How To Clean a Dry and Crusted Paintbrush with Vinegar

How To Clean a Paintbrush Easily With Vinegar

How To Clean A Paintbrush with VinegarCrusted dry paintbrush in jar of vinegar - how to clean a paintbrush with vinegarHere's what you need to know about How To Clean a Paintbrush EASILY even when it's covered in dried and crusted paint.  The secret? VINEGAR!

Paintbrushes can be expensive and I always try to clean them as soon as I'm done using them but if I know I'll be using them again the same day I usually wrap them in foil and place them in a ziplock bag in the freezer...strange, I know, but that works to keep the brush from drying out.  A few months ago I had to get a new refrigerator so when I emptied the old refrigerator and freezer I came across a paintbrush from when I was touching up my kitchen cabinets.  I intended to put it in the new freezer but somehow it ended up in my bill sorter....and sat there for months.

But here's how to clean it and make it almost as good as new again! 

*Please note that this is ONLY for water-based paints - please see additional notes at end of post.

Close up of dry and crusted paintbrush

I came across it yesterday and almost threw it away but thought I would see if I could 'save' it.  I found this great tip on Apartment Therapy and it really worked!

Dry and crusted paintbrush in glass jar with vinegar - how to clean a paintbrush with vinegar

First, I soaked the brush in Heinz Cleaning Vinegar in a glass jar.

This next step is what makes it all work!

Paintbrush in cast iron skillet - how to clean a paintbrush with vinegarNext, I boiled some vinegar in a cast iron skillet {you can use a pot} with the brush in it and then reduced the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes.  I turned off the heat and allowed the vinegar {and brush} to cool down.

One more step - we're almost done!

How to clean a paintbrush with vinegar - paintbrush in sink with toothbrush getting cleaned

Once cooled I removed the brush from the skillet and started to work out the dried paint.  I used my fingers and a toothbrush.  At first, I wasn't sure it was going to work but after a few minutes, it started to flex and bend.  I rinsed the brush thoroughly with water and I kept working the paint out of the bristles.  I did have to repeat the process one more time before I was happy with the results.  I'm so glad I didn't toss that brush and the best part is I was able to clean it up without harsh chemicals.

Before and after of paintbrush - how to clean a paintbrush with vinegar

IMPORTANT!!!!! The article on Apartment Therapy noted this disclaimer:  Additional Notes:
This method can involve an open flame so only use this for water based paints.

Long infographic with paintbrush before and after - how to clean a paintbrush with vinegar

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  1. craftandrepeat says:

    Just when you don't think it's possible, there's always one more use for vinegar! This is great to know!

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Isn't that the truth ~ vinegar is amazing! I always have it on hand now when I want to clean.

  2. pianolady5 says:

    Nice! I have a few brushes that could use this treatment.

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Thanks, Mel! It was so easy ~ I would do yours for you if we lived closer. 🙂

      1. pianolady5 says:

        LOL! Thank you, Dear Friend! However, I would hope we could enjoy stuff that was more fun if you lived closer, particularly the making and drinking of a good cup of coffee and some nice visits! 😀

        1. Mary Beth says:

          I like your idea of fun better! 🙂 Someday, hopefully.

  3. Elena @ `a casarella says:

    So timely! I needed this right now. Thank you!!
    🙂 Elena

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Thanks so much, Elena! I honestly could not believe that this worked and worked so well. I have thrown away so many paintbrushes over the years ~ I wish I had them all back now. 🙂

  4. Clydia @ Three Mango Seeds says:

    Isn't this the greatest little trick?! I've done this several times because I'm constantly leaving brushes unwrapped accidentally. Thanks for sharing! XOXO

  5. Yep- going to try it!! Thanks for the tips!

  6. Jenn/Rook No. 17 says:

    I can't tell you how much I needed this, Mary Beth! My beleaguered brushes thank you!


  7. Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage says:

    Great tip - one I wish I had a couple of weeks ago when my paintbrush was up to it's handle in blue paint!!

  8. Bonnie @ Uncommon says:

    What a fantastic tip Mary Beth!!!

  9. Inspire Me Heather says:

    Perfect timing Mary Beth! Thanks for posting your tip - we've got several paintbrushes here that are dried up and thankfully we hadn't tossed them yet!

  10. Good to know, but can you tell me the difference between cleaning vinegar and regular vinegar?

    1. Mary Beth says:

      The cleaning vinegar is stronger than regular vinegar but you can use regular vinegar. I tried it with both. The cleaning vinegar seemed to cut through the crusted on paint quicker and the paint came off with less effort than the regular vinegar but both did work.

    2. By stronger, you must mean there is a difference in the acidity values? I have never seen vinegar that says specifically "cleaning vinegar" but then I have never actively looked for it either. I will check Walmart.

  11. Mary Beth, I have seen several things cleaned on Hometalk using the cleaning vinegar, so I have been looking everywhere for it and can't find it. Where do you find it?

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Hi Shelly! I found it at Walmart but I have also seen it at Giant Eagle {a local grocery store chain}. You can also use regular vinegar but it may take a little extra time to get the paint to loosen up and come off. I tried it with both and found the cleaning vinegar took less time and less effort. I hope that answered your question. 🙂

      Have a great week,

      Mary Beth

  12. Allyson @ All Our Days says:

    Yet another use for vinegar...is there anything it can't do?

    We've love for you to show your posts with our readers at our Finished Friday Link-up.

  13. Wouldn't the cast iron skillet absorb some of the paint chemicals? Seems like you shouldn't use it with food after this...

  14. Debbie @ https://kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.com/ says:

    Great idea and always good to know! Pinning it. Thanks for sharing at Finished Friday!

  15. Have you dropped paint on a or rug and it dried you fetted for not getting it cleaned up right away? Well here is where vinegar works again, Mix half vinegar and water, spray the painted spilled part let set a few minutes put a few drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid on the spot and use a tooth brush scrub a little and wipe it up with a dry cloth. Paint comes right out. No hard work.
    Vinegar works wonders on everything. I use it in my carpet shampooer, cleans up new and old animal stains and takes away the smell. LOVE IT!!!!

  16. Meg Sluyter says:

    I so wish I had found this last week, I just tossed a paint crusted brush. The good news is, I'm always doing this so this tip will come in VERY HANDY! I put my brushes and paint in the fridge too to keep it from drying out (the paint is usually in a paint tray and rather than pouring it back in the can, I just put it in the fridge overnight if I'll be using it agian). Thanks for sharing this and saving my paint brushes too! 🙂

  17. I like this idea! I have used rubbing alcohol to soak brushes as well, but I think this is safer.. and you definitely can't boil alcohol!

  18. Alice (@mumsmakelists) says:

    Great tip - what would we do without good old vinegar! Alice x

  19. Jocie@TheBetterHalf says:

    where was this post a month ago! great tip! Featuring you tonight and pinned!

  20. Thistlewood Farms says:

    Great idea!! I can't wait to use this!!

    Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!!

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Thanks, KariAnne ~ I'm sure you'll be doing a lot of painting with your new acquisition. 🙂

      I did have a wonderful Mother's Day ~ I hope you did as well, sweetie.

      Mary Beth

  21. Claire @ A Little Claireification says:

    Thanks so much for linking up at my "Best Of The Weekend" party! Featuring this tomorrow on my blog. 🙂
    xoxo, Claire

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  24. Denyse @ Glitter, Glue & Paint says:

    Great tip, Mary Beth! With the amount of painting I've been doing lately. I'm sure this will come in handy for me one day. Thanks for sharing at Throwback Thursday.


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