How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes With Ease!

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As the popularity of oil painting has continues to sky rocket in recent years, we have noticed more and more people reaching out for advice on how they are able to best maintain their oil painting equipment. One of the more common questions that we have noticed people asking recently is based around how to clean oil paint brushes without damaging them.

Due to seeing so many beginners making the same, easy to avoid mistakes time and time again when it comes to cleaning their oil painting brushes, we have decided to publish this article. The cleaning process is much easier than most people think and a large number of people definitely over do it resulting in damage to their bushes that can easily be avoided.

In this article, we are going to be going over the five main methods that we recommend to our readers who are looking to clean their oil paint brushes as quickly and easily as possible. In addition to the core five methods that we will be covering, we are also going to be going over a number of bonus tips and tricks based around questions that we have seen people from the community asking on a regular basis when it comes to keeping their oil painting brushes as clean as possible.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes!

There are a number of quick and easy ways that you are able to clean your oil paint brushes with turpentine and mineral spirits usually being the best option for most people. The main issue that we see people making is that they use way too much of their oil paint cleaner than their brush needs resulting in issues with their brushes later down the line.

Another very common problem that we have noticed time and time again is that people use low quality brushes or cleaners. A decent entry level oil painting brush set can usually be picked up for around $10-$20 with a decent turpentine usually being around the same depending on the amount of turpentine that you want.

We often see beginner oil painters presuming that they have to pay more for higher quality tools but the reputation of the tools is much more important. The entry level brush set that we recommend is one of the cheapest out there but can easily out perform other brush sets that are up to three times its price due to the quality of the brushes included in it. The better your brushes, the easier they are to clean your oil paint from without damaging them making the cleaning process much faster.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes With Turpentine!

The most common method to clean oil paint from your brushes is to use turpentine. Many oil painters will already have some form of turpentine in their collection as it can be an excellent solvent to use as a medium with your oil paints to help them dry quicker while also being useful when looking to clean your brushes too.

A touch of turpentine can also be a great way to keep your oil paint brushes from drying out when not in use too helping to keep their bristles as soft as possible without doing a full clean of the brushes. A decent turpentine for cleaning your brushes to keep the job as quick and easy as possible is often not really suitable for use as a medium in most cases though. This is why many oil painters will carry two turpentine, a distilled version for use as a medium and a pure version for cleaning although the distilled version of turpentine can be used for both.

Simply leaving your oil paint brushes to steep in a container with some turpentine in for a few hours can often be enough to get the job done due to it breaking down your oil paints quickly. You then simply wash off any excess paint as required or use a paper towel to remove it. Just keep in mind that a pure turpentine will have a strong pine scent and that the unscented versions are usually poor at cleaning your brushes.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes With Mineral Spirits!

One of the most popular methods to clean oil paint brushes is to leave them to steep in a container with some mineral spirits in for a few hours. The mineral spirits will break down the oil paint without causing damage to your brushes allowing you to easily remove the paint with minimal additional effort being required on your part.

Low quality mineral spirits are wide spread on the market though and although they will help to clean the oil paint off your brushes, they tend to take longer and do a worse job then some high quality mineral spirits that are usually only a dollar or two more. A major advantage of using mineral spirits to clean your oil paint brushes over using turpentine is that many mineral spirit products on the market are odourless.

If you keep all of your oil paint equipment in a small space with poor ventilation this can push mineral spirits to the top of the list of methods that can clean your oil paint brushes. In our opinion, the odourless benefit of mineral spirits is one of the main reasons that they are growing in popularity at such a rapid pace and the fact that they are just as easy to use to clean your brushes as the other methods on this list is just a bonus.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes With Vinegar!

Vinegar is a popular way to clean oil paint brushes but you have to use white vinegar, not culinary vinegar and we often see people make this mistake. White vinegar is perfect for quickly and easily cleaning the oil paint from your brushes by just leaving the bristles in some white vinegar to soak for a few hours. The majority of the time, the bulk of the oil paint will have been broken down and removed from your brushes with minimal paint being left to remove with a paper towel.

Although you can get white vinegar in some local stores, you will often get a better price if you buy your white vinegar online helping you keep your budget as low as possible. In addition to that, white vinegar has the advantage of being regulated due to being a distilled product so you can often go with the cheapest product you can find and still essentially get the exact same substance in the bottle.

One downside for using white vinegar to clean your oil paint brushes is that some of the products will have a stronger smell than others. It can be hit and miss too with the formulas that smell due to there being a number of factors that come into play for white vinegar. If you do peeing in an area with plenty of ventilation or have access to a location where you are able to leave your oil paint brushes outdoors for a few hours to soak in white vinegar then it can be an excellent, cheap, easy option for cleaning your brushes.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes Without Paint Thinner Or Solvents!

