How to Soften a Paint Brush

How to Soften a Paint Brush


A brush with stiff bristles that will not move as they should is perhaps the most frustrating thing for any DIYer, house painter, or anyone else who paints stuff a lot.

In most cases, it is because you did not wash the brush properly after the previous job. But, the good news is you can still soften the bristles quickly. Here we explain how to do it and give you a list of everything you need.

Things You Will Need

  • White vinegar/fabric softener
  • Dish soap
  • Hot water
  • Paint thinner
  • Brush comb
  • Large jar/container

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Saturate Brush Bristles With Soapy Water

When you want to soften a hard paint brush, the first step is to saturate it with hot water. Adding some dish soap to the water makes it even more effective and is an even better idea.

Hot water can melt some of the paint stuck on the brush, and some of it gets to the bristles and softens them a little.

2. Apply Dish Soap

Once you have some pliability from step one above, the next one is using dish soap to lather the bristles even further.

Here it would help if you used as much dish soap as possible to ensure at least enough of it gets to the brush bristles.

Also, you need to do things keenly and patiently by gently working the soap into the strands to loosen them up.

3. Put the Brush In a Jar and Lather Up

Next, you need to submerge the bristles in a jar with some warm water and then swirl the brush to build up some lather.

For this step, make sure you shake the brush as much as possible and keep touching the jar’s edges, as this helps loosen some paint. You can tell when the swirling is working as the water changes color from clear to the paint’s shade.

4. Rinse Well with Hot Water

Since you will have a lot of the paint loose but still clinging to the bristles, you need to rinse them off with some hot water.

Ensure you rinse off as much soap as possible and try moving the strands a little to increase their flexibility. It is crucial never to use cold water for this step as it can worsen things by hardening the bristles further.

5. Add White Vinegar or Fabric Softener

While the steps above should make the brush pliable enough for use, the bristles might still be quite hard. Therefore, you need something more potent, like white vinegar or fabric softener.

All you need to do for this step is add some hot water to a jar and then pour in one or two teaspoons of the white vinegar or fabric softener. You should then swirl the brush vigorously to ensure it gets into the bristles and loosens even more paint.

6. Comb Through the Bristles

When you are satisfied you have done enough swirling in the vinegar or fabric softener, you can now use a brush comb to work them into the bristles further.

Make sure you comb diligently, and you can also add a few drops of vinegar or the fabric softener when doing it for more effectiveness. After combing enough, you should finish by rinsing off the loose paint and the product you were using.

7. Place Brush in a Container with Paint Thinner 

If you are still not happy with the brush’s flexibility, you can place the bristles in a jar with paint thinner.

However, it would help if you took precautions when handling paint thinner as it is a caustic substance. Make sure you wear at least a mask, gloves, and goggles. Allow the brush to sit in the paint thinner for at least 15 minutes, but the longer you live it, the better the outcome.

8. Rinse Again to Finish

The last step is to rinse off any excess paint thinner from the brush. Here, you should also use hot water, and after the rinse, your brush should be soft enough.

If you still do not like the results, you can repeat the process one more time, starting with vinegar or fabric softener.


Softening your paint brush when you want to restore it for an upcoming job should not be a hectic job for you. All you have to do is get all the supplies required and follow the steps described above.

However, preventing the problem with proper cleaning of the brush after a job is an even better idea. It eliminates the hassle of having to soften it every time before use.