cleaning oil paint brushes

How to Clean Oil Paint Brushes – Best Oil Brush Cleaner

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As many painters know, the best way to clean paint brushes is mainly based on the paint medium you are using. If you are using a watercolor or acrylic paint medium, then a simple rinse with soapy water and a wipe down of your brushes will be sufficient. Cleaning oil paint brushes is not as easy. Due to their oily base, these end up drying very hard and often require solvents or thinners to remove effectively from surfaces as well as your oil brushes. Leaving dry paint on your brushes for extended periods can lead to them being unusable and they will keep needing to be replaced. Below we will explore some great tips when it comes to the best way to clean paintbrushes.



How to Clean Oil Paint Off Brushes

Some say you can use your dish detergent and some water to clean your oil brushes effectively if they are still wet when you do this. Although there are many conflicting reviews about this. Oil artists will tell you that using a dish soap can ruin your brushes in the long run and possibly change to the texture of the bristles too. Once the paint left on your brushes has been given time to dry, it is much harder to soften the paint within your bristles. Thus, only a spirit, alcohol or oil solvent will get the job done. Oil paints are also messy, therefore, using a chemical or alcohol-based remover will yield the best results. Although these can also be harsh on your brushes and other surfaces.

how to clean oil paint brushes

Some options of the best oil brush cleaners are turpentine, linseed oil, artist soap bars, safflower oil and walnut oil just to name a few. The oil options are a lot softer on your bristles and assist in protecting them for longer use. Some people also like to use brush washers and special cups or buckets that you can purchase to use for cleaning your brushes as well. One good example of this would be Paint Puck! Who stocks a silicone cleaning mug, other brands also come in stainless steel options.  Although it is more of a personal preference and not completely necessary for those just starting out.

PAINT PUCK Paint Brush Cleaner Rinse Cup, All-in-One
  • Multipurpose paint brush cleaner can be used for acrylic, watercolor and oil paint
  • A flexible, silicone lid with small brush resting areas to hold brushes while they’re rinsing out or not in use
  • Four fun color choices – these rinse cups come in red, blue, green, and lavender
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The Best Way to Clean Paint Brushes

This may seem like an easy thing to do, but there is a two-part process that will assist in longer-lasting brushes and easier clean-up. When you are done painting and would like to clean your brushes, it is important to first remove the outside layer of paint leftover on the bristles. Add your thinner or solvent to a container and mix your brushes in there to better loosen the paint bits. Now you can use an old towel or paper towel to gently wipe your tools and dry them. Sometimes it helps to then rinse your paintbrushes again, under some lukewarm water to let any excess oils run out. Dry them again when the water runs a little clearer.

The next step which not everyone knows to follow through with, assists in removing any remaining paint and oil residue. With oil paint you need to make sure to get to the layer that is stuck deep within your paint brush bristles. If they are left to dry, it will result in a stiff and unusable paintbrush. You will need to use your thinners again and dip the brushes in quickly to get them. After this, you will use an artist’s hand soap and gently rub your paintbrushes on the soap to remove the hidden paint. The soapy lather will reach the fine layers in between your bristles loosening hidden oil residue, which will be evident in colors appearing on your soap. Dry your paintbrushes afterward and store them neatly till next time!

Below we will discuss some great product recommendations for oil brush cleaners available online or at your local art shop.

clean oil paint brushes



Best Oil Brush Cleaner: GAMBLIN GAMSOL Odorless Mineral Spirits Bottle

Gamblin Gamsol is a big name in the painting world because they have various options to match most if not all, of your painting needs. This odorless paint brush cleaner is a great choice for thinning different mediums as well as for cleaning those tough oil brushes. These are also a safer option because of their low toxicity and odor-free quality, compared to using mediums containing turpentine or gum. Apart from having no strong smell, Gamblin Gamsol mineral spirits are of a thin, clear consistency for easy use.

GAMBLIN Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits Bottle
  • Excellent solvent for thinning Gamblin mediums and for general painting
  • Gamsol Is a petroleum distillate made in the United States
  • Evaporates 100 percent and leaves no residue in paint layers
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This product is a petroleum distillate which means it completely evaporates when used in layers of your paintings and leaves none of the residue oil options may leave behind. It can also be used with other mediums like pencils or pastels. By placing your solvent on a cotton ball or bud, they can be used to blend and smooth your artwork quite easily. Gamblin mineral spirits are chemical-based, so are not safe for use on skin or sensitive areas. If you are using it, try and wear gloves to avoid skin burning and irritation if accidentally exposed.


