How to Clean Acrylic Paint: 8 Easy Methods You Need to Try

How to Clean Acrylic Paint: 8 Easy Methods You Need to Try


Acrylic paint is a popular medium in the world of art and crafts. Its vivid colors, ease of use, and fast-drying nature make it the go to choice for artists and hobbyists alike. But this durable paint can be stubborn when it dries on surfaces or brushes, requiring specific techniques to clean effectively.

This article aims to help you learn how to clean acrylic paint efficiently. It provides a comprehensive guide on various methods, each designed to tackle different aspects of cleaning challenges associated with acrylic paint. The importance of cleaning acrylic paint cannot be underestimated. Proper cleaning techniques not only ensure the longevity of your painting tools but also contribute to better artwork by maintaining the purity of your colors.

Here’s a sneak peek into the different methods that will be discussed in detail:

  1. Daniel Smith’s Cactus Brand Protective Cream
  2. Baby Wipes
  3. Rubbing Alcohol
  4. Ivory Bar Soap
  5. Castile Soap

The guide will provide step-by-step instructions on how to use these methods, along with additional tips and precautions. So whether you are a professional artist or a crafting enthusiast, this guide is sure to make your post-painting cleanup easier than ever! Let’s dive in.

A digital art style image of a paintbrush and palette with vibrant acrylic paint, symbolizing the topic of cleaning acrylic paint.

1. Using Daniel Smith’s Cactus Brand Protective Cream

Frequent exposure to acrylic paint can often result in skin irritation or dryness. Daniel Smith’s Cactus Brand Protective Cream is a product specifically designed to combat this problem. Formulated to protect your skin while cleaning acrylic paint, this cream creates a barrier on your skin surface, enabling you to clean off any acrylic paint residue without harming your skin.

Not only does the protective cream work efficiently, but it also provides additional benefits. It helps prevent the paint from drying and hardening on your skin, making the cleaning process significantly easier. This results in less scrubbing and rubbing, which can often lead to dryness or abrasion.

So, how does this product work?

The key lies in its unique formulation that allows it to create an effective barrier between the paint and your skin surface. By doing so, it prevents the paint from adhering directly onto your skin, making it easier to remove once you’re done painting.

Here’s a simple guide on how to use Daniel Smith’s Cactus Brand Protective Cream:

  1. Apply the Protective Cream: Start by applying a generous layer of the cream onto your hands before you begin painting. Make sure to cover all areas that may come into contact with the paint.
  2. Paint Freely: Proceed with your painting activities as usual. Don’t worry about getting paint on your hands.
  3. Cleanse Your Hands: Once you’re done painting, simply wash your hands with warm water and soap. You’ll notice that the paint comes off much more easily.
  4. Repeat: If you still notice some residual paint on your hands, you can repeat steps 1-3 until all paint is removed.

It’s worth noting that while Daniel Smith’s Cactus Brand Protective Cream is highly effective for protecting and cleansing your skin from acrylic paints, there are certain considerations when using this method.

Firstly, while the cream is designed for skin application, it’s always advisable to conduct a patch test before applying it all over your hands. This will help you ensure that you do not have an allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the product.

Secondly, keep in mind that this cream is formulated to work best with acrylic paints. If you’re using oil-based or other types of paint, the effectiveness might differ.

By integrating Daniel Smith’s Cactus Brand Protective Cream into your cleanup routine, you can ensure not only an easier removal process but also healthier skin despite frequent exposure to acrylic paint.

2. Baby Wipes as a Convenient Cleanup Option

When you’re in the middle of being creative, the last thing you want to think about is cleaning up. That’s where baby wipes for cleaning acrylic paint come in handy. These moist towelettes are not just for babies—they’re perfect for artists who want to quickly and efficiently remove acrylic paint from different surfaces.

Why Baby Wipes Work Well

Baby wipes are designed to be gentle on the skin but surprisingly effective at dealing with acrylic paint. They have a soft texture that won’t scratch or harm your work surface or brushes, and the moisture in them is just enough to loosen and lift the paint.

