How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes

Oil paints are very messy, especially when they dry out. They also tend to attract dust particles, dirt, and other contaminants. If you don’t clean your brushes regularly, they can become clogged and unusable.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes

To ensure that your brushes stay in good shape, you need to take care of them properly. The first step is to remove the excess paint from them.

Then, you need to clean them thoroughly. Finally, you need to store them in a safe place. 

However, cleaning brushes that you’ve been using for oil paints is different from washing normal paint brushes, and it’s important you do it right to make sure that you clean the paint properly without damaging the brushes.

That’s why we’ve made this handy guide – to show you what you need to do to clean your oil paint brushes.

In this article, we’ll take you through each step of the cleaning process so you can enjoy clean brushes without having to worry about them getting damaged. So let’s get started!

Why Is It Important To Wash Your Oil Paint Brushes?

Oil paint has a lot of oils in it, which means that it attracts lots of dust and dirt. This is one reason why you should wash your brushes after every use.

You can’t just leave them lying around because they will eventually start attracting more dust and dirt.

Another reason why you need to clean your brushes is because if they aren’t cleaned regularly, they will begin to lose their ability to hold paint.

As time goes on, the bristles will become clogged with dried paint, and they won’t be able to pick up as much paint as before. 

When this happens, you might find that your brush isn’t picking up enough paint to create the effect that you want.

This is even worse after using oil paint; because the paint is thicker and contains oils, uncleaned brushes can quickly become unusable if they aren’t treated properly.

The main reason why oil paint brushes need to be cleaned differently is because of the solvent they use.

Unlike most paints, which use water as their solvent, oil paints have their pigment suspended in oils.

This means that the paint isn’t water-soluble, and can’t be cleaned with water alone. As a result, oil paint brushes need extra attention in order to be cleaned properly.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes

There are a few different ways to clean oil paints from brushes, depending on how thorough you want to be.

One of the handy things about oil paints is that they can be stored with paint still on them temporarily (as long as you follow the right steps first), which means that you don’t have to wash your brushes straight away if you’re going to be doing more painting soon. 

However, this is only a short-term fix, and your brushes will need to be cleaned more thoroughly if you’ll be going more than a couple of days without using them.

You’ll need to do different things for each method, so we’ve made separate step-by-step guides to walk you through each method.

Giving Your Brushes A Temporary Cleaning

If you’re going to be painting again in the next few days, you don’t need to do a thorough clean.

Instead, you can partially clean the brushes and store them temporarily.

This is a simple method and only takes a few steps to take; however, this isn’t a full clean and there is still the risk that some paint will remain on the brushes when you are reusing them. Here’s how to do it:

1) Wipe Away As Much Paint As Possible

The first thing you’ll need to do is give your brushes a quick wipe down to remove as much of the visible paint as you can.

Using a piece of an old rag or microfiber cloth, wipe down the brushes to get rid of the paint. Don’t worry if you miss a few bits of paint, as these won’t make much of a difference.

2) Dip The Brushes In Oil

Next, you should dip the bristles of the brush in a slow-drying oil. This is to keep the bristles in good condition, as well as for making sure the paint doesn’t dry into the brush.

The best type of oil to use is poppy seed oil or linseed oil; these are both slow-drying and will give you the most time to start using the brushes again.

3) Store The Brushes On A Drying Rack

After the brushes have been dipped in oil, you’ll need to put them somewhere safe where they can dry out. You could leave them sitting on a shelf or in a pot, but this isn’t ideal.

If you do this, the oil will soak into the wood and cause it to warp, or the brushes will stick together. Put the brushes on a drying rack, and leave them until you are ready to use them again.

4) When You’re Using The Brushes Again

You shouldn’t leave the brushes for more than 2-3 days before you reuse them. When you’re using the brushes again, you should simply give them another wipe down with a cloth. 

This will remove the oil from the brush, while keeping the bristles clean.

There may still be a small bit of paint left, but this shouldn’t be an issue; however, if you’re using a fresh pigment, you may need to clean the brush more thoroughly.

Cleaning Your Brush Thoroughly

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes

If your brush hasn’t been cleaned in a while or needs a more complete clean, then you’ll have to give it a thorough wash. Here’s how:

1) Gather Your Supplies

Because this is a more complete clean, you need to gather some supplies first. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Soap
  • Paint thinner
  • Paper towels
  • Old cloth/rag
  • Linseed oil
  • An old cup or mug that you don’t mind using for paint

2) Wipe Away The Visible Paint

Like with the temporary cleaning, the first step you need to do is give the brushes a wipe with a cloth or rag to get rid of most of the paint. This will make it much easier to get the rest of the paint out.

3) Dip The Brushes In The Paint Thinner

With most of the paint removed already, you can dip the brushes in some paint thinner to remove the remaining paint from the bristles.

Don’t leave it in for too long, as the solvents in the paint thinner can be damaging to the bristles. 

Instead, just dip the brush in the paint thinner for a few seconds at a time. Then, wipe the brushes with paper towels to get the thinner off the brushes. Repeat a couple of times until all the paint is gone.

4) Dip The Clean Brushes In Oil

As mentioned above, paint thinner can be harmful to your brushes. To avoid any damage, you should dip them in linseed oil.

This will soften the bristles and keep them from clumping together. It will also form a protective barrier to keep the brush safe until you need to use them again. 

Before doing this, you should give the brushes a quick rinse in water to get rid of any lingering paint thinner, and pat them down with some paper towels.

Give the brushes another pat down with paper towels after dipping them in oil to dry them off.

5) Storing Your Brushes

Finally, you need to store your brushes properly to keep them in good condition before you use them again.

The best way to do this is to keep them bristle-side up. You should also wrap the head of the brush in a small bag or plastic wrap to protect the bristles. Store them in a case or upright in a tall cup.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your paint brushes is important for keeping them in good condition.

Whether you’re cleaning them thoroughly for storage or just want a quick clean before starting a new painting, you should make sure your brushes are properly cleaned beforehand. 

By following the steps in this guide, you can make sure that your oil paint brushes are nice and clean without the risk of them drying out or getting damaged.

Now all you have to do is clean your brushes. Good luck!