How To Clean Latex Paint From Your Brushes In 3 Simple Steps

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated August 30, 2021
Woman painting wall
BARTON / DigitalVision via Getty Images

Warm water, a little soap, patience, and if you want to splurge—a couple of pro tools is all you need to clean latex paint from your brushes

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After a long weekend of painting the walls the perfect shade of cerulean, you’re tired and probably not too interested in cleaning paintbrushes after the last touch-up. Resist the urge to drop and run; dried latex paint on your brushes adds extra time to the overall clean-up and could ruin your quality brushes. 

The good news is that paintbrush cleaning is quick and simple. All you need is soap and water in a pinch, but these steps offer helpful advice to make the chore even easier. 

Difficulty: 1

Time: 10 minutes 

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Paint can

  • Towels

  • Newspaper

  • Latex gloves

  • Bucket

  • Liquid dish soap

  • Paintbrush and roller spinner

  • Paintbrush comb

1. For An Easier Clean, Practice Good Latex Paintbrush Hygiene

Your sore muscles say it's time to take a break from painting the walls, ceiling, and trim. Don’t ditch the brush and grab a sandwich—you’ll pay for it with extra scrubbing later. Dried, crusty paint makes the paintbrush cleaning process longer and more tedious, so don’t let it air dry. 

Instead, finish the paint load on the brush and wipe the bristles on the can’s rim to remove excess. Then, here’s a cool pro-approved painting hack: tightly wrap the bristles with cling wrap to keep the paint moist. This is the perfect temporary fix for when you're heading back to the project sooner than later. But, cling wrap isn’t recommended for more than a 24-hour fix.

2. Clean and Rinse the Bristles

Cute painted child's bedroom with mountains
Patryk Kosmider -

When you’re finished painting, “it's time to clean up, clean up,” as the preschoolers say. You’ll need a few minutes per brush and some space to splash a bit. 

To start, give the brush a good rinse under running water to wash most of the paint down the drain. Don’t worry; most municipal water waste systems greenlight washing the latex paint but make sure your septic tank can handle the paint remains. 

Next, fill your sink or bucket with warm water and about a teaspoon of mild liquid dish soap. Massage and gently spread the bristles and watch the rest of the paint disappear. Depending on how much color is on the brush, you might have to rinse and repeat a few times until the rinse cycle runs clear. 

If you’ve invested in high-quality brushes that you’d like to use over and over, it makes sense to go ahead and also invest in a paintbrush comb (it looks like a wide-gapped flea comb for dogs). The comb takes cleaning to the next level and catches paint in the center of the brush you might miss. 

Don’t sweat buying this inexpensive brush tool; there are money-saving tips when planning a DIY painting project, like choosing an all-in-one primer/paint combo.

3. Correct Paintbrush Drying Makes a Difference

You might not think drying your brushes the right way is a big deal, but it is if you’ve spent your hard-earned money on quality brushes and want them to last. DIYers, you can spin the handle between your palms to throw excess water. It’s probably a good idea to go outside for this.  Then, blot dry on newspaper. 

But, pro painters and those who cherish spotless tools for each job buy a brush and roller spinner. Remember centrifugal force from high school science? If a salad spinner comes to mind, you’re on the right track. The spinner draws the most water from the brush. 

Finally, comb and reshape the brush and let it hang to dry if you can, otherwise lay it flat. When you reach for the paintbrushes later to paint the next perfect shade of blue, you’ll be glad you took the extra 10 minutes to clean up the right way.

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