Blog / How To Properly Clean Paint Tools

February 15, 2022

Painting is messy; it’s the nature of the beast. What are you bringing to your worksite to ensure your paint tools and brushes are ready for the next day? Are you cleaning the worksite itself before you pack it in and excess paint dries? Prepping your surfaces? Cleaning your tools and space afterwards?

Trimaco is here to help guide you. Cleaning your tools after a paint job not only prepares your job for the next day, but it also increases the longevity of the tools, ultimately saving time and money. We’ve compiled a list of supplies that can assist in the clean-up process.

Cleaning your brushes

When finishing up a job, clean your brushes right away. When dried paint sticks to a brush, it damages the tool, sometimes completely ruining it. Follow these simple steps to ensure your brushes are properly cleaned for every painting session! Prior to washing, research how to properly dispose of your paint washout. This process may differ based on your septic system or paint type.

paint brush

Water Based Paint

  1. Simply combine warm water and a teaspoon of mild soap.
  2. Slowly use your hands to push the paint out of the bristles.
  3. When the water runs clear, your brushes are completely clean.
  4. Dry your brushes with a towel, and continue to let air dry.

Oil Based Paint

  1. For oil based paints, most painters choose a solvent, such as mineral spirits or paint thinner like turpentine. Unfortunately, just dish soap and hot water will not properly remove the oil paint. We recommend pouring the solvent in a glass or ceramic bowl, placed in a safe place like a sink.
  2. Dip the brush in the solvent and run the brush back and forth in your hand or into a towel to work the solvent into the bristles.
  3. Next, pour a mild soap onto the brush and massage into the bristles, and run under warm water. Repeat until the water runs clear.
  4. Dry your brushes with a towel and continue to let air dry.

Cleaning Brushes with Dried Paint

Sometimes excess paint dries on your brushes before you have a chance to clean them. While a bit challenging, you can remove the paint and save the bristles so you don’t need to buy a new brush. Our step-by-step instructions will help you remove that remaining paint whether you have natural bristles or synthetic brushes.

  1. Soak the bristles in white vinegar for an hour. If the bristles are still hard, leave them in the vinegar for an additional hour.
  2. If soaking the bristles in vinegar doesn’t soften the paint, you can put the brush in a pot of vinegar, and bring the pot to a boil before removing it from the heating element.
  3. After allowing the brush to cool, you should be able to remove the paint from the brush bristles with a comb or your fingers.
  4. As you remove the paint, you can wash the bristles with soapy water to help remove the paint.
  5. To finish, rinse the brush with clean water as needed.


Here are our top picks for towels that do double duty for both worksite and paint tool clean-up:

Wonder Rags®: These super absorbent rags are a painter’s favorite! Designed with a unique microfiber material, Wonder Rags are great for cleaning surfaces and paint tools. Rags can be easily washed and reused.

shop towel

Shop Towels: Trimaco’s SuperTuff® Shop Towels are durable, reusable and absorbent. Made with a spunlace cloth-like fabric, these rags can handle even your toughest jobs including shop use, cleaning and paint jobs!

Old School Premium Knit T-shirt Wiper: If you’re saving and using your old t-shirts for part of your cleaning routine: stop, please. They won’t even come close to absorbing what these knits will. Start fresh and cut these to size for whatever you need so there’s no waste. Plus older fabrics (like worn t-shirts) can leave behind textile and color residue in your paint and on your tools. That’s the last thing you want for your paint job. Use these Old-School t-shirt wipers to paint, stain and wipe up drips from various surfaces. Tip: Before cleaning your paint tool, make sure they’re saturated with water.

SuperTuff® Absorbent Terry Cloth Towels: This extra-thick terry towel is pre-washed for softness, and it is washable and reusable. Styled with a 14 x 17-inch seamed edge, SuperTuff® towels are perfect for dusting, waxing, polishing and absorbing water from larger spills or cleaning. Tip: Use these to gently squeeze or “press” the water out of your brush tips, right up to the ferrule.

Microfiber Towels: Microfiber is a newer textile known for its soft feel and high absorbency. This wipe is great for both tools and surfaces – perfect for precision cleaning around trim or baseboards for walls and ceilings (because these tiny fibers can go where traditional cotton fibers can’t). Also, washable and reusable, this rag will do double duty multiple times. Tip: Store your clean paint brushes in their original packaging. If you don’t have that, wrap them in a sheet of glossy magazine paper.

Total jobsite protection

Come prepared to leave clean after painting. You’ll make a great impression and get plenty of return invitations. Explore Trimaco’s full line of rags and wipers!

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