How To Clean Latex Paint From Brushes? (6 Methods)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

After completing a painting project, you must remove the latex from the paintbrush. So, how to do it?

To clean latex paint from the paintbrush, use soapy water, rubbing alcohol, or mineral spirits. All of these solvents will dissolve the paint off the bristles. That’s because latex paint is water-soluble, and removing it is easy.

However, you shouldn’t clean the brush too frequently as you can remove the bristles and make it unusable.

Do You Need To Clean Latex Brushes Between Coats?

You don’t have to clean the latex paintbrush between coats because latex dries fast, and cleaning brushes too frequently can deform the bristles. Instead, wrap and seal the paintbrush with plastic wrap, a nylon bag, or aluminum foil and put it inside a fridge.

The wrap will keep the paint fresh (prevent it from drying), and you can re-use it once the coating dries. However, ensure that air won’t get in the plastic wrap and seal the wrap with nylon tape. Since air can’t get in or out of the wrap, the paint’s solvent can’t evaporate, so the paint will remain wet for several hours (24 at best).

If you clean the brush after each use, the bristles will get hard and rigid and won’t apply the paint evenly. So, you must only clean the brush after applying the final coat, or if the wait time is longer than 24 hours.

How To Clean Latex Paintbrushes?

Cleaning latex paint brushes is easy because latex is water-soluble. However, you must use the right tools (or products), so you don’t damage the frail nature of the bristles.

1. Use a Soapy Mixture

Use Soap Mixture To Clean The Latex Paintbrush

Since latex paint is water-based, it will get removed by soapy water when wet. The soapy water will remove the paint and clean the brush’s bristles.

For this method, you’ll need these tools and supplies:

  • Mild detergent or dish soap
  • A bucket of warm water
  • A small comb
  • Rags
  • A soft toothbrush

Here is a guide:

  1. Mix soap (or detergent) with warm water in a large bowl.
  2. Dip the latex paint into the mixture (in the bowl).
  3. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub the bristles.
  4. Use the comb to stroke the bristles — the comb removes paint between tiny bristles.
  5. Wipe the paintbrush with a clean rag, and stroke the bristles again (with the comb).
  6. If there’s leftover paint, repeat the steps.
  7. Rinse the brush with warm water and let it dry.

Tip: Don’t use detergents with bleach or corrosive substances, as it can damage the brush.

2. Use Acetone

Use Acetone

Acetone contains alcohol which is a natural paint remover. The idea is to dip the brush into a bowl of acetone until the pain is dissolved. Acetone will dissolve the particles and cause the paint to liquefy.

For this method, you’ll need the following tools and supplies:

  • A bottle of acetone
  • Rags
  • A comb
  • A soft toothbrush
  • Rags

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Wipe excess paint off the paintbrush with a rag — this reduces the amount of paint acetone has to dissolve.
  2. Pour acetone into a clean bowl and soak a rag into it.
  3. Use the dampened rag to wipe the brush. Optionally, you can also pour some acetone into the brush.
  4. Wait 5-10 minutes.
  5. Use a toothbrush to scrub the bristles; this helps acetone get between them.
  6. Comb out the leftover paint.
  7. Rinse the brush with warm water and shake it to remove excess moisture.
  8. Leave it to dry.

Tip: If the latex paint has hardened, you can soak it in acetone for 5 minutes.

3. Use Mineral Spirits

Use Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirit is a petroleum-based solvent that will dissolve wet or dry water-based paints.

For this method, you need:

  • Mineral spirits
  • A comb
  • A bowl of warm water

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Rinse the brush with warm water — this softens the latex paint, so mineral spirits can work better.
  2. Pour mineral spirits into a clean bowl.
  3. Dip the brush in the mineral spirits bowl and wait 5-10 minutes.
  4. Take out the paintbrush and wipe it down with a clean rag.
  5. Repeat steps #3-4 until the paint is gone.
  6. Rinse the paintbrush with warm water.
  7. Leave it to dry.
  8. After it dries, store it properly, so it doesn’t accumulate dust.

Cleaning your latex paintbrush too frequently will damage the bristles. You must use solvents such as mineral spirits or acetone to clean them. Exposing brush bristles to these solvents will cause them to separate and turn spiky. When this happens, you can’t use them to apply paint anymore.

4. Baking Soda

Baking soda is an alkaline-based solvent that will dissolve wet and dry water-based paints. It’s also safe to use on brushes as it won’t deform them.

To do so:

  1. Mix a few spoons of baking soda with hot water
  2. Soak the brush into the mixture for 10 or 20 minutes if the paint is dry.
  3. Stroke the bristles with a plastic comb.
  4. Wipe the brush with warm water and leave it to dry.

5. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing or denatured alcohol is a natural paint-remover that can dissolve and remove water-based paints.

To use it:

  1. Douse a clean rag with the solvent.
  2. Use the dampened rag to wipe the latex off the brush.
  3. If the paint has dried, soak the brush in a bowl filled with rubbing alcohol for 5 minutes.
  4. Use a plastic comb to stroke the bristles.
  5. Rinse it with clean water and leave it to dry.

But, that’s not all. Check here all the things that dissolve latex paint.

How Many Times Can You Clean a Latex Paintbrush?

You can clean a latex paintbrush as often as possible if you use cleaning methods that don’t damage the bristles. If the bristles aren’t affected or damaged, the brush will continue to apply the paint evenly for several months (or a year).

However, the number of times you can clean it depends on the quality of the brush. For instance, low-quality and inferior brushes will get damaged faster than high-quality brushes. So, to increase the time you can clean it, use a high-quality brush with strong bristles.

On average, you must change your paintbrush every 6 months if you use it frequently. But, if you are an occasional painter, you can use the same brush for several years before changing it.

Final Words

In summary, cleaning a brush after applying latex paint is easy. That’s because latex is water-soluble and is easily removed. You can use acetone, rubbing alcohol, soapy water, or mineral spirits to dissolve it.

However, you shouldn’t clean the brush too frequently as you can damage the bristles. So, instead of cleaning it after each coat, preserve the brush in a nylon bag and wait until the coat dries before re-using it.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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