How To Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes in 6 Easy Steps

A large assortment of artist paint brushes in three cups.

Paint brushes come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and prices. Generally the more expensive the brush the higher the quality.

Investing in good quality paint brushes is a great way to build a tool set that will improve the quality of your paintings.

High-quality brushes can also last longer than cheaper quality brushes. The best way to extend the life of your paint brushes is to make sure that you properly clean them. 

What is the best way to clean acrylic brushes? The best way to clean acrylic brushes is with soap and water. First, wipe off excess paint with a rag. Gently rinse the brush with water. Apply soap to the handle, ferrule, and bristles, working toward the tip of the bristles. Rinse and repeat until clean, and let it dry.

This article will teach you how to preserve the life of your paint brushes through proper care and cleaning.

You will learn the step-by-step process for cleaning your brushes as well as the best soaps to use for removing acrylic paint from brushes.

How To Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes

If you want to keep your brushes in good condition, it’s crucial to make sure that you properly clean them after every use.

Allowing paint to dry on your brushes is one of the quickest ways to ruin the bristles as when it dries it can become difficult to remove and leave your brushes stiff and unusable. 

Step #1 Wipe Off as Much Paint as Possible With Rag or Scrap Paper

The first step in cleaning acrylic paint from your brushes is to use a rag, piece of scrap paper, or paper towel to wipe excess paint from the brush.

Wipe the paint from the handle and bristles, as well as the metal ferrule that attaches the bristles to the handle. 

Step #2 Rinse Brush Thoroughly

You can swirl your brush in your cup of paint water to remove excess paint, being careful not to jam the tips of the bristles into the bottom of the cup.

Next, you can hold the brush under cold running water and use your fingers or a sponge to gently remove the paint from the handle and the bristles. 

Step #3 Apply Soap

Use a sponge to wash the handle and ferrule of the brush with soap, then use your fingers to apply soap to the bristles of the brush.

Make sure to pull the soap from the ferrule toward the tip of the brush.

You can gently squeeze the bristles from bottom to top as you wash them. This will help your brush to maintain its original shape. 

Step #4 Rinse and Repeat

Rinse the soap from the brush, and rewash as needed. Once the water runs clear you will know that your brush is clean.

Pay special attention to the part where the bristles are attached to the ferrule, as this area can often hold a lot of paint. 

Certain brushes can be more challenging to clean; larger wash brushes tend to hold more paint and may need more time to clean than would a smaller detail brush.

Make sure to reshape the brush tips by hand during your final rinse.

Step #5 Lay the Brush on a Flat Surface To Dry

Spread a dish towel on a flat surface and lay your brushes out to dry. Give multiple brushes a few inches distance from each other to ensure proper drying. 

Step #6 Store Brushes Properly

The best way to store your brushes is to hang them vertically with the brush tip facing down. If you don’t have a contraption for hanging brushes, you can also store them brush tip up in a clean jar.

Be sure to keep your acrylic brushes stored separately from brushes used with oil to avoid solvent contamination.

Best Soap For Cleaning Brushes

There are many different soaps that are used for cleaning acrylic paint from brushes.

While any mild, moisturizing soap can be used to effectively clean brushes, professional soap choices often contain conditioning agents that can help to prolong the life of your brushes.

The Masters Cleaner and Preserver

General Pencil General 105-BP Pencil Masters Brush...
  • Keep brushes like New with this lemon-scented Cleaner and preserver
  • Even Old, hardened, oil paint brushes may be restored to their original snap and luster

The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver is a popular and versatile choice, and it can be used not only to remove acrylic paint from brushes but also oil paint, watercolors, and stains.

It is a nontoxic cleaner that is gentle enough for everyday brush cleaning and can also remove old, dried paint from brushes.

It leaves brushes fully conditioned and in like-new shape. The fresh lemon scent is a nice bonus.

Speedball Pink Soap

Pink Soap 12-Ounce Paint Brush Cleaner and...
  • CLEANS & RESTORES - Paint brush cleaning solution effectivly rinses all artist paint types including...
  • KEEP BRUSHES PLIABLE - Pink Soap is specially formulated to keep brushes soft and pliable - no more...

Speedball Pink Soap is a brush cleaner and conditioner that is nontoxic and can be used to remove acrylic paint from brushes after use.

Some users advise using a drop of Speedball Pink Soap to keep paint from getting into the ferrule, which is definitely worth a try!

Any Mild Moisturizing Soap

Any mild, moisturizing soap will also do the trick!

Need to clean acrylic paint from a surface? My article here shows you exactly what to do to clean acrylics from a variety of surfaces, including fabric and wood.

3 Tips To Make Cleaning Your Brush Easier

1. Clean Your Brushes While You Paint

Regularly swirling your brushes in your paint cup and wiping excess paint on a rag or paper towel while you paint is one of the best ways to make cleaning your brushes easier.

The less of a chance you give paint to dry on the brush, the easier the final clean up process will be.

2. Store Paint Brushes in Water When You Take a Break

If you need to take a drying break or step away from your painting for a few minutes, you can leave your brush tip down in your paint water to help keep the paint from drying on the bristles. 

3. Only Use as Much Paint as You Need

This tip becomes easier with practice, as it can sometimes be difficult to judge how much paint you will need for a particular portion of your painting.

Use only as much paint as you actually need, and allow the canvas or the object being painted to act as a sponge for the paint instead of using rags or water to remove the excess paint.

Using the proper size brush for each part of your painting can help with this.

In general, you will want to use smaller brushes for details and larger brushes for larger areas, such as backgrounds or washes. 

Check out my article 15 Types of Paint Brushes to be sure that you’re using the best type of brush for the project at hand.

Related Questions:

Can You Leave Paint Brushes in Water Overnight?

You can leave paint brushes in water overnight, and many an artist is guilty of this maneuver.

While it’s not necessarily a death sentence for your brushes, it can damage the tips and leave them with an unruly bend that can be difficult to reshape. 

How Do You Dry Paint Brushes Fast?

There is a fun tool called a paint brush spinner that can be used to speed up cleaning and drying time for both brushes and rollers.

If you’re not looking to invest in yet another artist tool, you can always lay your brushes out in the sun for a quicker dry. 


Making sure that your paint brushes are clean is the best way to ensure their longevity.

Neglecting to clean your brushes can damage your brush and make it difficult, if not impossible, to use.

Following the easy step-by-step process outlined in this article is a great way to save time and money by providing your brushes with a longer life span. 

Last update on 2024-05-28 at 05:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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I am a writer and an artist taking opportunities every day to transform my dreams into reality. I love learning new things and am always creating and innovating. I worked as an Art Instructor, teaching painting and art techniques to artists of all levels and ages. I have hosted countless paint parties and taught children’s art classes both in my home as well as an art teacher at a Montessori school.