Painter’s Tip | How to Clean Hardened Paintbrush Bristles

By heather at 12:23 am on Sunday, December 20, 2009

watercolour paintbrush illustration

This week I discovered one of my good acrylic paintbrushes was as hard as a rock… I obviously didn’t clean it properly the last time I used it! Hoping to recover the brush I did a little online search for ways to soften up the bristles. I was pleased to discover that the solution was in my kitchen cupboard… white vinegar.

Here’s the method I used* :

  • Place the brush’s bristles down into a glass or jar.
  • Fill with white vinegar just to the metal ferrule.
  • Let sit for a few hours. At this point the bristles will have softened up considerably.
  • Pour some white vinegar into a shallow pan on the stove, and place the brush’s bristles into the vinegar until are submerged.
  • Gently heat the white vinegar (not to boiling!) until paint is loosened from the bristles.
  • Rinse the brush in water, then use gentle hand soap to suds up the bristles to remove any vinegar.
  • Rinse well. Condition bristles with a brush cleaner optional.
  • Make a mental note to wash the brush more carefully next time it’s used!

*Inspired by eHow.com (How to Soften Paint Brushes and How to Clean Paint Brushes That Have Hardened)

Filed under: business of illustration, tutorials

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Comment by Barbara

December 5, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

I found that hardened oil brushes (we’re talking ten years of neglect) could be renewed by soaking in shampoo!

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