  • Safe on Skins and Surfaces: The mild ingredients are gentle on your hands and most art materials, so there’s minimal risk of irritation.
  • Versatile Tool: Whether it’s your skin, easel, or palette that’s covered in splatters of color, baby wipes can be used on various surfaces.
  • Gentle yet Effective: They strike a balance between being gentle enough not to cause damage and being effective enough to remove unwanted paint.

How to Use Baby Wipes Effectively

To make the most out of baby wipes for cleaning purposes, follow these simple steps:

  1. For Hands:
  • Gently wrap a wipe around your finger and rub over the painted areas of your skin.
  • Use circular motions and be careful around sensitive skin near nails or cuts.
  • Repeat with fresh wipes as needed until all paint is gone.
  1. For Brushes:
  • Swipe the bristles against a baby wipe until the paint starts transferring onto the wipe.
  • Reshape the brush head with your fingers if needed.
  • Let brushes dry before storing them correctly.
  1. For Surfaces:
  • Lay a baby wipe flat on the stained area and press down gently to let the moisture soak into the paint.
  • Wipe in one direction to gather up the loosened paint, folding the wipe as you go to maintain a clean surface.

While baby wipes can be reliable, it’s important to remember some precautions:

  • Test First: On delicate surfaces, it’s a good idea to do a spot test in an inconspicuous area before using them extensively.
  • Not for Tough Jobs: For thicker layers or dried-on paint, baby wipes may not always be enough, and you might need something stronger.
  • Dispose Properly: Keep in mind that most baby wipes should not be flushed down the toilet—throw them in the trash instead.

Having baby wipes easily accessible in your studio means you’re always prepared for quick cleanups without disrupting your creative flow. They’re not just for small messes but are essential for maintaining cleanliness and order in any artistic environment.

With these tips and techniques in mind, baby wipes will undoubtedly become one of your favorite tools for keeping both yourself and your workspace free from paint. And with less time spent on cleanup, there’s more time available for what matters most—creating art.

3. The Power of Rubbing Alcohol in Removing Dried Acrylic Paint

Rubbing alcohol is a staple in many artists’ studios, known for its efficacy as a solvent. Its ability to tackle dried acrylic paint makes it invaluable when traditional soap and water fall short.

Understanding How Rubbing Alcohol Works

Rubbing alcohol has properties that break down the polymers in acrylic paint, allowing the dried paint to dissolve and lift from surfaces. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Prepare Your Workspace: Ensure good ventilation by opening windows or using a fan.
  2. Soak the Paint: Dampen a cloth or cotton ball with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Application: Gently rub the stained area until you see the paint starting to break down.
  4. Wipe Clean: Once the paint is loosened, wipe away the residue with a clean cloth.

The effectiveness of this method relies on the concentration of alcohol; higher percentages equate to stronger solvent properties.

High Concentration Equals High Efficacy

When selecting rubbing alcohol for removing dried acrylic paint, aim for a solution with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol. This concentration strikes a balance between potency and safety, making it practical for home studios.

Steps for Safe Application

  • Protect Yourself: Wear gloves to protect your skin and avoid inhaling fumes directly.
  • Test First: Apply rubbing alcohol to an inconspicuous area to test for any adverse reaction.
  • Use Sparingly: Apply just enough rubbing alcohol to dampen the dried paint without saturating the surface.

Alternative Uses in Acrylic Painting

Apart from cleanup, rubbing alcohol can serve several purposes in your creative process:

  • Texturing: Spritz onto wet acrylics for unique effects.
  • Thinning Paint: Create washes without affecting drying time.
  • Cleaning Up Mistakes: Quickly erase unwanted drips or smudges while still wet.

Safety Considerations

When using rubbing alcohol, keep these points in mind:

  • Fire Risk: It’s flammable; keep it away from open flames and heat sources.
  • Health Precautions: Prolonged exposure can cause irritation; use protective gear as needed.

By respecting these guidelines, you can harness the power of rubbing alcohol safely and effectively.