Although solvent based products do work better when cleaning your oil paint brushes, there are natural methods that are solvent free that you are able to use. Linseed oil is probably the best option due to it being able to thin the oil on your brush making it much easier to remove when required but a solvent based product is considerably easier in most cases.

Thankfully, the majority of oil painters will carry some linseed oil in their painting accessories as it is the most popular oil paint medium on the market at the time of writing by far and we doubt that this will change anytime soon. The properties that make linseed oil a good medium for oil painting also make it handy for cleaning your oil paint brushes after an arts and crafts session too.

Simply add a little linseed oil to a container and leave your bushes to steep in it for a few hours. The linseed oil will weaken the bonds of the oil paint still on your brushes with some of it naturally falling off into the linseed oil. Any oil paint that remains on your brushes will be much easier to wipe off with a paper towel helping you clean your brushes quicker. As we said though, something like a high quality mineral spirit will be much easier and quicker when it comes to cleaning your brushes after an oil painting session though.

Can You Use Vegetable Oil To Clean Oil Paint Brushes?

Although some types of vegetable oil can help you clean your oil paint brushes, they do tend to take longer than other methods and tend not to be as effective as softening your oil paints to help you remove them from your brush. A solvent based cleaning agent such as turpentine or mineral spirits will be much quicker and easier, especially if your oil paint has dried onto your brushes.

Although they are not strictly vegetable oils, we have an article going over 11 alternative oil painting mediums that list some products that you can use to help soften the oil paint on your brushes. Our ultimate guide to oil painting mediums also offers some advice on some of the more popular oil painting mediums that you are able to use instead of vegetable oil too.

We know that some of our readers may already have some cooking vegetable oil in their home that they are able to use and feel free to try it but you will probably still have a large amount of work after the initial steeping process. To clean your oil paint brushes using vegetable oil add a small amount of oil to a container and then leave your brushes in the container to steep overnight. Although you may think that the longer you leave them to steep the better, there is a point where the oil paint will saturate with the vegetable oil and no additional benefit will be gained. At this stage, wipe the brushes down with a paper towel to clean the excess oil paint off your brushes.

How To Clean Dried Oil Paint Brushes!

Dried oil paint is harder to clean from your brushes so you will usually have to use a turpentine or mineral spirit solution to quickly and easily clean the dried oil paint off your brush. Steeping your brushes in turpentine or mineral spirit over night will usually be enough to soften the oil paint to a stage where you are able to easily wipe it off using a paper towel.

Keep in mind that you should definitely be trying to use a decent turpentine or a high quality mineral spirit product for any dried oil paint as it has already oxidised onto your brush. This means that some of the other alternatives on our list will not be as effective at cleaning the oil paint once it has dried and even cheaper, low quality turpentine or mineral spirit solutions may struggle.

Depending on the specific color of the dried oil paint on your brushes, you may have to leave your brushes in the solution steeping for longer due to some pigments being tough to remove once dry. One way to reduce this additional time is to soak your brushes in a solvent solution twice with a break in between where you wipe off as much of the oil paint as possible with a paper towel. This then allows the second soak to work on any left over oil paint on your brushes and clean it off as quickly as possible.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes Between Colors!

There are a number of products on the market that allow you to quickly and easily clean oil paint brushes between colors with ease. In our opinion, a rinse cup is the best option out there as it allows you to hold a liquid in the base of the cup while having the various grooves around the rim of the cup to wipe off excess oil paint from various brush sizes with ease.

A good Paint Brush Cleaner Rinse Cup will usually only cost you between $10 and $20 and should last you years while having various sized grooves on its rim to allow you to use it to clean a number of different brush sizes during your oil painting session. As the oil paints are fresh onto the brush, you should easily be able to clean your different coloured oil paints off your brushes to avoid cross contamination with ease.

There are a number of homemade options that you are able to use too but these tend to be more trouble then they are worth in our opinion. One home made option that we have seen people use with some level of success is to use a child’s plastic cup and cut grooves into its rim to server as a DIY rinse cup but due to purpose built rinse cups being so cheap, it is usually easier to just purchase one.


That brings our article going over how to clean oil paint brushes to an end and we hope that you have found our article helpful. The various methods to clean the oil paint from your brushes after a painting session covered in our article above should easily be able to help our readers keep their brushes clean with ease. As we have pointed out for each method as we worked our way through the article, different methods have different levels of success and dried oil paint on your brush can be particularly difficult to clean quickly so keep this in mind.