning practices. For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to show you how to remove acrylic paint from your brushes using dish soap and water.

Combine soap with water
  • Fill a small container with water, leaving anywhere from 1' to 3' at the top.
  • Squeeze dish soap into your water (a few good squeezes will suffice, this doesn't have to be precise).
Wash your brushes.

With your container of soapy water in hand, here's how to clean your brushes.

  • Start by dipping your bristles in the soap water and swirling the brush around.
  • With your brush wet, take the bristles and press them gently into your palm.
  • Gently swirl the brush in small circles on your palm.
  • Repeat the above steps as necessary.
For acrylic paint that's dried

If your acrylic paint has started to dry on your brushes, don't panic! You can always use more dish soap or a few drops of olive oil. Both will soften the paint and help it slide off your bristles. - Add a few drops of extra dish soap or olive oil to the palm of your hand. - Swirl your bristles in soap or oil. - Don't be afraid to gently work the soap or oil into the bristles with your fingertips. - Repeat the above steps as necessary.

Paintbrush rinse.

Next, you'll want to rinse your brushes of any acrylic soap flakes, leftover dish soap, or olive oil. You can accomplish this by running your bristles underneath the sink, using lukewarm to warm water.

Do this until the water runs dry from soap suds. If you used olive oil to loosen any dried acrylic paint, don't be afraid to work dish soap right into those bristles using your fingertips. The soap will help pick up any leftover olive oil, which could affect your painting if left on the bristles.

Clean brushes.

Boom! You have clean brushes. The only thing you have left to do is let them dry.

This is best done by you can hang them upside down with the bristles facing downward so gravity and air can do a quick job of drying, but you can also place them on any flat surface.

Once dry, you can return to painting your masterpieces. Happy painting!

Oil paint doesn't stand a chance!
Tayler Tayler (75)
10 minutes

Painting is a hobby loved by many, but you know what isn't loved by many? Post-paint brush cleaning.