How to Clean Polyurethane Brush: Step by step guide 2024

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Written by: Mohammad Sameer

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Just finished staining my deck and my polyurethane brush is a sticky mess.

I researched different ways to clean it and two methods depend on the type of polyurethane you used.

Intrigued? Read on to find out how to save your brush and get it ready for the next project!

Key Takeaways

  • For wet polyurethane: Rinse the brush under running water.
  • Oil-based only: Soak the brush in paint thinner (with gloves!).
  • Water-based or for quick cleaning: Scrub the brush with soapy water.
  • Use a gloved hand or a brush comb to get in the bristles.
  • Keep rinsing with warm, soapy water until the paint runs clear.
  • Shake out the excess water and let the brush air dry completely.

How to Clean Polyurethane Brush?

How to Clean Polyurethane Brush

Removing Excess Paint

All done painting, but your brush is stuck in a gooey mess? Don’t worry, we can fix that and keep your brush happy for next time! First, grab a rag or some newspaper. Wipe off any leftover polyurethane gunk on the can.

This is important because if you don’t, the gunk will dry on the bristles and make your brush all stiff and sad. Nobody wants a sad brush! Think of it like hair getting all gunked up with glue – no good! After wiping, there might still be some polyurethane on the brush itself.

We want to get all the paint off, so we’ll scrub from the metal part (ferrule) all the way down to the tips of the hairs (bristles). Look out for any spots with extra gunk.

Don’t forget the handle and the metal part (ferrule) too! We need to wipe those clean as well to keep the whole brush in good shape.

Rinsing and Dislodging Dry Paint

Even after you wipe off most of the paint, some might be stuck in the brush hairs. To get it all clean, rinse the brush with warm water. Hold it under the faucet and run the water until it reaches the metal part at the base of the hairs. This will loosen any dried-on bits.

you can use a special tool called a brush comb. It helps pull out stubborn paint without hurting the hair.

Here’s a simple process we follow:

  1. Hold the brush under running water.
  2. Gently comb through the bristles from base to tip.
  3. Repeat until the water runs clear.

Don’t forget the metal ring (ferrule) that holds the brush hairs to the handle. Paint stuck there can slowly ruin the brush. Give the ferrule some extra attention while cleaning to remove all the paint. Then, wipe the handle clean so it’s comfortable to hold next time. By taking care of these important parts, you’ll keep your polyurethane brush in good shape and working for longer!

Using Brush Comb and Cleaning the Handle

Once you’ve wiped off most of the polyurethane, use a brush comb to remove any dried-up bits stuck between the bristles gently. Don’t forget the metal ring (ferrule) that holds the bristles to the handle – gunk can build up there too, so give it a good swipe with the comb to remove any paint or residue.

A paint-free handle is much easier and more comfortable to hold when you’re working on your next project. Wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any polyurethane or dust.

After combing, rinse the bristles with clean water to remove any leftover solvent you used for cleaning. Gently reshape the bristles back to their original form and let the brush air dry completely before storing it.

Here’s a simple checklist to follow:

  • Soak the brush in the recommended solvent
  • Wash in warm soapy water or mild detergent
  • Rinse in cold water
  • Comb through the bristles
  • Wipe down the handle

Deep Cleaning and Maintenance of Polyurethane Brushes

Choosing the Right Brush Cleaner

Cleaning your paintbrushes after using polyurethane is super important. But first, you need the right cleaner for the job!

  • Brush bristle matters: A strong cleaner like KLEAN-STRIP is great for fancy synthetic brushes. It tackles dried-up polyurethane and other gunk without hurting the bristles.
  • Safety first! Always read the instructions before using any cleaner. Some might need gloves or special ways to throw them away.

Looking for something more eco-friendly? No problem! There are natural brush soaps like the Fox and Superfine kit. These are perfect for artists or anyone who wants to avoid harsh chemicals.

Preventive Measures for Brush Care

To extend the life of our polyurethane brushes, we must adopt certain preventive measures. Always clean the handle and ferrule after use to maintain their condition. During short breaks, there’s no need to wash the brush entirely; simply wrap it in a reusable plastic bag or cling film to keep the bristles fresh.

Don’t leave your paintbrushes soaking in water, cleaner, or paint! This can make them bend out of shape or fall apart. After cleaning, gently squeeze out extra water with a paper towel or cloth. Once they’re dry, store them carefully. You can wrap them in plastic wrap or put them in a zip-lock bag with tape around the handle.

Here’s a cool trick: Wrap painter’s tape around the metal part (ferrule) of your brush before you start painting. This keeps paint from drying there and makes your brush last longer.

Remember, never put a wet brush away! This can ruin the bristles. Before you paint, check your brushes for any damage so you get smooth, even coats.

Proper Storage Between Painting Sessions

image of Proper Storage Between Painting Sessions

Used your brush to paint something awesome? Don’t just toss it aside! Brushes need some love after use to keep them working well.

  • Clean up: Rinse most of the paint off with water.
  • Brush comb: This neat tool (like a comb for your brush!) helps get dried paint hiding in the bristles. Gently run it through the bristles from the metal part (ferrule) to the tips.
  • Wipe the handle: A clean handle makes painting easier. Use a damp cloth to remove any paint splatter.

Storing your brush:

  • Upside down or cozy home: Brushes like to rest with the bristles pointing up, or in a brush holder to keep their shape.
  • Paper wrap: When not in use, wrap the bristles in a paper towel and secure it with a rubber band.
  • Cool and dry: Find a cool, dry spot to store your brush, away from moisture.

Here’s a quick checklist for storing polyurethane brushes:

  • Ensure brushes are completely dry before storage
  • Wrap bristles in paper towel or cling film
  • Secure with a rubber band or store in original packaging
  • Store in a cool, dry place
  • Dedicate specific brushes for specific tasks (e.g., varnish application)


Researching “How to Clean Polyurethane Brush” can feel overwhelming with all the options. But fear not, fellow DIYer!

Turns out, with a little know-how, you can be a brush-cleaning pro in no time.

The key? Understanding the type of polyurethane you used – oil-based or water-based – determines the cleaning method.

Oil-based needs mineral spirits, water-based cleans up with soap and water. Easy!

So grab your brush, follow these simple steps, and get ready for your next project with a clean conscience – and a clean brush!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I clean polyurethane brushes immediately after use?

As soon as you’ve finished using your polyurethane brush, remove any excess paint and soak the bristles in cold water. Rinse under plenty of water, ensuring you clean up inside the brush, next to the ferrule. Use a brush comb to dislodge any dry paint from the bristles and wipe down the handle.

What should I use for deep cleaning of polyurethane brushes?

For deep cleaning, use a product like Krud Kutter Brush-Wash, which is designed to remove dried latex paint and recondition synthetic bristle brushes and roller covers. It’s suitable for various paint types and finishes are water-based, non-toxic, biodegradable, and non-flammable.

Do I need to clean my brush every time I use it?

Yes, it’s important to clean your brush after each use to maintain its shape and performance. Avoid leaving brushes in water or cleaning solutions for extended periods, as this can cause damage. Occasionally use a specialized brush cleaner, followed by washing in warm, soapy water and rinsing in clean water.

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