How Do You Clean Oil Paint Brushes Without Paint Thinner?

Cleaning oil paintbrushes might be daunting for some artists, especially those new to oil painting. After all, oil paint is notorious for being more challenging to clean and requiring special solvents like paint thinner for an effective clean. However, other ways exist to clean oil paintbrushes without using paint thinner.

You can use mineral oil, baby oil, liquid detergent, and water to get the job done. Before applying any of these methods, ensure that you understand the steps and safety measures needed.

That’s why we created this guide to help you learn how to clean your oil paint brushes without paint thinner. So let’s get started!

How Do You Clean Oil Paint Brushes Without Paint Thinner

How Do You Clean Oil Paint Brushes Without Paint Thinner?

Cleaning oil paint brushes without using paint thinner can be achieved by implementing several alternative methods. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you:

Remove Excess Paint

Remove any excess paint from the brush by gently wiping it off using a rag or a paper towel. Squeeze the bristles from the ferrule (metal part) towards the tip to eliminate as much paint as possible.

Use Vegetable Oil or Cooking Oil

Immerse the brush entirely into vegetable or cooking oil, ensuring complete coverage of the bristles. Swirl the brush around in the oil, allowing it to seep into the bristles and dissolve the remaining paint. Using either your fingers or a brush comb, carefully comb the bristles to assist in loosening the paint.

Wipe Off Paint From the Brush

To properly clean your brush, use a clean rag or paper towel to wipe off any excess paint. Keep wiping until the towel no longer picks up any paint. If the brush is heavily coated with paint, you may need to repeat the process with fresh oil.

Clean with Soap and Water

Once the majority of the paint has been removed with oil, proceed to clean the brush with warm water and a mild soap. Using gentle pressure, work the soap into the bristles with your fingers, massaging and squeezing to eliminate any remaining paint residue. Rinse the brush thoroughly under running water until the water flows clear.

Reshape and Dry

After cleaning your brushes, use your fingers or a brush comb to reshape the bristles to their original form. Place them flat or hang them upside down to dry completely before storing or using them again.

What Are the Best Ways to Clean Oil Paint Brushes Without Paint Thinner?

Oil painting is an art form that has existed since ancient times and is still popular today. One of the most important parts of painting with oil paints is cleaning the brushes.

Paint thinner is often used to clean oil paint brushes but can be expensive and hazardous. Thankfully, there are several ways that you can clean your brushes without the use of paint thinner.

Cleaning Paint Brushes with Dish Soap and Water

Begin by wiping off any excess paint from the brush using a rag or paper towel. Then, rinse the brush under warm water to eliminate leftover paint. Mix a small amount of dish soap with warm water in a container or sink. Subsequently, dip the brush in the soapy water, gently swirling the bristles to eliminate the paint. Rinse the brush thoroughly with running water until the water runs clear.

Baby Oil or Mineral Oil

To effectively clean a paintbrush using baby oil or mineral oil, remove any excess paint by wiping it with a rag or paper towel. Place the brush in a container filled with baby or mineral oil and gently swirl it to loosen the remaining paint. Use a rag or paper towel to wipe off the paint, repeating the process until the brush is completely clean. Wash the brush with mild soap and warm water to remove any residue.


Remove any excess paint by wiping it with a rag or paper towel. Then, prepare a small container with white vinegar and soak the brush for a few hours or overnight. The vinegar will effectively break down the paint. Once soaked, rinse the brush under warm water and wash it with mild soap to eliminate any remaining vinegar odor. This method can be relied upon for professional-grade cleaning of paintbrushes.

Fabric Softener

Begin the process by eliminating excess paint from the brush. Proceed to mix a minuscule amount of fabric softener with warm water in a container. Gently swirl the brush in the mixture, working the bristles to eradicate all paint remnants. Rinse the brush meticulously with flowing water and clean it with a bar of mild soap to remove any residual fabric softener.

Is It Possible to Clean Oil Paint Brushes With Just Water?

It is not advisable to clean oil paint brushes solely with water, as more than water is required to effectively remove oil paint from the bristles. Oil paint is water-resistant and requires a solvent to break down and dissolve the pigments effectively.

Using water alone may result in the paint drying and hardening in the bristles, making removing it difficult. It can also cause the brush to lose shape and become stiff.

For effective cleaning of oil paint brushes, it is advisable to use a specialized solvent, such as paint thinner or mineral spirits, or one of the alternative methods discussed previously. While these alternatives can provide some cleaning ability, solvents specifically designed for oil paint may be more effective. 

To ensure the longevity of the brushes, it is recommended to use appropriate solvents or alternative cleaning methods in combination with water, as this will yield better results in cleaning and maintaining the brushes.

Is The Process to Remove Oil-Based Paint from Plastic Same as Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes Without Paint Thinner?

When it comes to removing oil paint from plastic surfaces, the same method used for cleaning oil paint brushes without paint thinner may not be as effective. Unlike brushes, plastic surfaces are more delicate and require special care. Using gentle cleaners, warm soapy water, or a mixture of dish soap and baking soda can help effectively remove oil-based paint from plastic without causing damage.

Cleaning Oil Paint Without Turpentine Or Solvent


Cleaning oil paint brushes without using paint thinner can be achieved through various alternative methods. Some options discussed include vegetable or cooking oil, dish soap and water, vinegar, and fabric softener. 

These methods involve taking specific steps, such as removing excess paint, immersing the brush in the chosen solution, wiping off the paint, washing with mild soap and water, and allowing the brushes to dry properly. 

However, it is essential to note that these alternatives may not be as effective as traditional solvents designed for oil paint. Also, more than water is needed to clean oil paint brushes. 

It is crucial to reshape the bristles and ensure they are completely dry before storage or reuse to maintain longevity.

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