How to Clean off Paint Thinner

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What You'll Need
Paint thinner
Bucket or container
Wire brush
Waxpaper or aluminum foil
Stand for brushes and rollers
Dish washing detergent

Difficulty:The novice can do this

Time:depends on what you are doing. 20 minutes to clean oil base paint out of a brush.

Paint thinner is the chemical solution that oil painters and artists use to clean their painting supplies such as brushes and rollers. It effectively cleans supplies that were used with oil paint, varnish, stains and polyurethanes. It can also be used to clean old and dried out brushes so that they can be reused. Paint thinner may also be used to thin oil-based paints.

TIP: Doityourself’s painting consultant Edward Kimble, author of Interior House Painting Blog, suggests, “In most cases paint thinner will not soften up or clean old and dried out brushes by itself. Soaking overnight or over several days in kerosene, followed by cleaning with paint thinner usually works on old dried out brushes. Use a wire brush to comb paint out of the brushes, whether just used for a job or dried out old brushes.”

Step 1 - Know the Dangers

Paint thinner is a caustic substance and therefore safety precautions must be taken when using it. It is very important that you read the instructions and warnings on the can. The fumes from paint thinner can be hazardous to your health. This is a chemical compound that should only be used in well-ventilated area preferably somewhere where there are open windows and doors, with a fan. The air must be circulated to keep the fumes at a minimum. You should wear a mask to avoid inhaling the fumes.

Never use paint thinner near a flame, a gas pilot light or a source of electrical spark, as the fumes may ignite.

Step 2 - Clean the Equipment

Following the instructions on the can, use a small amount of paint thinner in a bucket, work the paint thinner through the brush and/or the roller. When the brush and roller is clean, shake off the excess paint thinner and wrap the brush in the waxpaper (or aluminum foil). Take the roller off roller frame and place it inside a plastic bag. The roller should not be stored on the roller frame, as the roller will often stick to the frame.

Step 3 - Clean Paint Thinner

When you are finished with the paint thinner, let it sit in the bucket until the particles settle to the bottom. Pour the thinner off the top back into the container, so it can be reused. Let the sludge at the bottom dry out. Once it is dried out you can dispose of it. Paint thinner should be stored in its original container.

Environmental regulations state that liquid paint thinner cannot be disposed of as regular garbage. You need to contact your local city office to find out how it can be disposed of. You should never clean your supplies where the residue will get into a drain, as it is a contaminate that is harmful to the environment.

TIP: Edward says, “Check with automotive service centers or oil change businesses. They will often let you pour paint thinner into their used oil tank. Used oil and paint thinner alike are refined to make usable motor oil.”

If you spill paint thinner on an item of clothing rub some liquid detergent or dish soap gently to cover the spot on the clothing. Let it sit for approximately 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly with hot water and let it air dry. Repeat this process if necessary. Once the odor has dissipated, wash the clothing as you normally would. You may find it necessary to rinse the garment a few times to get all the soap out.

Edward Kimble, professional painter and author of Interior House Painting Blog, contributed to this article.