4. Ivory Bar Soap: A Surprising Solution for Stains on Clothing and Palettes

When acrylic paint gets on your clothes or palettes, using Ivory bar soap can be a game-changer in removing the stains. Known for its mild and effective cleaning properties, this household staple is more than just a hand soap—it’s a powerful ally against stubborn paint stains.

Cleaning Acrylic Paint from Clothing with Ivory Bar Soap

If your favorite shirt or pants have fallen victim to a splash of color, don’t despair. With Ivory bar soap, the process of removing acrylic paint stains is straightforward:

  • Wet the Stained AreaStart by dampening the fabric with water to prepare the stain for treatment.
  • Apply Ivory Bar SoapTake the bar of Ivory soap and rub it directly onto the wet paint stain, creating a thick lather.
  • Launder as UsualAfter applying the soap to the stain, put the garment into the washing machine and wash it following the fabric’s care instructions.

The grease-cutting properties in Ivory bar soap make it particularly effective in pre-treating these kinds of stains. It works by breaking down the oils in acrylic paint, loosening its grip on fabric fibers.

Tackling Paint on Palettes and Surfaces

For artists, keeping palettes clean is crucial for mixing true colors without remnants of old paint interfering. Here’s how you can use Ivory bar soap to restore your palette to its former glory:

  • Create a Soapy LatherMix some Ivory bar soap with water until you get a foamy lather.
  • Gentle Scrubbing ActionUse a sponge or cloth to apply the lather to your palette, gently scrubbing away any dried paint.

This method not only cleans effectively but also preserves the surface of your palettes, avoiding harsh chemicals that could cause damage over time.

Maintaining Brushes with Ivory Bar Soap

Brushes are an artist’s most valuable tools and require regular maintenance to perform at their best. Cleaning them with Ivory bar soap ensures they stay in top condition:

  • Rinse Brushes ThoroughlyFirst, rinse out as much paint as possible from your brushes under running water.
  • Work Up a LatherNext, swirl your brushes against an Ivory bar soap under lukewarm water until they’re well-coated with suds.
  • Rinse and ReshapeFinally, rinse out all soap from your brushes and reshape them before laying flat to dry.

This technique not only cleans but also conditions brush bristles, keeping them soft and pliable for future painting sessions.

Advantages of Using Ivory Bar Soap

Using Ivory bar soap offers several benefits when it comes to cleaning up after your art projects:

  • Gentle on Materials: Whether it’s delicate fabrics or fine brush bristles, this soap cleans without causing damage.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Compared to harsh chemical cleaners, Ivory is a more sustainable option.
  • Cost-Effective: This widely available and affordable solution means you can keep your art supplies clean without breaking the bank.

Remember that while Ivory bar soap is incredibly versatile, it’s always best to tackle paint stains as soon as possible for optimal results. And when working with delicate or specialty fabrics, always perform a spot test before treating larger areas.

Transitioning smoothly from one cleanup method to another ensures that no matter what messes arise during your creative process, you’re equipped with practical solutions that keep both your workspace and tools in excellent condition—ready for whatever project comes next.

5. Using Castile Soap for Brush Cleaning and Maintenance

Castile soap is a popular choice among artists when it comes to cleaning their brushes. It’s known for being gentle yet effective, making it perfect for maintaining the quality of your brushes while also being environmentally friendly.

Why Choose Castile Soap?

There are several reasons why castile soap stands out as an excellent option for brush cleaning and maintenance:

  1. Non-Damaging: Unlike harsh chemicals, castile soap cleans without causing any damage to the bristles of your brushes, keeping them intact for longer.
  2. Emulsifying Properties: It has the ability to emulsify acrylic paint, which means it can easily mix with water and be rinsed out without leaving behind any residue.
  3. Bristle Conditioning: Regular use of castile soap helps to keep the bristles of your brushes soft and flexible, ultimately extending their lifespan.

The Power of Natural Oils

One of the key components of castile soap is its natural oils. These oils serve a dual purpose when it comes to brush cleaning:

  1. Breaking Down Paint: The natural oils in castile soap work to break down the paint on your brushes, making it easier to remove.
  2. Conditioning Bristles: At the same time, these oils also help to condition the bristles, preventing them from becoming stiff or frayed over time due to exposure to acrylic paint.