  • Odorless
  • Can be used with other mediums
  • Easy to use
  • No oily residue
  • Safer option


  • Toxic on skin
  • May be pricey


Best Oil-based Paint Brush Cleaner: WINSOR & NEWTON Refined Linseed Oil

Another big name in the painting supply world and for good reason. Winsor and Newton supply professional quality linseed oil at a very affordable price. Being the most used oil by many artists worldwide we can see how they got their reputation. A benefit to using oil instead of spirits on your brushes and paintings is that this can be added to your paints and other oil-based mediums in order to keep them wet longer while you paint.

WINSOR & NEWTON Refined Linseed Oil
  • Refined linseed oil is the most commonly used oil by artists
  • Add to other oils to slow drying, reduces oil color consistency
  • Increases gloss and transparency
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Winsor and Newton linseed oil will assist in increasing the glossy shine of your work while also smoothly blending colors for a more professional look. Being an oil, this has a thicker consistency than opting for a solvent or spirit thinner and can be used to nourish and revive your smaller wooden items around the house too. Like chopping boards or wooden countertops. This will need to be reapplied every few months, however due to wear and tear caused by washing or any moisture on those surfaces. This oil will leave your oil paint brushes clean and smooth for years to come.


  • Natural product
  • Assists with blending
  • Adds shine and gloss to your work
  • Thicker consistency to coat brushes
  • Cost-effective


  • Users report a hard to open cap
  • Smaller bottle than other brands

oil brush cleaner



Best Multi-Purpose Brush Cleaner: JACK RICHESON Linseed Studio Soap

Jack Richeson linseed studio soap is a miracle cleaner! Apart from being a fantastic paint brush cleaner, it can also be used to clean floors, your hands and even other surfaces. This studio soap can be used to clean brushes after using different paint mediums like acrylics, watercolors and oil paints. Made from naturally refined linseed oil and a blend of other natural cleaners, this studio soap nourishes and restores your brushes while also being low odor and non-toxic.

JACK RICHESON Linseed Studio Soap
  • Easily removes dried oils, acrylics, watercolors and other artist paints
  • Works well for art paints on clothing
  • Restore and protect valuable brushes
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It is also known to do a good job of cleaning dried paint brushes and remove paint that has been messed with fabric and clothes without harming the materials. This linseed studio soap works wonders and is gentler not only on your painting tools but your skin too. With such a great reputation and budget-friendly price, it may just be the most versatile oil brush cleaner around. This product may require soaking your brushes overnight before you see effective results.


  • Versatile for use on different surfaces
  • Works well on various paint mediums
  • Conditions and restores brushes
  • Budget-friendly
  • Safe for skin
  • Low odor


  • Overnight soaking
  • One size available



Natural Paint Brush Cleaners

Now that we know of some great product recommendations for oil brush cleaners, we can explore some natural alternatives too! Natural alternatives can be just as effective as harsh chemicals without being toxic to work with. These are usually items you would have around the home or that would be cheaper and easier to acquire. Alternatives include cleaning oil paint brushes with vinegar, baby oil and even citrus. Specifically, using citrus as a thinner is done by taking the oil from citrus fruit peels and using it with isoparaffin. While it may seem a little time-consuming, combined with the power of the citrus oils, this mix breaks down the oil and grease from your brushes and provides a fresh scent too that is non-toxic. Chelsea Classical Studio Citrus Essence Brush Cleaner takes this idea to a new level and is made with 100% citrus fruits. Making it safe and all natural.

CHELSEA CLASSICAL STUDIO Citrus Essence Brush Cleaner
  • Cleans better and more thoroughly than almost all other brush cleaners and solvents.
  • Conditions brushes making the hair subtle maintaining maximum working quality.
  • A safer, natural alternative to turpentine, petroleum, mineral spirits and other toxic solvents.
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How to Clean Dried Paint Brushes

Already known for its versatile cleaning properties, it is no surprise that you can clean your oil paint brushes with white vinegar too.  For oil paints that have been left a little longer between cleans, they start to harden and become brittle. Placing these in some warm white vinegar to soak for a while, will loosen those paint layers and not damage your brushes in the process. Cleaning oil paint brushes with vinegar is a super easy and pocket-friendly method when you are running low on artist supplies or strapped for cash.

paint brush cleaner


Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes with Vinegar

This method is fairly simple and should take under 45 minutes to complete. First, you want to pour your white vinegar into a pot, on low heat on your stove. Let it come to a slight simmer or boil, now you can leave your paintbrush in the white vinegar and come back in 20 minutes while it soaks. Once done, rinse your brushes with warm, soapy water and loosen any paint still stuck in the bristles with your fingers or a soft cloth to get them clean. Once your water is running clear you can leave your brushes to dry on a flat surface.



