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How Long To Soak Brushes In Paint Thinner

Most DIY paint jobs require you to have paint thinner on hand. If you are planning to soak your brushes in paint thinner, you will have to be cautious about how long you keep them in. We have done research in this post to help you figure out how long to soak brushes in paint thinner.

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It is not recommended to soak brushes in paint thinner for a long period of time. If you have to, then do not let the brushes soak for longer than five minutes. Paint thinner will eventually break down the glue holding a brush together and can damage your brushes.

Remember, paint thinner is a strong, toxic chemical that can harm your health if not handled properly. You should not leave things in it for too long and avoid leaving brushes in paint thinner overnight.

The primary use for paint thinner is to keep paint at the right consistency. If you want to clean your brushes, consider using a dedicated paint cleaner instead. In this post, we will look into safer ways to use paint thinner and its alternatives. Read on to learn more!

Brush in clay pot with paint thinner, How Long To Soak Brushes In Paint Thinner

What Happens When You Soak Brushes In Paint Thinner?

Your brush bristles are kept together by the ferrule. This is the cap at the end of the brush, typically made of metal. The bristles are held together inside the ferrule with glue.

Ideally, while painting, you should not let the paint reach up to the ferrule. If paint gets to the ferrule, it can clump up and cause damage to your brush. It will also make cleaning your brush way more difficult, since it risks getting paint thinner in the ferrule.

When you soak your brush in paint thinner, make sure the ferrule is not submerged. Paint thinner will break down the glue and cause the bristles to fall out.

Aside from this, soaking the bristles in paint thinner for too long will split their ends over time. Another thing to take note of is not to soak your brush in paint thinner while painting, as this can over-dilute the paint.

When working with paint thinner, be sure to do it in a well-ventilated environment. As much as possible, avoid direct skin contact with the substance.

Keep paint thinner away from pets and children. Avoid working with thinners too close to heat sources. Finally, practice secure storage methods to avoid any mishaps and to keep the thinner from drying out.

Can You Leave Brushes in Turpentine Overnight?

Like paint thinner, it is not advisable to leave your brushes in turpentine overnight, although turpentine is a great way to clean off paint and grease from your brushes. 

Failing to properly care for your brushes after painting will result in petrified brushes. This means that the brushes are too stiff to work with due to the existing layer of old paint coating the bristles.

How Do Turpentine and Paint Thinner Differ?

Unlike synthetic paint thinners, turpentine is a natural product obtained from trees, usually pines. While it is used in a range of everyday products from cosmetics to food, the kind of turpentine used for paint is toxic.

Pine turpentine essential oil in glass bottle

Oil, latex, and shellac paint have different methods for cleaning off brushes. While paint thinner can help clean your brushes, it is not the only way of doing so.

Cleaning your brushes in turpentine is as simple as soaking them in the liquid for a few minutes.  This should be enough to loosen the paint. You can swirl the brush around to help clean it, before wiping it dry with a rag.

Do not dispose of the turpentine anywhere else besides your local toxic waste dump. You can reuse your turpentine. Leave it in a tightly sealed container for a few days, or until the paint has completely settled to the bottom.

You can now pour the turpentine back into another container and dispose of the paint. Another method, if there is a small enough amount of turpentine, is to just wait for it to dry out.

How To Clean Brushes With Paint Thinner

Four old messy paintbrushes lying at an angle on rusty corrugated metal

As much as possible, avoid cleaning your brushes with paint thinner. As mentioned before, it will break down the glue keeping the brush bristles together, leaving the brush unusable.

Remember that if you have to soak your brushes in paint thinner, do not let them soak for longer than five minutes.

Regardless, you can still choose to use paint thinner to clean your brushes. Just make sure to take care. Also, it is important to use thinner that is appropriate to the type of paint you used.

For non-water-based paints like oil or latex, mix the paint thinner with a cleaning solution. Work the paint out of the bristles by swirling your brush in the mixture. Avoid completely submerging your brush down to the base of the bristles, or the ferrule, to protect the glue.

If you have on chemical-safe gloves, then you can use your fingers to help clean the bristles. Once you have gotten a significant amount of paint off, rinse your brush in warm water and soap to get all of the paint and chemicals out.

Dry the paintbrush by shaking the water off the bristles. Pat it dry with a rag or anything to absorb the water. Leave it to fully dry before storing it in its proper container.

How To Clean Brushes Without Paint Thinner

Paint bucket with paint brush

Water-based paint does not need to be cleaned out with paint thinner. You can just use soapy water to clean your brushes. Simply follow the same method of cleaning as you would clean a brush with paint thinner.

How about cleaning non-water-based paint without paint thinner? Well, there are a couple of ways you can do this.

Click here to see Brush Cleaner and Restorer on Amazon.

One method is through using baby oil. This works best for smaller brushes covered in oil-based paint. Soak the bristles in the baby oil, using your fingers to massage the paint out.

When the bristles are clean, rinse off the oil with soap and water and then dry. Take care not to break any bristles at each point of the process.

If you do not want to use oil, then it is completely possible to clean oil paint from brushes with just soap and water. Fill up a large enough cup with about an inch of dish soap, or more if needed. Swirl the brush bristles in the soap and massage the paint out. 

Rinse the brush until the water runs clear. Repeat the process as necessary, and dry off the brush once it is completely clean.

The last method is for when your brush has hardened. Soak your brush in vinegar in a pot for a little over 60 minutes, or until the bristles bend. You can even bring the pot to a boil. Let it cool before picking up the brush.

Once cooled, comb the paint off the brush and rinse with cold water. Repeat the whole process until the brush is clean. Finally, dry and store the brush properly.

Click here to see Brush & Roller Cleaner on Amazon.

How To Dispose Of Paint Thinner

Paint thinners are what you call any range of solvents meant to thin oil-based paints. Common solvents are mineral spirit, acetone, and turpentine, among others.

Paint thinners can be hazardous for both you and the environment, so you have to dispose of them properly. Ideally, you can reuse thinners like how we detailed with turpentine above.

Wait for the paint particles from the used paint thinner to settle before filtering it out. The remaining paint should be wrapped and disposed of at a hazardous waste facility.

If you have no access to hazardous waste facilities, make sure the leftover paint is securely wrapped in old paper or newspapers before disposing of it in regular garbage. Do not pour it out into the soil. 

Paint Thinner Alternatives

For oil-based paints, mineral spirits or acetone are not as harsh as turpentine. You can also do away with the need for paint thinners altogether with natural alternatives. Some stores will sell safer solvents, or you can try using lemon or vinegar.

Fresh lemon on an old vintage wooden table

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, can be thinned with regular household products. This includes acetone or nail polish remover, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol.

The surest way to avoid the need for paint thinners is by using water-based paint when possible. This can be easily cleaned with just soap and water. It will also diminish the number of harmful fumes you will inhale.

Wrapping Things Up

Thinner in clay pots of cover wood

As much as possible, do not let your brushes soak in paint thinner for longer than five minutes. Swirling your brush in thinner for a while will be enough to loosen the paint from its bristles.

There are several ways for you to clean your brush. Just make sure you handle any chemical safely, and use the appropriate ones. Read the details and instructions of your paint and consult an expert if you are in doubt.

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