Skip to Content

How To Clean Paint Brushes With Paint Thinner

When you want to paint, you use high-quality tools to get the most out of it. Rollers and brushes are two items you shouldn't skimp on. However, if you want them to last, you should clean them. There are many ways to clean a brush, and paint thinners are one way to do that. Let's discuss the details.

Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Assuming the paint is still fresh, you'll want to start by filling a jar with paint thinner to the halfway point. Afterward, follow this procedure:

  1. Dip the paintbrush into the paint thinner.
  2. Swirl the brush for 30 seconds. 
  3. Run a comb through the brush. 
  4. Dip the brush into the paint thinner again.
  5. Swirl the paintbrush in soapy water.
  6. Hang the paintbrush to dry.

The steps are easy. However, there is still more to discuss. There's an incorrect way to clean the brush. If you do it incorrectly, you will end up damaging the bristles. For more information, keep reading. 

Cleaning small paint brushes, How To Clean Paint Brushes With Paint Thinner

How To Clean Your Paintbrushes With Paint Thinner

Before you start the process, we'll have to discuss the specifics. You can follow along as long as the paint is still liquid. Once it hardens, you may need more than paint thinner to clean it off. 

Cleaning white paint brushes at the faucet

Paint thinner only works to remove the paint if it's still fresh. Additionally, you will need the following tools:

  • Clean rags
  • Three clean containers
  • Paintbrush comb
  • Dish soap and water

Now let's go over the process. Begin by filling a container to the halfway point with paint thinner. Put a clean rag beside the container. 

1. Dip The Paintbrush Into The Paint Thinner

Take the paintbrush and dip it into the paint thinner, but don't let the bristles touch the bottom, as doing so will damage them. The paintbrush bristles will develop curls, which makes the process of painting more tedious. 

2. Swirl The Brush For 30 Seconds

For this reason, it's enough to swirl the brush in the thinner for 30 seconds. If you feel it's not doing enough to remove the paint, press the bristles on the side of the container. 

Twist the brush around the side gently. This way, the bristles rub off on each other. It's an effective way to remove more paint without damaging them. Do this for about 30 seconds. 

3. Run A Comb Through The Brush

Take the paintbrush and wipe it off on a clean rag. The cleaning is not over at this point. The paintbrush will most likely leave streaks of paint on the rag. 

Therefore, don't use the cloth or towel you love. Oil-based paint is a headache to deal with. Next, run the paintbrush comb through the brush. 

Click here to see this paintbrush comb on Amazon.

Metal paintbrush combs can do more damage than cleaning depending on the paintbrush's quality. Thus, a bristle brush can also do the job well enough.

Click here to see this bristle brush on Amazon.

Run the comb or brush through the paintbrush until you're satisfied with the results. However, you won't be able to remove paint with the comb/brush entirely. Keep that in mind. 

This way, you don't spend most of your time fighting a losing battle.

4. Dip The Brush Into The Paint Thinner Again

Take another container and fill it up to the halfway point with paint thinner. Then, take the paintbrush and dip it inside. You can press it against the sides of the container to clean between the bristles. Do this process for 30 seconds. 

5. Swirl The Paintbrush In Soapy Water

Take your third container and fill it with warm water up to the halfway point. Then, take some dish soap. Add a few squirts of it inside. 

Finally, take the paintbrush and swirl it inside the soapy water. Once again, you may press the bristles against the side of the container. Twist the paintbrush to let the bristles clean themselves.

6. Hang The Paintbrush To Dry

After 30 seconds, wipe the paintbrush on a clean towel. If it leaves paint streaks, swirl it in the soapy water again. Otherwise, it's time to let it dry. 

Hang it by the handle. At this point, the paintbrush should be free of paint. If the paintbrush still has paint, it needs more than paint thinner to remove it. 

Here's a YouTube video to help:

Disposing Of The Paint Thinner

Now you're left with paint thinner you won't be able to reuse. Put it all in one container. Don't forget to label it too. This way, you can pour more inside in the future if you decide to paint again.

