How to Clean Dried Paint Brushes

The struggle is real when you’ve got 1 paint brush and need to know how to clean dried paint brushes! 

Have you ever been painting and gotten so busy that your forgot to rinse and clean your paint brushes?  I’ve left my brushes overnight only to wake up to what you think is a ruined paint brush?   

Let’s find out how to clean dried paint brushes not matter what type of paint you used. 

how to clean dried paint brushes
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Basic Tools and Supplies for Cleaning Dried Paint Brushes 

How to Clean Dried Paint Brushes Fast Facts

MethodWorks On
VinegarLatex and Oil
Fabric SoftenerLatex
Water & SoapLatex
Mineral Spirits/StripperOil

How do You Remove Dried Paint 

Removing dried paint from anything other than a paint brush or paint roller has varying degrees of success. Even then, you might not be able to restore your paint brushes or rollers to good as new condition.  Removing dried paint from carpet or flooring can be a pain.  

I am a master at spilling drops of paint, so I figured out that latex paint is super easy to remove from carpet or flooring.  Just use a paper towel or sponge soaked in water and place it on the spot you want to remove.

On vinyl or wood flooring, within minutes you can just wipe the paint right off or use a putty knife and gently lift it.  On carpet, you would soak the spot and then use paper towel or rag.

How to Clean Dried Paint Brushes: Latex Paint 

This is going to be the easiest clean of the whole post.  Water based paints, whether you are using them with paint brushes, rollers or a paint sprayer, are a breeze when it comes to clean up.  Soap and water and you’re laughing.  Not so much when the paint has dried hard as a rock. 

Our preferred method is to get some super hot soapy water and soak the brushes in the water for a few hours or overnight.  Then you take some soap and hot water and massage it through the bristles.  Rinse and repeat until the water runs clear and your bristles are clean.  

Speed up the process by using a paint comb and running it through the bristles while they are wet and covered in soap.

Make sure you only soak the bristles and not the metal band called the ferrel. The water will cause the wood to swell and the metal band to become loose which ruins your brush.

How to Clean Dried Oil Paint Brushes 

You might think that cleaning oil-based paint out of dried paint brushes was impossible and thrown away your old stiff dried up brushes.  You can actually get those brushes nice and soft again without too much hassle. 

You will need an old glass jar or container that can hold liquid.  Then, you grab your mineral spirits or paint stripper and fill the jar.  There are also natural citrus and soy-based paint strippers you can try, but we haven’t used them yet to remove dried paint from a paint brush.   

Place your brushes in the jar and soak them, checking every few minutes to see how it’s progressing.  You can use a paint bomb to separate the bristles on your brush and speed up the process. ​

Keep soaking your brush until all the paint is removed.  Massage dish soap into your brush, work in through and then rinse thoroughly with water once all the paint is removed. 

Cleaning Paint Brushes with Fabric Softener: Fake News? 

Is it true that you can use fabric softener to clean dried paint brushes or is it just a myth?  We are happy to report that using fabric softener actually works!  Here is our step by step method for cleaning up your dried paint brushes.

Please note that this only works when you’ve been using water-based paints like latex/acrylic.  For oil-based paints you need to use paint stripper or mineral spirits and follow our directions above.​

Mix about 1/8 of a cup of fabric softener with 4 cups of water in a bucket or old glass jar.  Stir to mix it well.  Put your bristles into the solution you made and let it sit for a few minutes.  Then, start swishing it around in the fabric softener solution.  

You should see the bristle start to loosen and the paint start coming off your brush.  Use a paint comb to separate the bristles at this point and continue dipping and swishing your brush around in the solution until it comes clean.

We suggest washing your brush off with gentle soap and water so fabric softener residue doesn’t end up in your paint next time you use your brush.

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Homemade Paint Brush Restorer 

For the ultimate DIYer or someone that just doesn’t want to go to the store, good news is this: there are homemade remedies to get those brushes and bristles working like new again. 

We recommend using oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, baby oil or any other type of oil you have around the house.  This will not only remove any oil paint, but it will condition your bristles back to almost new no matter what type of paint you use.

How do you Fix Stiff Paint Brushes? 

A stiff paint brush is usually the result of not rinsing your paint brush with enough water once you’ve clean off wet paint.  Some of the residue from the paint stayed on the brush and it dried, making the bristles stiff.  Good news is that it’s way easier to fix stiff paint brushes than dried paint brushes covered in paint.   

Follow our directions above for removing dried paints (water and oil based) and this will get your brushes soft and ready to paint again.

Tips for cleaning dried paint brushes

  • Clean your paint brushes as soon as possible after use. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to remove dried paint.
  • Use the right solvent for the type of paint on the brush. If you are unsure, consult the manufacturer’s website or a professional painter.
  • Use a scraper or old toothbrush to remove excess paint before soaking the brush.
  • Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the bristles and loosen any remaining paint.
  • Rinse the brush thoroughly with soap and water to remove all traces of solvent and soap.
  • Dry the brush flat on a clean towel to avoid bending or warping the bristles.


In conclusion, cleaning dried paint brushes is an important step in maintaining your painting tools and achieving professional results. With the right materials and techniques, you can revive your dried paint brushes and make them usable again. Be sure to clean your brushes as soon as possible after use


Can I save time using a paint sprayer instead of brushes?

Yes you can, check out or post that compares the time saved.

Can I use water to clean dried paint brushes?

Water alone may not be sufficient to clean dried paint brushes. You may need to use a solvent like mineral spirits or paint thinner to break down the dried paint.

Can I reuse the solvent I use to clean my paint brushes?

You can reuse solvent for cleaning paint brushes, but it will become less effective over time as it becomes contaminated with paint. You should dispose of the solvent properly once it has become too contaminated.

Can I use a hair dryer to dry my paint brush after cleaning it?

Using a hair dryer to dry your paint brush after cleaning it may cause the bristles to warp or bend. It is best to let the brush air dry flat on a clean towel.