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How to Clean Up After Oil Painting?

how to clean up after oil painting

Do you always make a mess after every oil painting session? Your workplace need not look like the stereotypical messy artist’s studio. This article will be teaching you some techniques on how to clean up after oil painting.

You will need a bit of discipline to accomplish this but you will discover that working in a clean studio is more conducive to creativity. Having clean surroundings and tools will keep your mind clear so you can unleash your imagination better.

Step-by-Step Guide

This guide will show you the steps for regular maintenance. So, when you do decide to do a deep clean later it will be much easier.

What to prepare:

  • Your choice of solvent – Turpentine typically does the job faster. However, if you do not want to deal with foul smells, you can use mineral spirits. However, spirits are usually weaker than turpentine, so cleaning might take longer.
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Old glass jars
  • Scraper for your paint palette – If you use a glass palette, then you will need to use a razor scraper

Detailed steps:

Step 1 – Increase the ventilation

You will be using turpentine later so you have to make sure that you can breathe inside the room. Open the door and windows and turn on a fan if you have one. The goal here is to get as much air circulation as possible so you do not get nauseated when you are using the solvents later.

Step 2 – Clean the brushes

clean the brush after painting

Wear your rubber gloves. You will be handling solvents later so you will need to protect your hands. Grab your glass jars and fill them around a quarter of the way full with your choice of solvent.

There is no need to put too much solvent in the jar as you just want to clean the bristles only. Dunking the whole brush might dissolve the adhesive that’s supposed to help in keeping the bristles in place inside the ferrule.

Allow the brushes to soak in the solvent for around 5 minutes and then swish them around. This should be able to loosen the paint off the bristles. You can then dry the bristles by passing them over paper towels. You will know if your brushes are sufficiently clean if there is no more paint left on the paper towels when you brush over them.

Step 3 – Clean the paint palette

Ideally, you should start the preliminary cleaning of your palette, which is scraping leftover paint, immediately after your painting session. If you are using a glass or acrylic palette, just wipe the paint away using paper towels. However, if the paint has dried up a bit, you can use a razor scraper to remove it.

You can also use the previous method if you are using a properly prepared wood palette. However, you should only use a palette knife instead of a razor scraper to avoid damaging the finish.

To avoid wasting your oil paints, you should just remove the paint that you mixed for your previous painting sessions. Oil paints take a long time to dry so you can just leave them on the palette for use next time.

Step 4 – Organize your materials

Once you have cleaned all your tools, it is time to place them back in their rightful places. Place your brushes back into their jars. Replace the caps on your paints and put them back in their containers and do the same with your other tools.

Step 5 – Dispose of your waste paints properly

One of the most important things about how to clean up oil paint is to dispose of it properly. You should never pour your used solvents and paints into the sink. Doing so will contaminate the water system. Also, you should not throw your turpentine-soaked rags and paper towels in the trash as they are fire hazards.

dispose of your waste paints properly

Get a suitably-sized airtight container for storing the paints and other waste from cleaning your studio. Use this in the meantime until you can take the hazardous waste to the proper waste facility. To prevent the contents from catching fire accidentally, you should fill the container halfway with water.

This cleaning method is not that difficult at all but it will take quite a bit of time. Instead of looking at it as a chore, just think that you are doing it as a cooldown after a rather energetic painting session.

You are setting your studio up for your next session. Having everything clean and organized then will help ensure that it will be much easier for you to get back to painting.


Knowing how to clean up after oil painting is a good habit for you to develop. If you clean up after yourself when you are painting, it will make your hobby a lot more enjoyable.

Make it a point to clean up after every painting session. It will not just keep your workplace organized but will also help make your tools last longer. Even if you are a bit tired after a painting session, you should still clean up. Do it over and over again until it becomes a habit.

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