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How to Clean Oil Paint Brushes Between Colors

how to clean oil paint brushes between colors

Painting is one of the stress-relieving activities that one can do during your isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It can take your mind off stressful things that are happening not only here in the United States but also throughout the world. I know this to be true because I have just recently gone back to painting after a long while.

But one of the problems that most amateur painters such as myself face is cleaning our paintbrushes properly. It is a difficult task to accomplish without making a tiny mess in the process. In any case, learning how to clean oil paint brushes between colors is very important because it is a skill that any painter should know to create breathtaking artwork.

Why Do We Need to Clean our Paintbrushes?

While painting is indeed a relaxing activity, cleaning paintbrushes is completely the opposite. This task should be done with extreme precision to preserve the integrity of the bristles. Unfortunately, not all have a firm grasp of the importance of cleaning paintbrushes. Most beginners would just buy plenty of brushes and throw away the ones that have accumulated paint on them.

If you want to improve your painting skills, you must learn how to remove unwanted paint, especially between colors. The first benefit of cleaning paintbrushes is it will allow you to get the blend of color that you want in your painting. Not doing so will let unwanted colors ruin the vision that you have for your painting.

Another benefit of cleaning paintbrushes is saving money. Imagine buying many brushes for a single painting! You will surely run out of money before you can proceed with your next project. Also, using a fresh paintbrush for color is very impractical.

How to Clean Oil Paint Brushes without Paint Thinner?

Thinner is the usual remover of paint stains. But unfortunately, it is composed of harmful chemicals which can cause mild to major health issues such as dizziness, nausea, eye irritation, muscle weakness, muscle twitches, and even nervous system depression. If the exposure is severe, it can cause convulsion, unconsciousness, allergic reaction, and in some cases – death.

Being a painter gives us a high risk of exposure to harmful chemicals present in the paint itself and the thinner that we are going to use to clean our brushes with. Not all people can tolerate the toxic composition of paint thinners. So, then: how do we clean our brushes without relying on thinner or turpentine?

Here are some suggestions that can help you out:

  • Soak the brushes on water and soap.
  • After dipping the bristles on water and soap, wrap a clean sheet of paper towel around the paintbrush. Pinch it mildly to allow water and paint residue to be absorbed by the paper towel.

Cleaning oil Paint Brushes with Vegetable Oil?

Cleaning oil paintbrushes using vegetable oil may not make any sense at first. However, this is your safest choice if you don’t want to use turpentine or thinner to remove standing paint in your brushes.

Vegetable oil is one of the common household items that you can use to clean your oil paintbrush.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Mix ¼ cup vegetable oil and ¼ cup soap (preferably Murphy Oil Soap) in a jar or plastic container. Fill the rest of the jar with water.
  • Put a lid on the jar and shake it thoroughly.
  • Transfer a portion of the liquid mixture into a separate container.
  • Soak the bristles of your oil paint brushes in the container for 5 minutes.
  • Wrap a used newspaper or a fresh sheet of tissue paper on your paintbrushes. Let the paper absorb the paint residue and the liquid mixture.
  • Wipe the bristle on used newspapers. If the bristles still have traces of paint residue, soak them once more onto the liquid mixture.
  • Do this until the paint residue is gone.

Can You Clean oil Paint brushes with Olive Oil?

can you clean oil paint brushes with olive oil

You might be wondering if this question is possible. The answer is definitely yes! This one is my favorite way of cleaning oil paintbrushes.

Olive oil may be used for salad and cooking, but it is also effective for cleaning paintbrushes. It can be easily found in the kitchen, thus saving you the need to rush to the market.

Here’s how you can achieve it:

  • Pour olive oil into a small cup. Soak the bristles of your paintbrush for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Gently wipe the bristles of your paintbrush on an old newspaper to remove paint residue.
  • Soak the bristles into a mixture of soap and water.
  • Gently wipe the bristles once more on an old newspaper or fresh sheet of paper towel. If there’s still paint residue, soak it again on soap and water.

How to clean oil paint brushes with baby oil?

Using baby oil is more beneficial than it appears to be. First, the residual baby oil in the bristles can prevent the brush from drying, even if you leave the brush in the open air for a long time. Second, having a clean brush at your disposal can

Here’s how you can remove any standing paint material on your paintbrushes using baby oil:

  • Use a paper towel to remove standing paint on the bristles of your brush. Wrap the paper towel and pinch the bristles firmly. You have to remember that this method will not work on dried paint.
  • Using a plastic cup, dip your brush into ¼ cup of baby oil. Coat the bristles completely. Also, do not swish the brush as it will muddle the oil.
  • Using a fresh sheet of paper towel, remove the oil on the brush by wrapping it on the bristles. Pinch it firmly to let the oil and residual paint be absorbed by the paper towel.

Repeat these steps as many times as necessary. To check if the bristles do not have any standing paint residue, wipe it on a fresh sheet of paper towel or used newspaper.


Cleaning your synthetic or natural hair paintbrush is as important as painting itself. Without it, your bristles would be deteriorated thus affecting the quality of your brush strokes. If you want to refine your painting skill, cleaning your paintbrush is one area where you can begin. Painters around the world have devoted a huge portion of their time to learn this process. Even amateurs like us need to do this task every time we paint.

Finally, for safety purposes, you need to keep in mind that paint, oil, and paper towels are perfect materials for spontaneous combustion. Avoid smoking while painting or cleaning your paintbrushes and other drawing tools to prevent igniting materials such as these.

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