Cleaning the dried brushes is not an enjoyable part of the painting. But, if you are a painter or an artist it is important to know how to remove dried acrylic paint from brushes. Because dried paint on brushes can affect noticeably the work you are doing. 

Removing dried paint from brushes is not a done deal. Don’t haste to throw them away. You have enough non-toxic and odorless choices to remove dried acrylic paint for both natural and synthetic bristles brushes.

Cleaning wet acrylic paint is one thing that you can easily use water to clean. But using water for dried brushes is useless. You have to find more effective ways to remove dried acrylic paint from your brushes.

In this article, you can find the most accessible and effective ways of removing paint from brushes. Plus, this article takes a closer look at washing brushes right after using and preventing them from drying.

So, let’s get started!

How to remove dried acrylic paint from brushes

Removing dried acrylic paint according to the types of Bristles

When you want to clean dried paint from your brushes, one of the most vital things is knowing the type of bristles. There are commonly two types of bristles:

  1. Natural bristles
  2. Synthetic bristles

Both of them demand special methods to remove dried paint. Otherwise, the quality and lifespan of the brushes don’t last long as you expect.

Natural bristles

Many acrylic artists prefer to use synthetic bristles, while sometimes we also use natural fibers. Natural bristles, like a hog, badger, and squirrel, are better to clean with harsh solvents. But these kinds of brushes are pricier than synthetic ones.

Many people favor using natural bristles. Because it applies properly to the heavy texture of the paint. And it can keep its shape much longer.

Synthetic bristles

There are many different options for synthetic bristles. You can find various types of them, from soft to hard.

 This type of bristle is more advisable for acrylic paint because of holding up better in water. Synthetic bristles absorb moisture much better than natural fibers.

Acrylic paint contains water. That’s why you can easily use water to clean the paint. 

Yet, you should be aware that synthetic fibers can easily get damaged with solvents like acetone. That’s why you should be careful before testing any solvents for synthetic bristles.

Using water and soap is an easy and effective way to clean dried acrylic paint from synthetic fibers. But it is better to soak the brushes before drying the paint.

So, whichever bristles you use, you should know how to clean and wash them correctly.

Can I clean acrylic paint from brushes with mineral spirits?

Unfortunately, you can not use any mineral spirits for acrylic paint. Mineral spirits are formulated for oil-based ink and it is mainly used for non-water solubility. But acrylic paint is not considered oil-based. So it is impossible to use mineral spirits to remove acrylic paint from brushes.

Using acetone

Acetone is an acceptable solvent for both oil-based and acrylic paint. You can use acetone on wet and dried paints. It stands out with its characteristics of reusing several times more than other solvents. While removing acrylic paint it will be better for you to use warm water.

If your choice is acetone in the removal process, you need some necessary things.

AcetoneGlover and safety glass
Warm waterA cup or bowl
PaintbrushPaper towel or old rag
  • To decrease the negative effect of acetone on your skin and eyes put on gloves and safety glasses.
  • And then wash the brush thoroughly with soap and water as much as possible
  • Use a paper towel or old rag to dry the brush.
  • Pour acetone into a container. It will be better to use a cup or bowl which is made of glass. Make sure that there is enough solvent in the container to soak the brush.
  • Place the brash into the container and move it carefully. It helps to remove the stain of the paint on the brush.
  • If the dried acrylic paint is too much, you can leave it overnight in the solvent. But some bristles need special attention you can not leave them overnight. Just 5 or 10 minutes is enough to soften the dried paint.
  • After removing all the paint on the brush, wash off the brush to get rid of all the leftover acetone.
  • You can wash the brush with the help of soap.
  • Finally, dry it thoroughly. And now you can use it on any surface you want to paint.

Can I use isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol to remove dried acrylic paint from brushes?

Yes. You can definitely use isopropyl or rubbing alcohol to remove both dried and fresh acrylic paint from brushes. They are strong solvents to clean the paint.

But there is a little bit different feature using them. Because isopropyl and rubbing alcohol are not the same things.

Isopropyl alcoholIt is pure alcohol that isn’t added to other ingredients. It is a colorless liquid with a moldy, sharp odor.
Rubbing alcoholIt contains either ethanol-based liquid or isopropyl alcohol with water.

You can make a homemade paintbrush cleaner with rubbing or isopropyl alcohol. First of all, wash your brush with warm water and soak it in a filling bowl with alcohol. Move it until the paint is gone. Change the old alcohol with the fresh one and again repeat the process.

After removing all the paint, don’t forget about cleaning excess alcohol with warm water and soap. Otherwise, the brush may not dry and affect negatively their bristles.

Is it possible to use vinegar to remove dried acrylic paint from brushes?

Using vinegar to clean dried paint from brushes is possible. Because it has a feature that can soften hardened substances.

But keep in mind that white vinegar is the best choice to remove dried paint from brushes. The reason of it that white vinegar has more acetic acid than distilled one, 5-20 % and 5-8 %.

