How to Clean Enamel Paintbrushes

Updated May 01, 2018

When you use a paintbrush with enamel paint, you cannot simply rinse it with water like you can when using water-based paints. A little more effort--and some paint thinner--is necessary to get the brush clean. Cleaning your paintbrush correctly and thoroughly will preserve it for years of future use. You can even revive brushes with dried-on paint with some effort.

Put on rubber gloves and take all the items with your paint-covered brush to a well-ventilated area.

Pour 2 inches of paint thinner into a jar. For an extra large brush, pour in 3 or 4 inches.

Place the brush, bristle end down, into the paint thinner and let it sit for a minute or two with the handle resting against the side of the jar. For brushes with hard, dried-on paint, let the bristles soak for about 5 minutes.

Gently swirl the bristles of the brush around in the paint thinner, and press them against the side of the jar to allow the liquid to penetrate all the bristles. Keep doing this until the paint is visibly gone from the bristles.

Lift the brush out of the solution and press the bristles against the inside of the jar to remove most of the excess paint thinner.

Use the old rag to squeeze the remaining paint thinner from the bristles of the brush.

Inspect the bristles for any remaining paint. If you still see paint residue on the brush, place it back into the paint thinner and repeat Steps 4 to 6.

Hang up the brush to air-dry. Put the lid on the glass jar and store the paint thinner for further use, or dispose of it as you would any other inflammable liquid.


Clean your brushes as soon as possible after using them with enamel paint. The job is much quicker and easier while the paint on the brush is still wet.


Try not to inhale the fumes from the paint thinner. Don't pour the used paint thinner down your home drain.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Old glass jar with a lid
  • Paint thinner
  • Old rag
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About the Author

A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.