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How to Clean Dried Out Paint Brushes

In this video, Ask This Old House painter Mauro Henrique explains that while paintbrushes need to be cleaned after every use, all is not necessarily lost if the paint dries on a brush.

Expert painter Mauro Henrique shows host Kevin O’Connor how to bring an old paintbrush back to life. Kevin explains that a “friend” let their wet paintbrush sit too long, allowing it to harden and become unusable. Mauro explains the importance of cleaning a paintbrush after every use before showing Kevin some methods of removing the dried paint from the bristles with a chemical brush cleaner.

After donning some safety gear, Mauro shows Kevin how to soak the brush in the chemical solution and explains how to tell when it’s ready. The two then remove the paint using a soft-bristled brush and careful strokes before rinsing the brush with clean water. Finally, Mauro straightens out the bristles to get them ready for the next paint project.

How to Clean a Dried Paintbrush

  1. Place the brush in an empty, clean paint bucket. If the bucket has a magnet, place the ferrule (the metal part) of the brush against it to hold it in place.
  2. Put on rubber gloves and pour the brush cleaner into the bucket, filling to just above the height of the dried paint.
  3. Allow the brush cleaner to soak into the paintbrush and dried paint for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. After allowing the brush to soak, use the soft-bristled brush to loosen and remove the paint. Brush from the ferrule toward the tip of the brush. Continue brushing until all of the chunks of paint are loose. If necessary, soak the brush again.
  5. With all of the paint removed, use fresh, clean water to rinse the brush. Place the 2x4 in the bucket and use it as a work surface to brush against as you rinse the paintbrush. Use a clean brush to rinse the paint from the bristles. Continue until the water running from the paintbrush is clear.
  6. With the tip inside the rim of the bucket, spin the handle of the brush between your palms to remove excess water.
  7. Use the comb brush to straighten the bristles and ensure the paintbrush is ready for the next project.

Can You Put a Paint Brush in a Plastic Bag?

Is there a way to preserve the brush without washing it out twice? Mauro recommends allotting enough time to complete an entire painting project before starting. However, this is not always possible. One quick trick is to take a plastic bag and place the brush inside of it. Then, squeeze all the air out of the bag and zip it shut. You can also do a grocery bag, squeeze the air out, and seal it up with painter’s tape.

This technique should only be done if you have to walk away from the job for a few hours. After a full day, it won’t work.


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