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How to Clean Model Paint Brushes?

how to clean model paint brushes

Model building is a very enjoyable hobby and it can also be quite expensive. The model kits themselves are already on the pricey side. Add to that the expenses coming from the customizing materials. Speaking of materials, the brushes used for painting miniatures and adding details to larger-scale models are not cheap.

To cut down on your spending so you can continue with your hobby financially, you need to learn how to clean model paint brushes. If you can make your brushes last for as long as possible, you will have more money left over in your budget for additional kits.

Here are some methods on how to clean brushes used for model painting that you can use.

Removing water-based paints

removing water based paints

If you mostly use water-based paints for your model kits, plain water should be enough. However, if you want to clean your brushes thoroughly, you should use a bit of dishwashing detergent.

What to prepare:

  • Dishwashing soap
  • Tap water
  • Paintbrush holder (optional)
  • Paper towels
  • Regular hair conditioner

Detailed steps:

Step 1 – Remove excess paint

Place the brushes under running water. Use your fingers to remove the dried paint on the bristles gently. It would be best to wash your brushes in plain water right after using them. Letting the paint dry on the brushes will only make them harder to remove later.

Step 2 – Prepare the dishwashing soap

In a small plastic container, mix dishwashing soap and some water. Put just enough dishwashing detergent to make the water bubble a bit. Prepare enough soapy water to soak all of the brushes you are cleaning.

Step 3 – Allow the brushes to soak in the soapy water

Grab your brushes and soak the bristles in the soapy water. Allow the brushes to soak for around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how dirty the brushes are.

Step 4 – Gently brush the tips

To further remove any caked-on paint on the bristles, take out the brushes one by one and then brush them over a smooth surface. You can brush them over kitchen tiles. This will remove any paint left behind in the bristles.

Step 5 – Rinse the brushes and let them dry thoroughly

After removing the last bits of paint, take the brushes and rinse them all under running water to remove the detergent. Be careful to avoid deforming the brushes. While the brushes are still wet, use your fingers to mold the bristles to their original shape.

Shake the brushes to remove as much of the water in the bristles. After that, you should lay them flat on a table with the bristles hanging over the edge. You can place a book or any flat object over them to keep the brushes from rolling off the table. Wait for the brushes to dry thoroughly, which could take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.

Removing Oil-based Paints

removing oil based paints

If you tend to use oil-based paints on your model kits then it will be a bit trickier to clean them.

What to prepare:

  • Mineral spirits
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic containers
  • Rubber gloves

Detailed steps:

Step 1 – Pour the mineral spirits into the container

Get a plastic container that is big enough to hold the brushes you will be cleaning. It is preferable to use disposable plastic cups so you will not accidentally use them for storing or serving food. Put just enough mineral spirit to cover the bristles.

Step 2 – Soak the brushes in the solvent

Grab the brushes and soak the bristles in the mineral spirits. Make sure that the spirits do not go beyond the ferrules. Let the brushes soak in the spirits for 5 to 10 minutes. Model paint brushes are quite small so you do not have to let them soak for too long.

It is important to not let the brushes soak for too long as the mineral spirits may dissolve the glue that holds the bristles on the brush. The mineral spirits may also damage the wooden handle.

Step 3 – Wipe away the paint

After soaking, take out the brushes and wipe them on paper towels. The softened paint should go out of the bristles and onto the paper towels. If there is still a lot of paint coming from the brush as it dries, allow it to soak for five minutes more and wipe it on paper towels again.

Step 4 – Rinse the brushes

Once the brushes are clean, rinse them under cold running water. This will remove any trace of the mineral spirits that might be left. This is important as the mineral spirits may affect the paint that you are using on your model kits.

Allow the brushes to air-dry thoroughly before you replace the plastic sleeves and place them back in storage. If you store your brushes while they are still damp, there is a possibility that mold would grow on the bristles.


Once you know how to clean model paint brushes properly you can almost guarantee that they will last for many more projects to come. These brushes are quite expensive, so you must take care of them and understand how to use them., so you can have more room in your budget for more kits.

Cleaning your model brushes is not that difficult at all, and it will also make you appreciate your tools even more.

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