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Vinegar Fail

A few weeks after painting my bathroom, my mom informed me that I didn’t clean out her brush well enough and now it was all gunked up at the base. It was her good Purdy brush too.

A few days later I noticed a pin making the rounds on Pinterest that linked to a “this old house” magazine article [right here], claiming you could save gunked up paint brushes with hot distilled white vinegar.

“Soak gunked-up nylon brushes in hot vinegar for up to 30 minutes to remove paint and soften the bristles. Afterward, wash them in hot, soapy water, brushing off paint as needed, then rinse and let dry—good as new.”

Sweet! perfect timing.

So I grabbed some distilled white vinegar

And poured some in a pan to warm up on the stove.
And then I poured the hot vinegar in a bread pan with the gunked-up brush and let it sit there for 30 minutes. I chose the bread pan because it would be better for the brush to lay on it’s side in a shallow dish instead of virtically, smashing down it’s bristles.

Then I washed it out in hot soapy water.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get the gunk in the base of the brush to soften up. I couldn’t even get the paint off the strands on the side of the brush, and I scraped them hard with my finger nails.
I guess I’ll be buying a new paintbrush.


Have you ever destroyed a paint brush? Do you know of a good method to save them? Let me know!

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.craftyendeavor.com/2011/11/01/vinegar-fail/


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  1. Jennifer

    Try mineral spirits. Oil paint won’t come out of a brush without mineral spirits. Maybe it will work on your brush too. I’ve had great luck with it on my brushes.

  2. Elizabeth Carr

    Try Murphy’s oil soap. Soak standing up in a jar for about a day. I’m an artist and have had some luck with this stuff.

  3. Louisa

    denatured alcohol melts out latex (waterbased) paint
    I use Brush Cleaner, a special mix of thinners for cleaning oil based paints out of brushes. It also works for latex paints. Both of these items are found in the paint section, with the paint thinners.

  4. Louisa

    I have ruined many of my mom’s brushes before I learned that trick…. and after she let me keep them. Thus, I clean the old dried paint out and have new brushes. Also, pick up a wire brush, that will help get the paint chucks out. Then I wash them with Murphy’s Oil Soap.

    1. Alissa

      Thanks for your tips, Louisa! I think we ended up throwing the brush away, but I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind for future use.

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