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How To Clean Dried Acrylic Paint Brushes

How To Clean Dried Acrylic Paint Brushes

After your last painting session, you forgot to clean your brushes. You're left with brushes that have dried paint on them.

Art tools can come at a price, so it's important to take care of them so you can use them as long as possible. If you don't take a few minutes to maintain them, you're doomed to buy new equipment regularly.

But don't panic, we are passionate about this subject and know exactly how to help you. In this article, you'll discover:

  • Why acrylic paint dries on brushes
  • How to clean dried acrylic paintbrushes

You will know everything there is to know about how to properly clean dried acrylic paint from your brushes. Let's find out together right now.

What are the components of acrylics paint?

Before you know how to remove dry acrylics paint from your brushes, it is important to know a little about the composition of this paint.

Acrylic paints is a paint based on water, pigments and acrylic resin. It dries by evaporation of the water it contains, not by evaporation of volatile organic solvents, unlike oil paints. It contains little or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

How to clean dried paint from your paintbrushes

During your painting activity, it may happen that you are disturbed (by a call, by the children,...) and that you have not had time to clean your equipment. You will end up with paint that has had time to dry on your accessories.

Don't panic, there are several methods to solve this problem. Don't throw away your brushes, you can try to restore them with the following methods.

Use acetone (nail polish remover)

You can dip the brushes you want to restore in an acetone solution up to the barrel (small metal ring that holds the brush hair), letting the acetone penetrate the painting brushes and release the dry acrylics paints. We recommend that you do this in a well-ventilated room so that you are not too bothered by the smell. After letting your material sit for a few minutes, you can use a small damp towel to help wipe the brush hair after soaking. This will aid remove the paint. If this is not enough, you can use a paintbrush with steel wires (be careful not to damage the metal part).

Finish the process by rinsing the bristles with water to remove any excess acetone. Take your time and be sure the paint comes out gradually. The solvent works to liquefy the paint. Repeat as many times as necessary. 

Isopropyl alcohol

Less common than acetone, isopropyl alcohol is another excellent solution for removing dried paint from bristles. To do this, simply dip the painting brushesin an alcohol solution up to the barrel. As you soak your brushes, the alcohol will penetrate the painting brushes and gradually release the acrylic paint build-up.

Let it sit for a few minutes. Use a paper to wipe the brush hair after each soak to aid the paint removal process. Repeat as many times as necessary until all the paint has been removed.


To remove paint, you can also use vinegar. This method is especially good for nylon brushes. Soak them for 30 minutes in vinegar.

The vinegar will remove the paint and soften the paintbrush.

Then washing them in warm soapy water, scrubbing away any remaining paint.

Hydro-alcoholic gel

A more creative solution is to use hydroalcoholic gel to remove dried acrylic from brushes. Because of the ethyl alcohol content, the hand sanitizer can penetrate the brush hair and release the paint buildup in much the same way as acetone and rubbing alcohol.

To use it, you can simply pour a small amount of alcohol into a small container and put a paintbrush on it. Just swirl your paintbrush in a circular motion until the paint is removed. If this does not remove the paint, consider using a steel wire brush. You may need to repeat this process several times.

How to clean the ferrule

If you have dry paint in the ferrule, you can use almost the same technique as for the brush hair.

The only difference is that you will have to immerse the brush completely in a solution of acetone or rubbing alcohol. Let it sit for a few minutes and with a cloth and a circular motion, remove as much paint as possible. Then rinse with water and repeat as many times as necessary.

Caution: Do not leave your brush or its bbrush hair in acetone or alcohol for too long. Doing so can seriously damage your equipment or render it unusable.


How to extend the life of your paintbrushes

The best way to avoid using the curative methods we saw in the previous section is to prevent it from happening.

Wash brushes after each use

Acrylic paint by nature dries quickly and after it dries it takes more effort to clean the brush. To prevent the paint from drying and sticking to the brush hair, washing them right after you finish using a color.

Simply dipping the brush in water will not effectively cleaning acrylic paint. Take a paper towel and wipe the brush after swirling it in water. The paint is removed from the brushes with the rubbing and wiping. Sometimes it will be necessary to repeat the process in order to completely remove the paint.

Occasionally, it may be difficult for the paint to come out completely. You will need to pinch the brush hair with your fingers to get the paint out.

If you make a habit of cleaning the brushes after each use, you are guaranteed to extend their life. You have the possibility to take cleaner that make it easier to clean your instruments. With these additional tools you can also find step by step instructions on how to use it.

Wash your brush while the paint is still wet

The best way to clean dry paint is not to wait for it to dry. The foolproof way to keep them in good condition is to clean them with water during and after the painting session.

During the session

The easiest technique for speed and efficiency is to wipe and dip your paintbrushes after each use. As soon as you are finished with a color or brush, wipe your brush with a cloth or piece of paper towel. After that, dip your brush in water. Stir it to get the paint out. Repeat the process as many times as necessary.

After the session, if necessary clean with soap and water

This is a technique you can use after a painting session. To clean your acrylic paint brush, simply mix the bristles of your brush with equal parts liquid soap (dishwashing soap) and oil. The advantage of oil is that it will keep the brush hair of your brush smooth for its next use.

After that, rinse your brush with warm water. Use the palm of your hand or a surface like a paint palette to squeeze the acrylic out of the brush.

Store your brushes properly to prevent damage to the bristles

The way you store your brushes during but also after use can have affected their longevity.It is important to note that you should not leave your brushes upside down in your brush wash or water jar. This can cause the bristles to spread, which will affect the rendering (accuracy) when you go to use them again.

After rinsing the brush, lay it flat to dry on a napkin. This will help keep the shape of the paintbrush. You can also soak the brushes in warm water for a few minutes. Be sure to soak only the hairs brush.

Choose quality brushes

When choosing your material, you have the option of choosing brushes with natural or synthetic bristles.

Natural bristles: One of the only instances where natural bristles offer an advantage over synthetic ones is when you accidentally leave dried paint on the brush. The use of rubbing alcohol can in some cases damage synthetic bristles while natural bristles are less affected by the solvent. Natural brushes such as pork or sable have the disadvantage of being more difficult to clean when the paint is wet.

Synthetic bristles: These are a must when using acrylic paint only because they are easier to clean. The paintbrush are more elastic and flexible than natural bristles. They offer better benefits. They allow you to better manage the paint on the canvas. It is a product that also has the advantage of being less expensive which allows you to have a good quality / price ratio.

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As you can see, it is always possible to remove dried acrylic from brushes, even if the brush hair are completely stiff. It will just take a little elbow grease to restore your precious tools.

With all this information and tips, you know how to remove dried acrylic paint from brushes, but also how to avoid this situation.

We have answered the question and you now know the stuff that helps without too much work.

That's why we suggest that you take care of your equipment to prolong their life.

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