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Can You Use Paint Thinner to Clean Paint Brushes?

After using oil paints, you need to clean the paint brush thoroughly to make sure the paint doesn’t dry into the brush. Since oil paint doesn’t mix well with water, how are you supposed to clean your brushes when you are finished?

Can you use paint thinner to clean paint brushes? Absolutely! The best way to clean your paint brushes after using oil paint is with paint thinner. The paint thinner will break down the oil paint and allow it to gently come off the bristles of the brush. When the paint has all been removed, you can then wash the brushes with soap and water.

Before you clean your paint brushes with paint thinner, you will need to know how to do it. The process is pretty simple, but still needs to be followed in the right order to make sure you don’t accidentally ruin the bristles on your brush.

How Do You Clean a Paintbrush With Paint Thinner?

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First, you are going to want to gather all of your materials. This will prevent you from getting halfway through the cleaning process and realizing you need something that you don’t have with you. Grab a wire comb made for paint brushes, your used paint brush, three plastic containers, your paint thinner, and paper towels.

Here are the brands I use and highly recommend:

Arteza Oil Paints

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Sunnyside Paint Thinner

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Artify Oil Paint Brushes

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It is recommended to complete the cleaning process outside or in a room that is extremely well ventilated. You will fill the plastic containers about half full of paint thinner. Using the wire comb, remove all the excess paint from the brush. 

When you have all of the paint off that you can get, place the brush in the first container of paint thinner and let it soak for around five minutes. Wiggle the brush around before taking it out to get every last bit of paint out.

While the brush is soaking, set up a blotting area with the paper towels. Place several layers of paper towels out on a surface that is protected with plastic or a tarp. Remove the brush from the paint thinner and place them on the blotting area. Gently apply pressure to the bristles against the paper towels to blot the tinner off.

You will repeat this process a second time in the second container of paint thinner. After you blot the second time, you will place the brush in the third container to soak for three minutes, swirling the brush around a couple of times. By this point, you shouldn’t see any paint coming out of the brush.

After you finish cleaning the brush with paint thinner, you can wash it with lukewarm water and some gentle soap. Prevent any water from entering the ferrule by keeping the bristles face down. Very gently massage the bristles with the soapy water to fully rinse the solvent from the brush. Rinse with warm water and allow to dry.

Does Paint Thinner Ruin Brushes?

Paint thinner is made with the help of corrosive acids, which can have the potential to damage the bristles and eat through the glue holding the bristles to the ferrule. As long as you are careful and follow the instructions on the can of paint thinner, you shouldn’t have any issues with your brushes getting ruined.

Can You Leave a Paint Brush in Paint Thinner?

If you are finding that the oil paint is being incredibly stubborn and not coming off the brush, you might be wondering if you can let the brush sit in paint thinner for some extra time to allow it to soak more. 

It is acceptable to leave a paint brush sitting in paint thinner for about 24 hours. However, if your paint brushes are lower in quality, there is a potential that the bristles will be damaged. If you have a higher quality brush, your bristles will be fine with a longer soak.

What Is the Difference Between Paint Thinner and Mineral Spirits?

Paint thinners and mineral spirits are talked about together so much that you might think they are the same thing. However, there are quite a few differences between the two products. They have some different characteristics, and some similar characteristics.

Mineral spirits are basically heavily refined petroleum. They are said to be less toxic than paint thinners and have less of an odor. Mineral spirits are likely to be more expensive than paint thinners and are not quite as abrasive when cleaning brushes.

Paint thinners are solvents that are used to thin oil paints and clean paint brushes. Paint thinners such as turpentine are distilled using the resin of pine trees and will usually contain acetone. 

Paint thinners can remove dried paint, while mineral spirits will only remove wet paint. Paint thinners also have more fumes than mineral spirits and are known to be more toxic and flammable.

How Do You Clean Oil Paint Without Paint Thinner?

If you painted with your oil paints before realizing you didn’t have any paint thinner to clean your brushes, there are luckily a couple of ways that you can still clean them without the use of the paint thinner.

The first option is using baby oil. Even cover the bristles of your paint brush with some baby oil and gently massage it into the bristles to break up all of the paint. Make sure you cover every bristle with baby oil to speed up the cleaning process.

After you adequately cover the brushes with baby oil, use a cloth to wipe off the excess oil. Be very careful because you don’t want to break any of the bristles. Start near the ferrule and work your way to the top, gently pulling the oil off the brush. Once you have all the oil and paint off, you can wash the brushes with soap and water.

You can also use linseed oil to clean your paint brushes after you paint with oil. Linseed oil is a very popular method because it is used as an ingredient in oil paint, so they will react together nicely.

For linseed oil, I highly recommend Winsor & Newton Linseed Oil. This brand is amazing, and a lot of their products are odorless!

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Pour some linseed oil onto a paper towel and soak one side of your brush at a time. Wipe off any excess oil with another paper towel and wash the brush with soap and water. You can then let the brush dry like normal.

Is It Okay to Dump Paint Thinner Down the Drain?

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You should never dump paint thinner down your drain. It is much better for the environment, and your home’s plumbing pipes, to take any paint thinner you use to a hazardous waste facility for proper disposal. You will be able to find your local facility with a quick Google search.

You can take the entire container of paint thinner to the facility to be disposed of, or you can take it in separate containers as you use it, 

Final Thoughts

When using oil paints, you can’t just clean the brushes with soap and water. It is important that you use paint thinner to clean your brushes because this will ensure that all of the paint is removed, and your brushes won’t get ruined. 

If you don’t feel comfortable using a paint thinner, you can also clean your brushes with baby oil or linseed oil. No matter what you choose, you will still need to clean the brushes with soap and water after all of the oil paint has been removed. 

Make sure to follow all my tips and recommended products to ensure your oil painted project turns out great! Also, don’t forget to check out my other articles for all your painting Q&A’s. Happy painting! 

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