How to Clean Your Brushes with Castile Soap

Using castile soap for regular brush cleaning is a straightforward process:

  1. Start by wetting your brush with warm water to loosen any paint that may be on it.
  2. Next, either swirl the brush on a bar of castile soap or apply a small amount if you’re using liquid castile soap.
  3. Gently work up a lather in the palm of your hand or on a brush-cleaning pad, making sure to thoroughly clean the bristles.
  4. Rinse the brush under warm water until there are no more suds or color coming off.
  5. Finally, reshape the brush head and lay it flat to dry.

Deep Conditioning with Castile Soap

In addition to regular cleaning, you can also give your brushes a deep conditioning treatment using castile soap:

  1. Mix one part castile soap with four parts warm water in a cup or jar.
  2. Soak your brushes in this mixture for 5 to 10 minutes, occasionally swirling them around.
  3. After the soaking time is up, rinse the brushes under warm water to remove any remaining soap.
  4. Reshape the brush heads and allow them to dry as usual.

The Environmental Advantages of Castile Soap

Opting for castile soap as your go-to brush cleaner doesn’t just benefit your tools; it’s also a responsible choice for the environment. Here’s why:

  1. Biodegradable: Castile soap is completely biodegradable, meaning it can naturally break down without causing harm to aquatic life.
  2. Sustainable Ingredients: Many castile soaps are made using organic and sustainably sourced oils, reducing their impact on the planet.
  3. Non-Toxic: It is free from synthetic fragrances, dyes, and preservatives, making it safe for both you and the environment.

By incorporating castile soap into your regular brush cleaning routine, you’re not only ensuring effective cleaning but also showing care towards your tools and the world around you.

6. Best Practices for Proper Brush Storage to Prevent Drying Out

Good paintbrush care is an art in itself, and an integral part of that is proper brush storage. When acrylic paint finds its way into your brushes and dries, it’s not good news. It can cause damage to the bristles, affect the brush’s performance, and even shorten its lifespan. But with the right storage practices, you can prevent these problems.

The Basics: Cleaning and Drying Your Brushes

After you’ve finished painting for the day, make sure to follow these steps:

  1. Clean Your Brushes Thoroughly: Rinse your brushes well under warm running water until no color remains. You can use a mild soap to help break down any stubborn paint residue. Remember to reshape the bristles gently with your fingers after cleaning.
  2. Dry Brushes Correctly: After cleaning, allow your brushes to dry naturally in a horizontal position. Air drying helps maintain the shape of the bristles and prevents water from seeping into the ferrule (the metal part that holds the bristles together).

Storing Your Brushes Properly

Once your brushes are completely dry, it’s time to store them correctly:

  1. Store Brushes Upright: Store your brushes upright in a container with their bristles facing upward. This helps prevent any remaining moisture or paint from seeping into the ferrule.
  2. Use Brush Holders or Organizers: These handy tools keep brushes separated and prevent them from touching each other, which can result in bending and misshaping of the bristles.

Why does proper storage matter so much? Well, imagine this: You’ve just bought a set of high-quality brushes only to find them unusable after a few painting sessions because dried paint has hardened on the bristles or they’ve lost their shape due to improper storage. That’s not something any artist wants!

Proper brush storage not only extends the life of your brushes but also ensures they perform at their best every time you paint. It’s also a practical move. When you take good care of your brushes, you won’t have to replace them as often – saving you money in the long run.

Using Brush Holders or Organizers

Using brush holders or containers is a great way to keep your brushes organized and protected. These come in various designs and sizes to accommodate all types of brushes. You can even separate your brushes based on their sizes or types for easy access.

In the end, your paintbrushes are your tools-of-the-trade. The better care they get, the better results they will yield in your artwork. Taking just a few extra moments to store them properly can make a world of difference. And who knows? Those saved pennies from not having to replace damaged brushes might just add up to fund your next big art project!

