How to clean oil paint from brushes without paint thinner?

These tiny brushes are a huge part of the painting and keeping these oil paint brushes clean and in a good condition is very important to become a successful artist. But doing so can be a bit of a challenge due to the lack of proper attention and time on these tiny brushes. In addition, oil paint thinners are not always available due to their higher prices. In this article, we will suggest 10 ways to clean your oil painting brushes without using these expensive paint thinners.

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5 ways to clean oil paint from brushes

These ways are enlisted according to the availability of needed products. Those ways in which products that are easily available in the market at cheaper rates are enlisted at the top. So, you can select any of the following according to your easiness.

1. Using soap and water to clean oil paint

Soap (Image Credit: Canva)

Soap is easily available in the market and at home. There are two factors that are important. Bristles of oil paint brushes come in two forms. One is made from human hairs and the second is known as artificial bristles.

Using soap works effectively but we have to take care of the quality of the brush. As human hair gets drier when you wash them with soap. As alkaline properties of soap contain higher PH value which disturbs the normal PH value of human hairs.

You must have knowledge about the bristles of your paint brushes to get benefits from this trick. Artificial bristles don’t have any harmful effects from using soap.

Method to apply soap & water to clean oil paint brushes

Take a separate jar and put soap in it. Pour a little amount of water in it to extract the soap formula water. Rub soap to get a soapy layer of it over water.

Now take your dirty paint brushes and dip their bristle one by one in the container. Take a paper or cloth to clean the brush well. Dip brushes again and again until all the paint gets off them.

2. Using Vinegar to clean oil paint off from brushes

Vinegar (Image Credit: Canva)

People frequently use vinegar in cooking. It is also easily available at home or you can get it from the market. It contains acetic acid which breaks the linseed oil present in dried paint on brushes.

Acetic acid has proven good for natural hair. You don’t need to worry about the formation of your paint bristles when using vinegar. Moreover, it will also clean bacteria and additional germs from the paintbrush.

Method to use vinegar to clean oil paint from brushes

This process is not time friendly. To get results, you have to wait for 24 Hours. Take a clean jar and pour a small amount of vinegar to dip the bristle of paintbrush. Dip the tip of the brush and leave it for a whole day.

After a whole day, dried oil paint on brushes must be expanded a little bit showing a gelly-like consistency. Now, use a paper towel to remove the oil paint from the brush.

This could be slightly hard to remove the paint from bristle. Keep dipping the brush over and over and vinegar and clean with vinegar until you get a fully cleaned brush.

You can use a hair conditioner to correct the shape of the bristle of paint brushes. Just apply conditioner and rinse off after some time.

3. Using nail polish remover to clean oil paint brushes

Nail polish remover
Nail polish remover (Image Credit: Amazon)

If you don’t have a thinner then nail polish removing liquid is an alternative option with the same results. Nail polish remover contains acetone which works the same as a thinner. It will instantly clean the brushes.

There is a risk for the bristle which can fall off by the reaction of alcohol present in nail polish. To avoid it, you just have to apply it only on the bristle.

How to use nail polish remover to remove oil paint from brushes?

Take a separate jar and pour a little amount of nail polish remover in it. Dip the top of the brush in this liquid and wait for some time. Now, take out the brush and rub it on a clean paper or towel until all the paint come off.

4. Use linseed oil to clean oil paint brushes

If other options are not feasible then linseed oil is the best fit in terms of safety and effectiveness. Linseed oil is very popular in oil painting to give paints a required glossy look.

Linseed oil also a healthy product containing some ingredients rich in necessary vitamins. It can also be use as a paint cleaner because it work to soften the consistency of paint.

How to use linseed oil to clean oil paint brushes?

Take a jar and pour linseed oil in. As linseed oil not a harmful substance. So, you din;t need to do any precautionary measures. Put your paint brush in jar and mix it well until the paint come off. Try to pull out all the pigments of paint out of the bristle.

It will be gpod if you will allow some time to soak linseed oil in the paint brush. You can also use a used linseed oil again for cleaning purposes.

5. Using baby oil to clean brushes

Baby oil
Baby oil (Image Credit: Amazon)

Baby oil is also a good substance to remove oil paint off brushes. It is new but a working trick. Oil paint contains oil so water is not able to remove that paint containing oil. Baby oil contains mineral oil which is also use in solvents.

Baby oil don’t comntains such actyivbe ingredients so it is nit harmful for the briustles of paint brushes. It will even arrange the bristle in proper form.

How to use baby oil to clean oil paint brushes?

In this method, you hahve to use the bare hands to pull out the paint out of brush. Aplly baby oil and leave brush for a half hour. Then take some amount of water and dip brush in it. Gently, wipe all the paint out of brush on a paper or towel to make it completely clean.


What is the least damaging way to clean oil paint from a paint brush?

To get highly beneficial results, you can use the following ingredients.
1. Turpentine
2. Soap
3. Water
Take these three ingredinets sperately. Make water of soap and then put it in jar. Dip the paint brush one by one in each jar and try to wipe paint off. You are going to get best results with least damage.

What is the best solvent to clean oil paints from brushes and palettes?

Turpoentine is the most well known solvent to clean oil paint from brushes. It works well but it contains a toxic smell. Othervise, it works perfectly fine.

Can you use turpentine to clean paint brushes?

Yes, Turpentine is solvent and an effective oil paint thinner which can also be use for coleaning purposes. It is also the best cleaner of oil paint but it contains a tixic smell which is negative point.

How do you clean oil paint off your paint brushes without solvent or turpentine?

There are many options to do so but these two substances are the most effective ones in doing so. You can use a soap, baby oil, nail polish remover etc for the same purpose.


There are various factors that artists don’t prefer using paint thinners but there are always some solutions for every problem. You can even use soap, baby oil, linseed oil or even vinegar to clean oil paint brushes. Always take care the quality of your brush and avoid using these substances in larger amount because they can dry the bristles of paint brushes.

Related article

If you have any questions, you may ask. We will add your question in FAQs to help others also. If you are a beginner, you can check our beginner’s guide for oil painting.

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