How To Clean Enamel Paint From Paint Brushes

As an oil-based paint, Enamel paint dries hard and is a great option for painting surfaces that will be exposed to grease, fumes, and high humidity. With this in mind, enamel paint is a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms and leaves a beautiful glossy finish.

But this oil-based paint is not easy to clean off your brushes and will need to be done correctly because leaving oil-based Enamel paint to dry on them is a big no-no! In this article, we share exactly how to clean enamel paint from paintbrushes.

When To Use Enamel Paint

Before we share our step-by-step guide on how to clean enamel paint off your paintbrushes, first let’s take a look at when you should use enamel paint.

It is important to note that traditionally enamel paint is oil-based but in recent years companies have developed water-based enamel paint which dries quickly and is easier to clean.

Wondering if enamel paint is the right paint for your next painting project? Here is a list of surfaces and materials that are well suited for enamel paint:

Touch-up projects around the home

Using enamel paint indoors is possible but due to the fumes, you may only want to use it for smaller projects. For example, you could use enamel to give your window sills a glossy finish or wooden shelves or metal frames. Enamel will cover the majority of surfaces and it dries hard, giving a glossy and almost glass-like finish.

Model cars, airplanes, and figurines

Enamel paint is great for small projects and touching up small areas. Due to the fact that enamel paint dries hard and shiny, it will give your models a vibrant finish.


You can use enamel paint on wooden and concrete flooring. As enamel has such a tough finish when dry it creates a strong protective layer for your floors, protecting the ground underneath from scuffs and wear and tear.

Upcycling furniture

Have an old bench that you want to add a splash of color too? Or do you want to brighten up the furniture on your porch?

Enamel paint is a great choice for any outdoor furniture project as it works well on most materials and is hard-wearing and strong. You can also use enamel paint for painting indoor furniture if you wish.

Enamel paint can be used almost anywhere but the results will vary depending on where you use it. For example, you can paint interior walls with enamel paint but you need to consider whether a hard and glossy finish is the look you want on your interior walls.

Enamel paint also has strong-smelling fumes that can take a long time to go away, this means it is not always the best option for large indoor projects.

Essentials Needed To Clean Enamel From Paint Brushes

Whether you are painting an Airfix model or giving all of your garden furniture a brand new look, you are likely using a paintbrush to apply the paint to your project. As we have mentioned, enamel paint dries hard on all surfaces, this includes on your paintbrushes.

If you are using water-based enamel paint, you can easily clean your paintbrushes with warm soapy water. Once all the paint is removed from the brush, wrap the bristles in a newspaper so they dry flat and straight, ready for the next time you use the paintbrush.

However, cleaning oil-based enamel paint off paintbrushes requires a little more effort and you will need some essential items to get the job done.

When cleaning enamel paint from your brushes, make sure you have the following items ready:

  • A flat knife
  • A clean large can
  • White spirits
  • Warm soapy water
  • A screw-top jar

Once you have all of the above ready, you can begin the process of cleaning your brushes. Keep reading for our easy-to-follow step-by-step guide.

How To Clean Enamel Paint From Paint Brushes – Step-by-Step Guide

As soon as you are done painting with enamel paint, you will need to clean your brushes straight away. Enamel paint will dry hard on your paintbrushes, leaving the paint like this can damage your brushes and make them unusable for future painting projects.

Here is our easy to follow step-by-step guide for cleaning enamel paint from paintbrushes:

Step 1 – Once you have finished painting, use a flat-edged knife to scrape any excess enamel paint off your paintbrushes.

Step 2 – After you have removed as much paint as possible, apply a pair of rubber gloves and pour approximately 2 inches of white spirit into a can (make sure the can is large enough to fit the entire head and bristle of the paintbrush inside).

Step 3 – Put the paintbrush into the white spirits, making sure the bristles are facing down into the cleaner.

Step 4 – Leave the brush in the white spirits for around 20 to 30 minutes.

Step 5 – After 20/30 minutes, hold the brush by the handle and gently move it around in the can of white spirits to try and dislodge any particles of paint that are still trapped between the bristles.

Step 6 – Carefully remove the brush from the can and run the bristles under warm water.

Step 7 – Fill another can with 2 inches of white spirit and repeat the above process.

Step 8 – Once the paintbrushes look free of all the enamel paint, remove the brush from the white spirits and wash in warm soapy water. You will need to clean all of the white spirits out of the bristles.

Step 9 – It is now time to dry your paintbrushes. You can either wrap them in a newspaper, to keep the bristles flat and straight. Alternatively, simply shake excess water from the bristles and hang your brushes upside down to dry naturally.

Step 10 – Pour the white spirits that you have used into a screw-top jar. The paint in the white spirits will settle to the bottom of the jar and you can use the white spirits again by simply pouring it out of the jar, it will separate from the paint at the bottom.

This is a great tip because it means you don’t have to use fresh white spirit every time you wash your paintbrushes.


What is the best way to apply enamel paint?

When using enamel paint, the first thing you need to do is thoroughly clean the surface with warm soapy water. Once the surface is dry, you will need to apply a primer before you start painting with the enamel paint.

Using a long stick, stir the enamel paint thoroughly and then apply to the surface using a clean paintbrush.

Can you use enamel paint to paint over other paints?

Enamel paint is oil-based and can be used to paint over other paints.

Depending on what paint you are painting over and what surface it is, you may need to use a suitable primer to prime the surface first. Finished results will vary depending on what paint you are painting over, you may notice peeling and fading over time, for example.

Why is my enamel paint not drying?

Humidity and temperature can influence how long it takes enamel paint to dry. If you are trying to dry enamel paint in high humidity but low temperatures, it is likely to take a very long time. Drying enamel paint in high humidity can result in a tacky and uneven finish.

You can try using a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity in your workspace and keep the room well heated too if you want the paint to dry evenly.

How long does it take for enamel paint to stop smelling?

It can take at least two days for the smell from enamel paint to disperse. The paint needs to dry completely and the remaining fumes will need to completely dissipate before the smell of paint will go.

To help the process along, keep the room well ventilated and minimize the amount of time that you expose yourself to the paint fumes.

How do you use enamel paint on walls?

To apply enamel paint to walls, you first need to apply a primer. Once the primer has dried, you will need to mix the enamel paint with a stick. Once the paint is mixed, you can apply it to your walls using a brush or sprayer.

When painting walls, it is always a good idea to start in the center and work your way out. If you need to apply a second coat, wait for the first coat to be completely dry first.

How long does it take enamel paint to dry?

It takes approximately 8 to 24 hours for enamel paint to dry. While there are fast-drying options available that will dry in just 20 minutes, the majority of standard enamel paints will take several hours due to their thickness.

You should avoid touching the paint at all while it is drying as this can lead to imperfections to the overall finished look.


Enamel paint is a great paint choice for many different projects. This oil-based paint dries glossy and gives surfaces an attractive glass-like finish. However, enamel paint dries hard and it can be tricky to clean off your paintbrushes.

In this article, we have shared an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide on how to clean enamel paint off paintbrushes. We hope you find it useful and by following these steps you can keep your paintbrushes in tip-top condition ready for all of your future projects.