Reviving Old and Caked Brushes

Here is a nifty trick for those oil paint brushes that seem hard, and brittle. They may seem better off in the trash but this recommendation could just save them with only two household ingredients – fabric softener and hair gel!  All you need to do is apply some of the gel onto your brush bristles and cover those completely. Then let them soak for a while in your fabric softener water. Gently wipe and dry them afterward. There you have it, brushes revived! Let us take a look at some natural oil brush cleaner recommendations on the market right now:

how to clean oil paint off brushes



The Best Eco-Friendly Paint Brush Cleaner: ECO SOLVE

Eco solve has launched a completely eco-friendly and non-toxic oil paint thinner and brush cleaner that is actually soy-based. This product is a wonderful natural alternative to replace the usual solvents and chemical thinners. With no harmful additives, this oil brush cleaner is perfect for cleaning brushes as well as restoring them. Although not harmful, some users have reported a strong odor when using Eco Solve, so it is best to use it in a well-ventilated area or outdoors. Just because it is a vegan and cruelty-free product, do not underestimate its strength. Eco solves paint thinner and brushes cleaner is a very potent oil brush cleaner and if using too much, it can eat away at cheaper quality brush handles. This is also a concern while using it to paint with, it can break down the paints applied if you use too much.

ECO SOLVE Eco-Friendly Paint Thinner and Brush Cleaner
  • 100% Non-toxic and natural oil paint thinner and brush cleaner
  • Ideal for professional artists – does not emit harmful vapors
  • Soy-based and vegan. Cruelty-free
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  • Eco friendly, all natural
  • No harsh chemical or smells
  • Cost-effective
  • Only need to use a little, will last longer


  • May eat away at paint if too much used
  • Only comes in one size
  • Some users reported a strong smell


Best Artist Soap for Cleaning Oil Brushes: ESCODA Natural Artist Brush & Hand Soap

Escoda soap bar for brushes and hands is manufactured in Spain. This natural bar is made with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and water which makes it effective for brush cleaning and safe for your skin too! Because there are two rich oils included in their recipe, this artist soap bar will leave your paint brushes and your hands feeling soft and in good condition. The gentle cleaning power of Escoda removes the residue left in your oil paint brushes without much effort.

ESCODA Artist Brush & Hand Soap, Natural
  • Made with extra virgin olive oil soap, each bar is 3.53 oz
  • Artists will love this natural soap that conditions brushes with each use
  • The Escoda soap measures 2.0" L x 3.0" W x 0.8" H
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Escoda soap bars are also useful in the reshaping of your brushes. Their natural composition will condition the bristles making them more flexible and easier to shape. While the size of this bar may seem small, it should last a few months if used only on your brushes. If you cannot resist the temptation of using this silky soap on your hands then you may need to get more sooner.


  • All-natural
  • Safe for skin
  • Easy to use and store away
  • Conditions and restores brushes
  • Cost-effective


  • Cannot use on paintings as you would other mediums


The Best Natural Alternative: NOW Essential Oils Spike Lavender

You may be wondering why we would recommend spike lavender oil as an oil brush cleaner, well this natural oil acts very similar to paint thinners like odorless mineral spirits and turps which help it to break down the residue and oil on your brushes for an easier clean. This also means it can be used on all your brushes no matter what medium you are using. As it is safe and contains no damaging chemicals.

As far as natural-based alternatives go, lavender oil is wonderfully safe, eco-friendly and calming. Doing our history, we have found that spike lavender oil was used in the 15th century, not only as a paint thinner but also for brush cleaning and as a varnish substitute. The reason this is not as popular as thinners and other solvents on the market is due to the price factor when compared to paint thinners.


  • Easy to get
  • Versatile medium
  • Smells great
  • Can be poured down the drain


  • Pricey
  • Not always available in large quantities

So there you have it. The best methods to clean oil paint brushes as well as the best product recommendations and natural alternatives. Now there are no more excuses for dirty brushes!

best way to clean paint brushes



Frequently Asked Questions


How to Clean Oil Paint Off Brushes?

Oil paint can be cleaned using various different mediums. The best way to ensure your oil brushes are clean and will last longer is to clean them while painting and then again afterward in order to avoid drying the paint. You can do this by using spirits, thinners or natural oils. The oils will assist not only with your brush texture and quality but will also be helpful in creating smooth and glossy works of art.


How to Clean Dried Paint Brushes?

The best way to clean dried paintbrushes is by using a heated pot of white vinegar. This will loosen the paint stuck deep within your bristles and will also protect and soften them. Much like when using white vinegar on your hair, it will restore the PH balance of those fine bristle hairs and keep your brushes restored and looking brand new. This is also a safe and natural household ingredient that is cheap, easy to acquire and not harmful to your painting tools.


What’s the best Way to Clean Paint Brushes?

This will often depend on the paint medium you are using. While watercolors and acrylics are easily washed off using some soapy water, using dish soap on oil brushes can cause damage. The soap will affect your bristles making them much harder for future use. In order to keep them soft, oils and artist soaps are the best methods. These often contain rich natural oils that will nourish and protect your brushes for years to come.


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