7. Bonus: Tips for Preserving Watercolor Brushes in Optimal Condition

While acrylic painting has its challenges when it comes to cleaning and maintenance, using watercolors poses a different set of considerations. Let’s dive into how to care for your watercolor brushes in the best way possible.

Step 1: Immediate Cleaning

Cleaning your watercolor brushes immediately after each use is crucial to prevent paint from drying and hardening on the bristles. This routine ensures the longevity of your brushes.

  1. Rinse the brush thoroughly under running lukewarm water.
  2. Swirl the brush gently on a clean hand or a washcloth to remove any remaining paint.

Remember, dried paint can damage the bristles and affect the quality of your future artwork, so it’s worth taking an extra minute for immediate cleaning.

Step 2: Gentle Cleaning Solution

When it comes to preserving watercolor brushes, gentle is the key word. Use a gentle brush cleaner or mild soap to clean your brushes. Harsh chemicals or solvents can damage or fray the bristles over time.

  1. Apply a small amount of soap to your palm.
  2. Gently swirl the wet brush on your palm until you work up a lather.
  3. Rinse thoroughly until all soap is gone.

A gentle cleaning solution helps maintain the softness and flexibility of your brushes while ensuring they are squeaky clean.

Step 3: Safe Storage

Storing your watercolor brushes properly plays a significant role in their preservation. Store them with bristles facing upward to help them maintain their shape and prevent potential damage to the tips.

  1. Pat the brushes dry gently using a clean towel.
  2. Rest them on a flat surface with bristles hanging off the edge until completely dry.
  3. Store them upright in a jar or purchase a specially designed brush holder for safe storage.

This storage method not only keeps your brushes in good shape but also prevents any leftover paint from seeping into the handle, which could lead to the bristles loosening over time.

Despite some similarities with acrylic brushes, watercolor brushes require a bit more care. A few extra tips for preserving watercolor brushes include:

  • Avoid soaking your brushes in water for prolonged periods as this can cause the bristles to become limp.
  • Never use hot water for cleaning as it can cause the glue holding the bristles to weaken.
  • Consider investing in brush covers or protectors for added protection, especially when traveling.

By following these steps and tips, you ensure that your watercolor brushes stay in top condition for many painting sessions to come. Happy painting!


Navigating the aftermath of an art project can be as crucial as the creative process itself. The methods discussed here equip you with the tools to tackle acrylic paint spills and stains effectively, ensuring your materials last longer and your workspace stays clean.

Recap of Cleaning Methods:

  • Daniel Smith’s Cactus Brand Protective Cream: Protects skin from paint and makes cleanup a breeze.
  • Baby Wipes: A quick-fix for fresh paint on hands and surfaces.
  • Rubbing Alcohol: Ideal for lifting dried paint from non-porous materials.
  • Ivory Bar Soap: Battles stains on clothing and cleans palettes with ease.
  • Castile Soap: Keeps brushes in top condition by emulsifying stubborn paint residue.

Remember to address spills promptly using these strategies. Swift action prevents the paint from setting, saving time and preserving your tools and surfaces. Experiment to find which technique works best for different situations, but also keep in mind that prevention is key. Be mindful while painting to minimize messes from occurring.

Consider assembling a personalized cleaning kit. Include products like baby wipes, rubbing alcohol, protective creams, and soaps mentioned above. Having these items at hand ensures you’re prepared for any cleanup scenario that might arise.

Maintaining a clean and organized workspace cannot be overstated—it’s not just about tidiness but also about fostering an environment where creativity can flourish unimpeded by clutter or the dread of post-painting cleanup.

Let’s not forget that the right cleaning methods do more than just preserve your materials—they also protect your health. By using gentle, effective solutions, you avoid harsh chemicals that could harm your skin or respiratory system.

In keeping with these practices, you’ll find that your art not only looks better but feels better too. Your materials will have a longer life span, your studio will be a sanctuary for innovation, and each brushstroke will contribute to a masterpiece rather than a mess.

So take pride in the artistic journey from start to finish—from that first burst of inspiration to the final swipe of the cleaning cloth. Your art deserves it, and so do you.