How To Clean Acrylic Paintbrushes With Vinegar

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To clean acrylic paintbrushes with vinegar, swirl them in vinegar before using a palette knife or toothbrush to remove the remaining paint gently. Next, rinse the brush under warm water until the water runs clear. If the paint has caked the bristles, boil some vinegar and dip the brush heads in. Vinegar is an environmentally friendly option that’s also easily accessible and affordable. In this article, I’ll cover how to clean acrylic paintbrushes with vinegar, a safe, affordable, and effective household staple.

One – Rinse the Brushes Under Warm Water

Before dousing your bristles in vinegar, you must rinse your paintbrushes under warm water. Rinsing your brush helps remove the excess paint and prevents the paint from drying and hardening on the bristles, which will be more difficult to remove. 

Secondly, rinsing with warm water loosens the paint already dried on the bristles. The heat from the water softens the paint, making it easier to remove.

Washing your brushes also prevents the vinegar from mixing with the paint and creating a muddy or discolored solution. This is especially important if you use light-colored vinegar, as the solution could potentially stain the brush bristles if mixed with darker paint colors.

Two – Swirl the Paintbrushes in a Bowl of Vinegar

Next, pour a small amount of vinegar into a cup or bowl. You’ll need to pick a container that’s wide and deep enough for the brush head to fit. The amount of vinegar you use depends on your brush size and the amount of paint you need to remove. 

Be careful not to use too much vinegar, as saturating the bristles can potentially weaken or damage them.

If you work with a large brush or one heavily caked with paint, you may need more vinegar to coat the brush head thoroughly. However, it’s still best to start with a small amount of vinegar and gradually add more if needed, rather than pouring too much at the start.

While the paintbrush is dipped in vinegar, use a swirling motion to help loosen the paint from the bristles and dissolve dried paint. The acid in vinegar breaks down acrylics and makes it easier to remove. Be gentle when swirling the brush to avoid damaging the bristles.

Three – Remove Paint Residue With a Palette Knife or Toothbrush

You can remove the brush from the vinegar when most of the paint has dissolved. If any residue is stuck on the bristles, you can use a palette knife or toothbrush to remove the remaining paint gently

A palette knife or toothbrush helps clear smaller crevices of the brush head and remove hard-to-reach paint. Also, using a circular motion as you go will remove the paint easily and minimize damage to the bristles. 

Four – Final Rinse

You’ll need to rinse the brushes with warm water until the water runs clear to ensure there isn’t any vinegar or paint left on the bristles. Rinse the brush until the water runs clear. If the water is still cloudy or discolored, it may be necessary to repeat steps 2 and 3 until the brush is fully clean.

Washing the brush also eliminates the odor of vinegar from the bristles. While vinegar is a nifty cleaning agent, it can also leave an undesirable strong smell on the brush. If you can smell hints of vinegar after washing, you may need to wash the brush with a spot of dish soap.

Five – Squeeze and Leave the Brushes Out To Dry

Once the brush is clean, gently squeeze out any excess water and reshape the bristles.

To dry the brushOpens in a new tab., lay the brush flat on a clean towel. Avoid standing the brush upright because this can cause water to run down the handle and loosen the glue holding the bristles in place.

Six – Boiling Vinegar

A simple vinegar wash typically cleans freshly soiled paintbrushes well. However, if your paintbrushes have old, hardened paint, you may need to up the ante.

If you want to remove dried, stubborn paint from the bristles, you’ll have to modify the second step of the cleaning process. Instead of swirling the brush in plain vinegar, you need to let the brush head sit in boiling vinegar.

To do this, follow these instructions: 

  1. Bring a small pot of vinegar to a boil on the stove. 
  2. Once the vinegar has reached a boil, carefully place the brush into the pot and allow it to soak, checking the progress every 15 to 20 seconds. 
  3. Once the brush looks clean or when all the paint has dissolved, retrieve your brushes.
  4. Rinse your brush under water to wash away the vinegar and residual paint. 

The heat from the boiled vinegar will soften the hardened paint on the bristles. Remember to be gentle when handling your brushes in hot liquid.

Here are some tips for you when cleaning your brushes with vinegar: 

  • If your brush is stiff after a vinegar wash, try soaking it in a mixture of equal parts water and hair conditioner for a few minutes. This will help to condition the bristles and restore some of their flexibility.
  • Use a separate pot for cleaning paintbrushes with vinegar to avoid cross-contamination with the pots you use to prepare food.
  • Use a lid to seal the pot if you don’t want your kitchen to smell like vinegar when it’s boiling. Covering the pot has the added bonus of bringing the vinegar to a boil faster.

Final Words

To clean your paintbrushes with vinegar, follow these steps: 

  1. Rinse your paintbrushes under water. 
  2. Swirl the brush head in vinegar. 
  3. Gently remove residual paint with a palette knife or toothbrush. 
  4. Wash your brush to remove the vinegar and remaining paint. 
  5. Squeeze the bristles and leave the brush to dry. 

If your brush has old, dried paint on the bristles, you’ll need to boil the vinegar before dipping your brush in the pot. 

Using vinegar is a safe and effective way to remove acrylic paint from your brushes. Follow these steps to keep your brushes clean and preserve their lifespan. 

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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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