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How to Properly Clean Paintbrushes

How to Properly Clean Paintbrushes


Brushes are a pre-requisite when it comes to painting, they are an ever-present tool in every art studio. It’s unsurprising that there are loads of choices when it comes to choosing your preferred paintbrush. Brushes are available in different sizes and, more importantly, shapes. Each brush type has its purpose, from round bristles to flat to angled. As an artist, it is appropriate to have a variety of brushes for use – similar to how you’d have different pens, pencils and markers.



Paintbrushes are durable and long-lasting, but only if you properly care for them. Ensuring their longevity is solely dependent upon your cleaning routine. Read on to learn more about the types of brushes, paintbrush care, how to clean paintbrushes, and how to choose them.

As a painting newbie, you might find it surprising to know that paintbrushes come in various sizes and shapes. Each shape has its ideal use depending on what you want to paint. For instance, some shapes are better suited for covering large areas of color, while others are best for the fine details. Your selections should be based on your preferred painting style. Do you enjoy painting every hair on a person’s head, or do you appreciate using strokes of color to create abstract paintings? First decide what your painting plans are and then choose brushes that best help you achieve your goals.

However, if you are still not sure what to buy, fear not! Here are the most commonly used types of brushes to help get you started.


flat paint brush

The head of this brush type is shaped like a rectangle or square. It has bristles of the same length, so it has limited precision compared to others on this list. However, it is very suitable for applying large color areas to your preferred canvas. It is also recommended to use a large flat brush when priming your canvas because you can apply larger areas. This brush is also great for applying finishes.


round paintbrush

This brush type has its bristles in a circular formation. The pointed tip makes it perfect for painting thin lines and other intricate paintings. I personally love using round brushes to make watercolor hearts.


liner paintbrush

They are very similar to round brushes. However, they have longer and thinner bristles which allow for more control and the ability to make very thin lines. They are perfect for hand lettering or outline.


angled paintbrush

They are similar to flat brushes. However, its bristles are tapered at an angle to a point rather than them being of the same length. This allows the brush to spread pigment over an extensive area and also to paint tight corners.


filbert paintbrush

This type of brush is basically a flat brush with an oval tip. Its rounded edges make it ideal for blending paint pigments. This paintbrush is ideal for soft edges. People also love filbert brushes for makeup application.


Now that you’ve acquired your preferred set of paintbrushes, you will need to take good care of them. In fairness, it doesn’t require a lot of effort on your part. Your paintbrushes will last for a long time by merely using the appropriate cleaning tools and obeying the fundamental rule of never allowing pigment to dry on your paintbrush.

Oil paint and acrylic/ water-based media require different techniques for cleaning. However, they both start in similar ways: wipe off any excess paint from your brush. This is Paint 101 – fundamentals of paintbrush care. When using your paintbrushes for acrylic paints, here is how to make them last longer.


  1. Only add paint to the bristles and not to the ferrule.
  2. Wipe off any excess paint onto a rag – it is not good for the paint to go into the plumbing system.
  3. Rinse gently in warm water until the water runs clear. You should keep a few jars of water handy so that you don’t have to go to the sink frequently – there’s nothing worse when you’re in the creative zone.
  4. Dry your brush horizontally or upside down – you want the water to drip out, not up. If it dries up, it loosens the glue under the ferrule. I love the paint puck for this reason.
  5. If the brush is hard to clean, add some good old-fashioned dish soap to remove the pigment. Most often, it is not necessary to use anything stronger. However, I have discovered this soap which works really well for stubborn paint stains.


  • Don’t put your brush all the way into the water. When the metal gets wet, the glue loosens
  • Don’t leave your brushes to dry right side up. The water goes down to the ferrule; the ferrule gets loose, the brush breaks. Once the brush is dry, it is ok to store upside down in a cup.
  • Don’t stab your brush to the bottom of your cup. This is the best way to damage the bristles.


I interviewed both acrylic and oil painters and very few purchased the most expensive brushes. Decent synthetic brushes work really well as long as they don’t shed bristles. Natural hair brushes are extremely expensive and I am not entirely sure its worth the price!


Brushes are fragile. The glue loosens easily, even with the best brands. Make them last longer by following the instructions in this article. Additionally, if you’re working on a painting and need to put your brushes into the water, that’s fine! Just don’t immerse the ferrule (the metal part). This loosens the glue that holds the brush together. A small amount of warm water to immerse the bristles is all you’ll need. The same goes for drying your brushes – you’ll want the water to escape via the bristles, not towards the handle. This also loosens the glue inside the ferrule. Never ever use boiling water to clean brushes because it also loosens the glue!

If you take proper care of your brushes, they will last a long time.

Want to learn more about painting? Check out this post on the best acrylic paints for artists?