How To Remove Oil Paint From Brushes Without Paint Thinner

Having the lifespan of your oil paintbrushes preserved is really no small feat. And in a bid to get the most out of your beautiful paintbrushes, there’s definitely a need to treat them well. Knowing how to remove oil paint from brushes without paint thinner involves a few methods. However, that’s not the catch. The most important factor is actually getting to know how to clean an oil paint brush.

Having your oil paint brushes clean can be a bit of an hardwork but trust me, it is absolutely worth the effort. Yunno, ensuring your oil paint brushes are cleaned without paint thinners also position them to last you for years.

A common approach when it comes to cleaning oil paintbrushes is the use of turpentine or some other oil paint thinner. While it sounds like a good and effective idea, it sure comes with it’s own set of problems.

Paint thinners come with moderate risks if frequently exposed to them, especially in areas with poor ventilation. And while some people do not actually give a damn about this, others are in search of alternative methods to cleaning oil paint off brushes.

This is why we have structured this article to help provide solutions to some of the alternative methods we know and think anyone can also indulge in when it comes to how to remove oil paint from brushes without paint thinner.

Relax while you enjoy reading this piece.

How To Remove Oil Paint From Brushes Without Paint Thinner

Paint thinner: What does it do?

Paint thinners are basically used for removing oil-based paint or stain from brushes majorly to dissolve the binding agent in the oil paint by breaking the bonds holding it together.

Oil-based paints are composed of pigments that are responsible for the color and oil such as linseed oil being the carrier. Water alone on the other hand, cannot wash out the oil paint from the brushes because the oil in these paints naturally, is water repellent.

So this is where a paint thinner comes in handy. A paint thinner would help separate the pigments from the oil carrier such that it makes it possible for water to wash them out of the bristles.

Also Reads: Top 6 Best Sander for Removing Paint from wood

Why not paint thinner?

Firstly, some persons are very skeptical with inhaling toxins from thinners such as odorless mineral spirits when cleaning oil brushes.

Although spirits may not possibly be as harsh as turpentine, both categories of thinners are made of chemicals that can be very dangerous to heart health as well as skin.

So if you’re the type that painted frequently and makes use of hazardous paint thinners in cleaning your oil brushes, you may likely end up being exposed to these chemicals for prolonged periods. And a continued exposure as can be detrimental to one’s health.

Also, paint thinners such as turpentine come with an extremely strong, unpleasant smell. So basically, knowing other means of cleaning oil paint brushes without paint thinner can actually save you from having to put up with such odors. Let’s quickly go through some of these alternative methods.

  • The Baby Oil Method

Baby oil contains some ingredients such as vaseline, purified mineral oils and liquid paraffin, of which all of these ingredients have undergone rigorous testing and have proven to be very safe and highly beneficial for use.

Oil paint has oil in it and oil naturally repels water. Definitely, you can’t just rinse oil paintbrushes with water and expect them to get clean that way.

Baby oil on the other hand, has an oil base that tends to dissolve the oil-based paints in your brush. So first thing first, you need to soak the paintbrush in oil in order to dissolve the paint and have it’s particles flood out.

Here, the oil will handle most work, afterwards you can wash the remaining paint residue with soap and water for the best outcome.

Needed requirements

  • Mineral-based baby oil
  • Paper towels or rags
  • Running water faucet
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Hand gloves


Step 1:

You want to start by preparing all the items needed for this exercise. Ensure to put on your hand gloves, because while the baby oil is eco-friendly and highly safe to use, the paint coming off the used oil brush can actually stain your hands. So you want to prevent that staining from happening by wearing your hand gloves.

Step 2:

Now the next thing is getting rid of as much paint as possible from the dirty oil paintbrush. Using a clean paper towel or rag, wipe off the bristles and squeeze out the paint from the ferrule to the tip of the bristle.

Step 3:

Get the brush dipped into a bowl or jar of baby oil and ensure the bristles are entirely submerged in the oil. The idea right here is to cover every bristle with the oil such that the paint particles are being repelled.

In this step, there’s no need to swish the dirty brush in the oil so as to avoid leaving paint residue in the oil. All you need to do is wipe the oil-soaked brush onto a clean piece of paper towel or rag while you have the paint removed.

Step 4:

Gently work the oil into the bristles using your fingers and paper towel in order to push out the paint. You really want to do that carefully so as to avoid the risk of damaging them.

So after wiping, get the brush dipped back into the baby oil and repeat the same process. You may decide to repeat the process as many times as you can until you’re sure the whole paint has completely varnished.

Step 5:

The final step in this cleaning procedure is to wash the brush with dish soap and water. Lather the bristles with liquid dish soap and rub them lightly with your fingers under a running water faucet such that the remaining oil and color are being washed out.

Perhaps the latter is gone but you can still observe some color or oil residue on the bristles, apply more soap and repeat the same process until the brush is clean and you can see the water running clearly.

Thereafter you dry the bristles with a paper towel. I mean, you do not have to sit around waiting for the brush to dry before you can keep it in the store or where you.

After cleaning, you can simply wipe it dry with a clean, dry paper towel to suck up the water while you leave the brush overnight to dry completely.

Also, if the bristles lost their shape in the process of cleaning, then it is a good place to shape them back before having them stored away.

  • Using the pink soap method

Not only is the baby oil method the most effective method as the case may be, in cleaning your oil-based paintbrushes. You can as well use suitable oil soap or pink soap specially designed for cleaning oil brushes.

Although the oil in oil paint tends to repel water, the soap will help remove paint particles from the bristles and allow water to wash them away.

Needed requirements

  • Pink soap(or murphy oil soap)
  • Running water faucet
  • Clean paper towels
  • A bowl


Step 1:

Get rid of the excess paint by wiping on a clean paper towel. Whenever oil-based paintbrushes are being cleaned, before anything else, you really want to ensure you recover as much of the paint as you can by wiping it on a rag or clean paper towel. By doing this, you’re able to reduce the amount of paint that must be removed using a suitable cleaning agent.

Step 2:

Thereafter you soak the brush in a bowl of pink soap for three to five minutes thereabout. You need enough soap that’d cover the entire bristles part of the oil paintbrush.

Step 3:

After soaking the brush in pink soap for that time frame, wash it under running water faucet. Give the bristles a light massage while washing so as to get the paint and lather out into the drain.

As required, you may need to dip the brush back into the soap more than once while you repeat the washing before you can have it spotless.

Alternatively, you may decide to gently swirl the brush in the soap to loosen the paint before going ahead to rinse it with running water, if you wouldn’t like to soak it.

You’d know the brush is clean by now, when the water being used to rinse it runs clear.

Step 4:

Now that the brush is clean, you have two options. Either leave it out to dry or accelerate the process with a paper towel. However, I’d often advise wiping it with a clean paper towel that sucks up the water while leaving the paintbrush clean and ready to store away.

Conclusion: How To Remove Oil Paint From Brushes Without Paint Thinner

No doubt, paint thinner is far the best solution used by most painters in getting rid of oil from paintbrushes. But come to think of it.

What happens if you’re the type that is allergic to such harsh chemicals that comes with using oil paint thinner? Does it mean that you’d literally have to do away with cleaning your paintbrushes? And considering the fact that you’d do their lifespan better when you take proper care of them, won’t you rather seek other alternatives? Well, we’ve got you covered.

The methods explained above are nothing short of highly effective and I can bet you’d obtain same result as using a paint thinner would give you.

Important Reads: