Clean PaintBrushes With This Quick Tip

artist paint brushesKeeping our paintbrushes in good working condition is not only important to the artist’s productivity in the studio, but it is also important to the artist’s pocketbook! Paintbrushes are expensive.

Nevertheless, sometimes we get rushed, or even lazy, and the end up with ‘hard to clean’ paint brushes.  Below is a quick tip to cleaning hardened acrylic paint from your brushes. I plan to give this one a try… ~Lori


Clean Paintbrushes With This Quick Tip

by Guest artist/author: Virginia Nickle


I have found an easy way to clean up my paintbrushes that have left over, hardened paint in the bristles. Now, I do work with acrylics, so I really couldn’t tell you the results with oils.

I had a bottle of nail polish remover, so I tried it, and to my findings it does work well. Now I can use my paint brush again!

cutex nail polish remover

Just do not make a mistake of adding water to this chemical, it does create a vapor which could be dangerous. Just use the remover by itself, and it will work for  you. Once airborne for a while, and after the brushes are dried, the remover smell should be gone.

old paint brushes



  1. Tom Hlas July 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    What a great tip. I’ll be sure to use it the next time I have a dried up brush. Thanks! – Tom

    • virginia nickle July 24, 2012 at 10:56 am

      sure you’re welcome.

  2. Heather July 22, 2012 at 6:15 am

    I found that an overnight soak in Murphy’s Oil soap works really well on dried up acrylic paint. Don’t mix it with any water just use it “straight up”!

    • Lori McNee July 28, 2012 at 1:04 am

      Hello Heather, I’ve heard about Murphy’s Oil and need to give it a try. Thanks for the tip!
      Lori 🙂

      • Jacqueline Owens May 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm

        Murphy’s OIL Soap is a miracle worker. It is a standard in my studio for cleaning my brushes, I paint with oils and it works like a charm.

        • Lori McNee May 3, 2015 at 3:58 pm

          I have recently been told about Murphy’s Oil Soap, and so this is twice! I will give it a try. Thank you Jacqueline. 🙂

  3. Dan Graziano July 24, 2012 at 6:10 am

    I use lacquer thinner for badly dried brushes, which is essentially the same as nail polish remover. Be careful not to soak the brush too long or too deeply in the solution, or you will melt the glue holding the hairs in the base and also damage the handle (especially plastic handles). It sometimes takes a few soakings, but you can bring a dried up brush back into service. Follow up with a good soap and water cleaning.

    • Lori McNee July 28, 2012 at 1:03 am

      Thanks for the added tip, Dan. I wondered it nail polish remover would be a bit harsh…
      Hope to see you here again,

  4. Susan Kuznitsky July 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I use a product from a company called Melaleuca to clean yucky brushes. Works with oils and is totally non toxic. It is called Sol-U-Mel. I have used it for over a decade.

    • Lori McNee July 28, 2012 at 12:57 am

      Thanks for the tip, Susan. I will have to check into it.

  5. Lara July 30, 2012 at 12:29 am

    Lori, interesting post. Hopefully, I won’t have to try it!
    I also wanted to ask a question about a previous post… The round brushes Michael Workman uses, are they bristle brushes (or sable or synthetic)? I’m assuming he uses bristle because of the appearance of his brush strokes and for ease of laying down paint.

    • Lori McNee August 28, 2012 at 11:03 am

      Yes, his round brushes were bristle. He likes the added texture. You have a good eye! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Mark August 19, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Just for some quick clarification, the active chemical in nail polish remover is acetone which is or can be a fantastic cleaning agent. Acetone is widely used for cleaning fiberglass boats in that it can break down much organic mater easily, like alcohol but is like alcohol’s big brother! Acetone is safer to work with then one might believe as it will evaporate very quickly, usually quicker then it can become a potential fire/vapor hazard. Remember to look for the nail polish removers with acetone though as these days I notice there are alternatives being widely marketed…all about choice right! Acetone cleans inks quite well too, if you ever have ink or gum end up in your clothes dryer you can use acetone to clean the inside….just make sure you unplug if using an old school heating element suppose.

    • Lori McNee August 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Wow, Mark. Thank you for being a such a book of knowledge! I appreciate you adding to this tip with your words of caution too – lol! Maybe you have a guest post idea to share in the future???


  7. Katie turner January 1, 2013 at 7:14 am

    About the hardened , dried brushed…
    1) i paint in oils…the ONLY thing i clean my brushed is with bar soap . I usually keep a bar of ivory soap. Soap and warm water is all that cleans my brushes and have been for years on some. They still look like new.
    2) for an occasional dried brush…go tonhardware store like Home Depot and purchase KRUD KUTTER. It comes in a spray bottle. Let the dried brush soak over night and then wash iwth soap and you will have an almost new brush again. Krud Kutter will also remove stains on just about any item.

    I thoroughly enjoy your website and all the useful information.
    Katie Turner
    fort Worth, TX

    • Lori McNee June 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Hello Katie, thanks for sharing your soap tip! I didn’t know about Krud Kutter, and I’m going to go get some… I appreciate your kind words and support of this blog! 🙂

  8. Katie turner January 1, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Oops..forgot to mention one more thing… If you are oil painting and need to leave your brushes for over night or even a couple of nights, let them soak in mineral oil. I use a tray propped up so the mineral oil stays at one end of tray. Only the dirty end of brush soaks. i learned this from a class i took from a great artist in Texas .

    • Lori McNee June 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      Do you want to share these tips in a guest blog post here? I’d love to see a few pictures too…think about it and let me know. Thanks!

  9. Ronnie January 26, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Just keep in mind, fingernail polish removers active ingredient is acetone, and you don’t want to get on your hands or skin, and try not to breath it. Highly toxic, and has been known to be carcinogenic.

    • Lori McNee February 4, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Thanks for the added information Ronnie. Personally, I always wear Nitrite gloves when working to avoid any added toxins. I hope my readers do too!

  10. India February 8, 2014 at 4:05 am

    I just spent some time cleaning brushes this morning. Dried on oil paint that had been soaking in equally dried up turpentine. (I know, I’m a terrible person.) Old Master Brush Cleaner cleaned everything up shockingly well. Brushes that looked like they needed to be thrown away are soft and lovely. I don’t know how it can be non-toxic, but it is. Easy on my hands and a very mild scent. I’ve bought it an art supply stores and Amazon.

    • Lori McNee February 21, 2014 at 11:45 pm

      Hello India, thanks for sharing your tip. I have used Old Master Brush Cleaner and find it helpful. I am always looking for the best ways to clean brushes. 🙂

  11. Levi Herris September 30, 2014 at 3:47 am

    It’s important to be aware of ways to get the most from brushes and to keep them at their best for years to come. I work in oil medium. I have recently bought “Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner & Restorer” from Jerry Artarama\’s Online Art Store and it\’s a great cleanser as it\’s non-toxic, and has minimal odor. I just dip my dried brushes in cleaner for 30 mins. Will update on how it turns out. Has anyone else tried it?

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