How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes – 3 Easy Ways to Save Your Brushes

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A blog post describing how to clean up your old acrylic paint brushes

One of the biggest downsides of enjoying painting comes at the end.

When your little ones (or not so little ones) have tired out their creative spirit, you can often be left wondering how to clean acrylic paint brushes.

Well, wonder no more. We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to walk you through how to clean acrylic paint brushes.

And because we’ve been there too, we’ve even added in a section on the best way to clean dried out acrylic paint brushes.

So before you worry you’re going to have to spend more of your hard-earned on new brushes for the next artistic endeavor, panic not! Just scroll past the general cleaning tips onto our complete dried acrylic paint guide.

How to look after acyrlic paint brushes

Like many things in life, prevention is better than cure. So we’d recommend making sure that your kids know how to look after their paint brushes by giving them some tips on the best ways to stop paint from drying out.

The good news is that following these tips will also help them create a cleaner workspace that’s easier to tidy up afterwards. It’s a win-win all round!

Water Water Everywhere

Liquid acrylic dissolves in water, so whenever it’s time to play with the paints it’s a good idea to have a water jar handy.

This is helpful for many reasons. Firstly, it helps give your kids a different technique on their paint, as water can thin out acrylic paint to get a new effect.

Presumably they’ll be painting with more than one color. In that case, rinsing the paintbrush between paints can stop any smudging or mixing of colors (unintentionally).

After a good old painting session, it’s a great idea to teach your kids to wash their brushes as they wash their hands. That way it’ll become second nature to them.

Hand Sanitizing gel has a lot of uses besides just cleaning your hands

Make It Fun

Setting up their workspace and tidying up after themselves can be a lot of fun for kids to do.

Teaching them to put down plastic or old newspapers is a great way to save your table or playroom from being accidentally covered in paint.

But it also means at the end of their painting you can encourage them to clean their acrylic paint brushes and washing down their utensils. Warm soapy water can get rid of most non-caked on acrylic, so washing up can be a lot of fun for everyone.

This doesn’t have to be a challenge or a chore, but can instead just be made a natural part of their painting process.

Designated Cloths

It can be a good idea to repurpose an old washcloth for your kids to use while they’re painting. This works for several reasons – they’ll be able to play with color and technique, but also you can’t overestimate the time-saving of having a cloth to clean acrylic paint brushes.

Wiping a wet paintbrush on an old cloth is a great way to get the paint out of the bristles, as well as giving you a secondary use for those old cloths!

Keep Regularly Checking

While it might not be the most fun for you, it’ll save a lot of time (and potential tears) if you double check the paintbrushes after every cleaning session.

The longer acrylic paint stays on paintbrushes, the harder it’s going to be to remove. Eventually you’ll be left with no option but to buy some more.

The same goes for checking pots of paint. If you double-check that bristles are clean and lids are on, you’ll find yourself saving a fortune on art supplies!

You can also check out our recent post on how long it takes for acrylic paint to dry.

How to Clean Dried Acrylic Paint Brushes

As a general rule, liquid acrylic paint should wash out of brushes with water easily. Some dried acrylic paint will wash out with water, but it might take a little longer – but only if it’s been a day or so.

Any longer than that and you’re going to have to bring out the big guns to clean dried acrylic paint brushes.

One thing to remember about cleaning dried acrylic paint brushes is that you don’t want your brushes to stay in these solutions for too long – you might find that the strong solutions cause all your bristles to break or fall out!

Steps for cleaning dried acrylic paint brushes

1.   Nail Polish Remover (Acetone)

In most nail polish removers, acetone is the main ingredient. Double check if you have some, and if you do? Rejoice.

Acetone is an excellent chemical to clean dried acrylic paint brushes. The acetone seeps into the bristles and can dissolve the acrylic in the same way that it breaks down nail polish.

The smell might not be the best thing you’ve experienced, but it can be a quick and easy fix for clogged up paint brushes.

2.   Rubbing Alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol)

If you’re all out of nail polish, rubbing alcohol is another strong contender for our dried acrylic paint cleaning superhero.

Isopropyl alcohol, the main ingredient of rubbing alcohol, is a solvent that dissolves paint quickly and easily.

In fact, a lot of acrylic paint remover kits that you find online are just repurposed and repackaged rubbing alcohol. This is a popular choice because not only is it great for cleaning acrylic paint brushes, but it doesn’t have the same pungent smell as acetone.

How to Use Nail Polish Remover or Rubbing Alcohol to Clean Dried Acrylic Paint Brushes

To clean dried acrylic paint brushes, you’ll need a small jar and your dissolver of choice. It’s best not to let your kids do this as spilled alcohol can be a nightmare on carpets or varnished surfaces.

  1. Pour a little of the solution into a jar.
  2. Put the paintbrush into the liquid and let it soak for a few minutes.
  3. Rinse with warm, soapy water.

You might find that you have to repeat this a few times (depending on how much paint is stuck on the brushes), but it should easily do the trick!

Help, I Have to Clean Dried Paint Brushes but I Don't Have Any Solutions!

When it comes to being smart with what you’ve got, we know it can be frustrating to find solutions that work oh so well – if only you had the right thing.

 

Well, here’s another easy way to clean your acrylic paint brush.

How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes With Hand Sanitizing Gel

Yep, that’s right! And we’re guessing that you’ve probably got some hand sanitizer lying around.

Hand sanitizer works as well as nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol because the base ingredient is ethyl alcohol.

You might prefer this method if you’re trying to clean some paintbrushes and also want to make sure that your kids are sanitizing their hands properly.

All you need to do is squeeze a small amount of gel into the palm of your hand and then rub the brush into the gel. You’ll see the clumps of paint dissolve as you rub.

While this is a satisfying process, we have to warn you: it can get messy. So make sure you wash your hands (and your kids) with warm soapy water afterwards so you don’t experience acrylic handprints all over your home! 

Hand Sanitizing gel has a lot of uses besides just cleaning your hands
Final Words

If you’ve made it this far and you’re still unable to get the paint out of the bristles, it’s probably worth investing in a new set of paintbrushes – and one of the prevention tactics we mentioned up top.  

  • Start by rinsing brushes in cold water to get the paint out.
  • If that doesn’t work, try warm, soapy water (dish detergent is great here).
  • If that doesn’t work, try acetone, isopropyl alcohol, or ethyl alcohol.

Feel free to check out our complete acrylic paint kit for all the paint and brushes you need for a beginner set.

It might seem like a trivial thing, but teaching your kids the best way to look after their paint supplies is a fantastic way to encourage them in their artistic endeavors – without making you pull your hair out!

Good luck, and enjoy.

* Please note this post contains affiliate links.  I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I’ll totally blow on my next trip to Chick-Fila! 

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