Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cleaning Dried Chalk Paint Out of My Paintbrush

We've all done it ... finished a project with Chalk Paint and forgot to wash out the brush ... or at least put it into a container to soak so we can wash it out later.  I just found this brush full of paint on the bench in my basement workshop (one of my favorite 2" Purdy angled sash brushes).  The last piece I painted with this color (which is a custom mix of Annie Sloan's Olive, Graphite, and Old White)  was a set of end tables that I sold at Lucketts (in May), so that's how long this brush has been sitting there with dried paint in it.

Can this brush be saved?  It's Chalk Paint, so of course it can!!

First, I soaked the brush in a cup of water ... nothing added to the water ... it's not necesary.  The idea is to let the water saturate the brush.  I put the brush into the cup, go do something else for a while, and come back later in the day.  I've been known to soak a brush overnight, so I can get right to cleaning it the next morning.  Make sure the water level in the cup covers the paint on the bristles, but is below the ferrule (The metal part that holds the bristles).

Next, I use my fingers and I bend and separate the bristles to break up the paint.  The dried paint is still going to be hard.  The goal here is to crack and loosen the paint out of the bristles.  Remember to be gentle because it's pretty easy to scramble the bristles, which will ruin the brush.

I gently swirl the brush in the palm of my hand, and stroke the paint out of the bristles.  The dried paint doesn't dissolve, it breaks up into small bits, and it easily rinses away.

Once I have most of the paint out of the bristles (which can take a while ... be patient), I squirt a small dab of dish detergent onto the brush, swirl it onto my hand, and work the lather into the bristles to remove the last little bits of paint.

Rinse the brush under running water until the water runs completely clear.  (Go ahead and soap the brush up again if you think it needs it.)  Give the brush a good shake to remove any excess water.  Shape the bristles, then hang it by the handle or lay it flat to dry.

Ta Dah!!!  All clean!

Edited, in response to comments, to add:
When I'm in the middle of a project and I have to stop for the day, I put my brush into a baggie, and I seal it closed.  It's only after I finish a project that I take the time to wash out my brush completely.

I know there are other ways to reclaim a brush full of dried Chalk Paint, but this post is meant to show that the only thing you really need to use is water and a bit of patience.  By contrast, if your brush is full of dried latex or oil-based paint, you're gonna need a solvent.  When this has happened to me, I just punt and toss the brush. 


  1. That's what I do, but purely by instinct. It's good to know I'm doing it correctly. Great post!


  2. I'll bet we have all forgotten a good paint brush once in a while. Great 'how to'. Have a wonderful day!

  3. Here's another tip: If you know you can't wash the brush right away, put the business end of the brush in a sandwich baggie and tie it closed around the handle with a twist tie. It's great for keeping the brush from drying out during a break or even overnight!

  4. Since most of my projects take more than one day, I do what Heather does, because I don't always want to take the time to clean up until the job is completely done.

  5. I've done that so many times~! Soaking the brush in hot vinegar works wonders as well.

  6. Yep---and if my brush is full of paint and I know I am going to need it in a day or so I put it in a zip lock bag and FREEZE it until I need it. Works great with all water-based paints. I also use a brush "comb" to get all the paint out- it breaks it up very easily. xo Diana

  7. Thanks for sharing, great tips!

  8. I'm like you -- if the brush is going to take more time than it's worth to salvage, I toss it. :)

  9. This is a stupid question but what temperature of water do you use?

    1. Not a stupid question at all. Just regular warm water from the tap. Anything hotter will damage the brush, since this one has synthetic bristles.

  10. Don't throw the brush away!
    Lift Off, Goof Off, Goo Gone - all have latex paint remover sprays that dissolve even cured latex paint. The brush will live to see another day.


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