Can You Use Brush Soap for Painting Classes?

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When I teach at sip and paint classes, a lot of people ask me about how to clean brushes when they are finished painting. A common question asked is, “Should I use brush soap to clean my brushes?”

I don’t often use any type of brush soap to clean my brushes. I rinse each brush after applying a color to a painting, and I encourage paint night students to do the same.

When you are constantly rinsing off your brushes, there is no real need for any type of brush soap. If you are working with acrylic paints, it is easy to get brushes clean with only water.

But, there are times when brush soap does come in handy. Keep reading to learn about when and how to use brush soap.

What Does Brush Soap Do?

Brush soap is used to clean artist paint brushes, removing wet or dried and caked-on paint from the bristles. This cleaning solution is gentle but strong enough to thoroughly clean paint from all of your brushes.

There are many different brands of brush soap, but when you come right down to it, they all do pretty much the same thing. The ingredients are also very similar.

Not only will soaking your brushes in brush soap help to get them nice and clean, but this soap also helps to keep the bristles conditioned. So, after cleaning, your brushes will always be ready whenever you feel the urge to paint.

The most popular brush soaps are liquid soaps. In addition to actual brush soaps, I always tell paint and sip party guests that any mild liquid soap, such as Dawn dish detergent, will do the trick nicely.

Wipe Down Brushes Before Cleaning Them

Before cleaning paint brushes, I always make sure that I wipe them off on a piece of paper towel or a clean rag. Not only does this get rid of a lot of excess paint, but it will also help to keep the water in the water cup cleaner (you should still change the water frequently to keep it nice and clear).

Always wipe upwards when cleaning paint brushes. This will keep the bristles from splitting and the brush will not lose its shape.

Use a Brush Cleaner

One of the tools I always bring to sip and paint parties is a brush cleaner. You can buy brush cleaners, but I like to show paint party guests how to make their own.

All you need is a jar with a piece of screen at the bottom. When you place the brushes into the jar, rub them against the screen, and this will help to remove any excess paint.

I always encourage paint party guests to do this often throughout a painting session. That way, they won’t have to do a lot of scrubbing after they are finished painting.

How to Make Your Own Brush Cleaner

You can easily make your own brush cleaner from ingredients that you may already have in your home. 

Here are a few brush cleaner recipes you can try, all of which I talk about at paint and sip parties.

Vinegar Brush Cleaner

If you are using latex paint, this is a great cleaning solution. All you need is vinegar and mild dish soap.

Put some vinegar in a pot, and bring it to a boil. Place your brushes on an aluminum tray, and pour in enough of the boiling vinegar to completely submerge the brushes. Almost immediately, you will notice some of the paint coming off.

After about 10 minutes, once the vinegar has become lukewarm, use a wire brush to get rid of any paint that is still on the brushes. Keep doing this until there is no paint left.

Mix one tablespoon of mild dish liquid in a cup of warm water, and gently clean the brushes to remove any remaining vinegar.

Cleaning Brushes with Mineral Spirits

For this method of cleaning paintbrushes, you will need to put a bit more effort in. The only thing you will need for this method, which I sometimes use for cleaning oil paint or dried acrylic paint from my brushes, are some mineral spirits.

All you have to do is soak the brushes in about two cups of mineral spirits. Once the paint starts to look gooey, it is time to get to work.

Scrape off the loose paint with a putty knife or something similar. Once you have removed as much as you can by scraping, you can wash the brushes in a mixture of four cups of water and one cup of fabric softener.

Wear a pair of rubber gloves for the next step. Massage the fabric softener mixture into the bristles, and in a few minutes, the brushes should be completely cleaned.

Cleaning Brushes with Denatured Alcohol

Here is another brush-cleaning method I like to share with paint and sip students. This recipe is simple, with just one cup of warm water and one cup of denatured alcohol.

Combine the two ingredients into a glass bowl. Place your brushes into the mixture, and let them soak for around five minutes.

Next, use an old hairbrush or a brush comb to brush out any remaining paint. Allow the brushes to dry on a paper towel before storing them until your next sip and paint session.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are painting on your own or at a paint and sip party, it is important to always keep your brushes clean. I always rinse my brushes in the water cup after each use.

It is a good idea to get into the habit of replacing the water in the water cup each time you clean your brush. That way, the water isn’t going to become muddy. If you clean a brush in muddy water, that muddiness is going to show up in your painting.

You can find many commercial brush cleaners at art supply stores. But, the recipes I have provided today will work just as well, and save you a lot of money. With the high cost of art supplies, saving money on cleaners will give you more money to spend on other painting materials.