Once you accumulate a lot of it, look for a local hazardous waste collection facility. They will take the paint thinner. Some of them may have a pickup service. 

Can You Reuse Paint Thinner?

Pouring thinner to a small cup

Paint thinners are expensive. Most people will look for ways to reuse them. Fortunately, you can do that with paint thinner. It won't always remain murky from the paint. 

After a few hours, the pigments of the paint will settle at the bottom. You decant it into another container. Of course, you'll need to clean the sludge left behind.

You can reuse paint thinner up until a certain point. Oil-based paints will also leave behind oil. And there isn't a way to separate the oil from the paint thinner (unless you have a centrifuge). 

Once the paint thinner turns yellow, there's too much oil present. At this point, it would be better to drop it off at a disposal center. 

Can You Soak Paint Brushes In Paint Thinner Overnight?

Cleaning small paint brushes on cup filled with paint thinner

We can get lazy sometimes. If you don't want the paint to dry on the paintbrush, it might seem like a good idea to soak it in paint thinner. 

Paint thinner prevents the paint from crusting up on the brush. In theory, it should work. However, you have to remember that paint thinner is a solvent. 

Therefore, nothing should soak in it for hours on end. If you leave the paintbrush in solvent for long periods, it will dissolve more than the paint. In other words, it's going to damage the paintbrush.

Bristles may become loose. Additionally, they will be in a non-optimal position overnight. Consequently, it will curl the ends. 

It's better to clean the brush right away. Otherwise, the paint will harden. Removing hardened paint requires the use of other chemicals. At this point, it'd be a better choice to buy a new paintbrush entirely. 

Storing The Paintbrush Overnight

A small bottle filled with three paint brushes

If you don't want to clean the brush immediately, there's a better way to keep the paint from drying. You'll need a cling wrap and a rubber band. Get a good amount of wrap and place the paintbrush near one end.

Fold the wrap into the brush. Before completely wrapping it, push any air out. You want to create an airtight environment. This way, the paint doesn't dry overnight. 

Once you finish wrapping the brush, seal it with a rubber band. You can avoid the cleaning temporarily. And, it should be fresh to use for the next day. 

Avoid leaving it in the wrap for longer than a night. Here's a video demonstrating this method:

How Do Professional Painters Clean Their Brushes?

There's no better way to learn than to watch professionals do it. Is their method of cleaning a paintbrush any different than the steps above? Yes, it is. It depends on the professional. 

Some like using paint thinner. Other professionals don't like using chemicals. So, they go with plain water and soap. It might seem outlandish, but it works if you do it correctly. 

Cleaning white paint brushes at the faucet

Assuming you didn't load too much paint on the brush, a quick rinse with warm water is all you'll need to clean it. Here's how it would go:

  1. Head to the sink and run warm water. 
  2. Rinse the bristles of the brush while holding it right side up.
  3. Work the paint out of the brush with your fingers.
  4. If the paint isn't coming out, pour a bit of soap to help.

This method should be enough to clean the paint off.

Additional Paintbrush Cleaning Tips

When you rinse an item in the sink, it's almost natural to try to flush it on all sides. So, in the process of cleaning, you might want to run water through the bristles while it's upside down. 

But this is a bad idea because it pushes the paint further into the brush. As a result, you clog the ferrule with it. Then, the bristles won't be as good as they once were. 

Here's a YouTube video explaining it further in detail:

Another tip would be to dip the paintbrush in the solvent you will use to clean it before painting. Shake off the excess. It's a technique the first video in this post mentions.

In Closing

Cleaning small paint brushes

Ensuring a tool lasts a long while is how you get your money's worth. What's the point of purchasing quality tools if you don't take care of them? Now you have the steps to keep your paintbrushes clean. We hope you found this informative.

Before you go, do you need help cleaning up other messy materials? What about epoxy resin? To learn more, check out:

How To Clean Up After Epoxy Resin

Do you need help cleaning up after caulking? For more information, check out:

How To Clean Up After Caulking