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How To Get Acrylic Paint Off Brushes

how to get acrylic paint off brushes

Most people think that once acrylic paint has dried on their brushes, they have no choice but to replace them. However, there are ways how to get acrylic paint off brushes to make them usable again.

You need to take care of your tools and they will take care of you. Contrary to what you think, paintbrushes can last for a long time, especially if you clean and store them properly.

In this article, you will learn how you can salvage brushes with dried-on acrylic paint. Note that it is possible to bring even brushes that you thought were already headed for the recycle bin back to life.

Using Rubbing Alcohol

One of the easiest and most cost-effective answers on how to get acrylic paint off brushes is to use regular rubbing alcohol, which you might already have on hand.

What to Prepare:

  • Dirty paintbrushes
  • A jar
  • Enough rubbing alcohol to submerge the brush heads
  • Clean rags
  • Nitrile gloves

Step 1 – Rinse the Brushes

If the brushes have been in storage for a while, you should rinse them under some running water. This will remove the loose paint chips in the bristles and make deep cleaning a lot easier.

After rinsing, remove as much of the water in the bristles as possible. Use paper towels to wick out as much of the water as you can before going into the next step.

Step 2 – Submerge the Brushes in Rubbing Alcohol

Fill the jar with enough alcohol to submerge the bristles of the brushes. Place the brushes inside the jar, and let them soak in the alcohol for about five minutes. Give the jar a good shake once or twice to get the alcohol into the bristles.

Step 3 – Remove the Paint from the Bristles

After five minutes of soaking in the alcohol, the acrylic paint should have loosened enough that you can remove them by hand. Put on your nitrile gloves and take out the brushes one by one. Give the brushes a good swirl inside the alcohol to get as much of the paint off as possible.

Take one brush and pick off the loose bits of paint off the bristles. Dip the bristles again in the alcohol if they dried up too fast.

Step 4 – Dry and Store the Brushes Properly

After removing all the paint from the brushes, proceed to pat the bristles dry using paper towels and store them properly. This means you place them flat on a towel, which you will then roll up. This will keep the bristles from splaying.

Using Paint Thinner

how to get dried acrylic paint out of brushes

Before you attempt this cleaning method, know that this is not meant for use on artificial-bristle paint brushes. The main reason is that the bristles are primarily plastic. In other words, they will melt when exposed to harsh chemicals like paint thinner, turpentine, or acetone.

Before you proceed, make sure that you are cleaning natural-bristle brushes, as these are more resilient to paint thinner.

What to Prepare:

  • A bottle of the mildest paint thinner that you can find, if you have mineral spirits then use that
  • A glass jar
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Eye protection

Step 1 – Clean the Bristles as Much as you can

Make the work of the paint thinner a lot easier by rinsing the brushes under running water and removing as much of the caked-on paint as you can. You can also try to loosen as much of the bristles as you can. You will not be dealing with a solid block of paint later.

Step 2 – Prepare the Paint Thinner

Take a glass jar and put just enough mineral spirit to submerge the bristles of your paint brushes. If you are using regular paint thinner, make sure that you are working in a well-ventilated room, or better yet, you are working outside. The fumes from the paint thinner can make you feel suffocating.

Step 3 – Soak the Brushes in the Paint Thinner

You can now proceed to soak the dirty paintbrushes in the paint thinner. Do not let them soak for more than 5 to 10 minutes as it can damage the bristles and the stem of the brush.

Step 4 – Remove the Paint by Hand

Before proceeding with this step, you need to wear nitrile gloves and eye protection. The nitrile gloves are highly resistant to the effects of paint thinner, so you won’t accidentally chemical-burn your hands. The eye protection is to prevent paint-thinner droplets from getting into your eyes.

Proceed to peel off the dried-on acrylic paint in the paintbrush bristles. After soaking in the paint thinner, the dried-on acrylic should be easier to remove by hand.

Step 5 – Dry the Brushes and Store them Properly

Use a couple of paper towels to soak up any remaining paint thinner in the brushes. Place them in neat rows on top of a cloth towel, and then gently roll it up and then store your brushes.

How to Prevent Acrylic Paint from Caking on Your Brushes?

If you want to prevent your brushes from getting ruined by leaving acrylic paint on them, here are a couple of things that you should do.

Clean the Brushes Immediately

If you have ever watched even just one episode of Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting, you will see how he keeps his brushes in pristine condition. His favorite part of the program is when he “beats the devil” out of his dirty brushes. Although Bob Ross uses oil paints, the same thing applies to acrylics.

After using a certain brush, don’t just place it away. Dip the brush into some paint thinner, give it a good swirl, and that should be enough to remove the paint stuck on the bristles. You can also “beat the devil out of your brushes” to remove excess paint thinner, although you should do it outside.

Helpful Tips

  • Do not submerge your brushes in water or any kind of liquid for too long – This will only damage the bristles and make them splay. In addition, it will let water seep into the ferrule (the metal part) and the wooden handle of the paintbrush
  • Always use nitrile gloves when cleaning brushes using turpentine, acetone, or any other kind of paint thinner – Nitrile gloves, unlike regular rubber gloves, do not react with these chemicals, which means the gloves will not melt when exposed to them
  • Never store brushes with the bristles facing down – This will only cause them to splay. Instead, roll them up in an old rag or towel to keep them dry, and keep the bristles straight


Most people think that once acrylic paint has dried on their brushes, it is already a lost cause. However, it is relatively simple how to get acrylic paint off brushes. It is so easy in fact that it will only take you a couple of minutes, so it will not take that much of a time investment.

Now that you know how to get dried acrylic paint out of brushes, you will be able to use them much longer. You can also save money in the process.

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