To make another homemade paint brush cleaner you will need:

  • * White vinegar
  • * Water
  • * Small pan

Pour with equal parts of white vinegar and water. Let it boil and put the brush in it. Take the small pan from heat and keep the brush for approximately three minutes in the vinegar. You can wash the brush under warm water.

If your brush doesn’t clean as you wish, repeat the process one more time. You can use your fingers to comb bristles.

Using a hand sanitizer

It is an antiseptic product that is based on ethyl alcohol. The result of the hand sanitizer is the same as isopropyl or rubbing alcohol in a cleaning brush. Here is the specific step to use a hand sanitizer to remove the dried paint from brushes:

Step 1.

Use gloves and glasses to keep your health. Because all the ways I recommended affect your body and health.

Step 2.

You should squirt the amount of hand sanitizer on your hands.

Step 3.

Apply the gel to the stiffened bristles till the dried acrylic paint disintegrate.

Step 4.

Clean all the loosened clamps. If the result is not satisfactory you can repeat the process.

Step 5.

In this step, you will be sure that all the dried paint is gone and the brush is free of any remains. Now you can wash it with soapy warm water thoroughly.

Cleaning dried brushes in lacquer thinner.

Lacquer thinner or paint thinner is one of the most dependable and effective ways of removing dried paint from brushes.

Wash the dried brush with some lacquer and swill it completely. If the pigments are not gone repeat the process until the brush is clean.  Use soapy water to rinse the brush.

While using lacquer pay attention to cleaning it in well-ventilated areas since it must be harmful to your health.

There is also a solvent which is called ammonia. It can remove the dried paint. But I do not recommend it to use because of the hazardous character.

I advise these data as a last option only for the really messed-up brushes. Because these kinds of thinners are dangerous to use. You have got very few chances to revive your paintbrush if it stays longer in the dried state.

Murphy’s  oil soap

It is impossible to save your dried acrylic paint brush only with the help of soap and warm water. But this statement is not for Murphy’s oil soap. This soap is so helpful to remove dried acrylic paint from your brush.

It is also considered an ultimate solution. You can use it to clean dried acrylic paint brushes for up to four days. This is one of the most powerful methods.  This vegetable oil soap can remove the tough crusty mass of acrylic paint brushes.

To use murphy’s oil soap you need:

  • Glass jar
  • Murphy’s oil soap
  • Water
  • Paper towel
  • Soap

First of all, you should fill the glass jar with murphy’s oil soap until the bristles are covered. And then let them stay undisturbed state for 48 or 72 hours. I know it is so long to clean with one brush. But if your brush is expensive and you don’t want it to get damaged, it is worth waiting.

After two or three days, you can see the sludges of the dried paint are sunk into the jar. And now you can easily dislodge any left paint.  You can tap the fibers gently to the bottom of the glass jar to get rid of any remains of the paint.

Rinse the brush under running water and rub it with soap. You can use a paper towel to wipe it down.

The best feature of murphy’s oil soap is that you can use it regularly to clean the dried acrylic paint brushes. This vegetable oil soap can perform better than liquid dishwashing soap.

Combing your brushes

After all, procedures combing your brush is an important conclusive step of cleaning. There is a special comb paintbrush to shape it perfectly or you can use a toothbrush or fingernail brush. Just comb your brush when it is wet and then keep it dry. It helps you to avoid a messy look and an unsatisfactory paint process.

Also, you can use a comb to remove dried acrylic paint on your brushes. A fine-toothed comb is appropriate to loosen acrylic paint. But never use it for a dry brush with stiffened acrylic paint.

Below you can read a direction about how to use a comb to remove dried acrylic paint from your brushes.

  1. 1. Fill a glass dish with water or oil ( you can also use the methods above according to your wish)
  3. 2. The dried acrylic paint on the brushes needs to moisten. So you put the brush into the glass jar in a few minutes.
  5. 3. You can start to remove the paint after getting wet the bristles. In this process, you will need a fine-toothed comb gently and patiently.  But be careful! Don’t yank the bristles.
  7. 4. The fibers begin to separate from each other. You can come out with the visible paints from the brush.
  9. 5. You can wash the brush with warm water and soap. Rinse and dry it like all the methods.

Tips for brushes

  • You should keep in mind that any method can not guarantee your brush to spring back like its original self again. Especially, since the damage is so severe.
  • Synthetic bristle brushes get easily ruined when you leave the paint on the brush and let it dry. Even there are little a few solutions and methods you can apply for synthetic bristle brushes.
  • Natural bristle brushes like hog or sable hair can survive effectively after getting hardened in dry acrylic paint. But natural bristle brushes are a bit  costly compared to synthetic bristle brushes

Final thoughts

Note that, acetone, oil soap, rubbing alcohol, and hand sanitizer are amazing methods to remove dried acrylic paint from brushes.

But you should be careful to use them. Many of them can affect your health negatively if you use them carelessly and inaccurately.

You should tend to clean your brushes as a daily routine.