How To Care For Your Paint Brush

There are lots of good reasons to take care of your painting tools: a poorly cared for brush can result in a low-quality decorating finish, and decent brushes can be pricey to replace. What’s more, a brush that ends up in the bin because it hasn’t been cared for properly is likely to end up as a pollutant in a landfill.

Look after your brushes well and you’ll be able to re-use them on future decorating or upcycling projects for years to come!

How To Clean Water-Based Paints from Brushes

If you’re an environmentally conscious decorator then hopefully you’ve been using water-based paints on your project; water-based paints have less of a negative environmental impact than oil-based paints and are also easier to manage when it comes to clean-up time. 

Here are the steps to take to remove the paint from your brushes once you’ve finished painting.

  1. Firstly, press the brush against the side of the tin to squeeze as much paint as possible out of the bristles. If the paint dries within the bristles, it can damage them, leading to loose brush hairs shedding onto your work.
  2. Next, run the brush under warm water, using your fingers to tease the paint out. To save water, you could get as much paint out as possible by flexing the bristles in a container of warm water, before finishing up by running the last of the paint out under the tap. Do this until the water runs clear.
  3. If you like, invest in a paint brush comb (available at decorators’ merchants). At this stage, run the comb through the bristles for an extra clean finish.
  4. To make sure you don’t leave too much excess water in the brush, squeeze the bristles using your hand before flicking the brush sharply to expel the water - outside is the best place for this job!
  5. Finally, give the brush a squeeze with a cloth or newspaper, before laying it flat or hanging it up to finish drying naturally.

How To Clean Oil-Based Paints from Brushes

  1. Cleaning a brush that has been working with oil-based paint is slightly trickier. Start by removing excess paint by pressing the brush bristles against the side of the paint tin.
  2. You now need to immerse your brush in a solvent (like white spirit) - find an old jam jar or another suitable container for this bit. The tin should give you some information about which solvent is best! Stir the brush around for about half a minute to loosen or ‘thin’ the paint. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling any nasty fumes.
  3. Once the paint is thinned out, you can wash the brush in warm water with the addition of a bit of soap/washing up liquid, continuing to follow steps 2-5 as above.

Other Tips

  • You don’t necessarily need to wash your brush after every use with certain paints. For example, if you’re painting with emulsion and are pausing for a while, simply wrap your brush up in something like a food waste caddy liner to keep it moist until you’re ready to start painting again. For eggshell finish paints, though, it’s best to wash your brush after every use to avoid getting dried bits of paint on your woodwork.


  • When storing your brushes, keep them vertical with the bristles pointing down. You could even buy a brush wallet to keep your tools extra safe!


  • To bring an old, hardened paint brush back to life, leave it in warm water or solvent (depending on if it was last used to apply water- or oil-based paints) for a couple of hours to soften the paint. Comb the bristles with a brush comb, repeating the soaking and combing process until your brush is restored. You could also try using boiled and cooled white vinegar instead of solvent to avoid harsh chemicals.


  • To clean a roller, the process to follow is similar to the brush-cleaning process. You’ll need to firmly squeeze excess paint out of the roller with your hands and remove excess water by spinning the roller outside.