How to: Clean Nail Art Brushes

How to clean nail art brushesNail art that requires special brushes is a fairly recent addition to my nail polish world. About 6 months ago I ordered a nail art brush set from eBay. I was so excited when they arrived I started using them right away! Then I realized I had no earthly idea how to clean them.

After doing quite a bit of research and doing several things wrong at first (that were unsuccessful….) I finally learned how to do it the right way.

Once you know the right way to clean nail art brushes it’s an easy task!

Below the jump are step by step instructions on how exactly to clean nail art brushes and a few things NOT to do (because I learned the hard way…).


Nail Art Brush BeforeWhat you need:

  1. Dirty nail art brushes (obviously….). This method is to remove nail polish from nail art brushes (not acrylic paint, etc).
  2. Nail polish thinner. My favorite is Orly Nail Lacquer Thinner. But any nail thinner will work! Sally Beauty has a generic Beauty Secrets thinner that’s very affordable.
  3. Some kind of disposable plastic cup or plate. Make sure it’s plastic and not paper. The paper will just soak up the nail polish thinner.
  4. A piece of paper.

How to (protip…this process is easiest when the nail polish is till wet….though it will work with dried polish):

  1. Add 2 to 3 drops of nail polish thinner to a plastic surface.
  2. Dip the brush in the nail polish thinner and swirl it around.
  3. Wipe the brush on the piece of paper.
  4. If there’s still color on the brush repeat the above steps.

Once all the color is gone I use my piece of paper folded over to reshape the brush. The paper will also soak up any excess nail polish thinner.

After that I just put my brushes back in their normal spot. They’re ready to go for next time!

A couple of things not to do:

  1. Do not use acetone nail polish remover on your nail art brushes. This will weaken the glue and eventually the bristles will fall out. Basically, doing this will slowly ruin your brushes. And no one wants that.
  2. After cleaning the brushes with nail polish thinner do not run the brushes under water. This will cause the nail thinner to ball up and get stuck in the bristles.
  3. I recommend using paper or cardboard to soak up the extra thinner because using a paper towel (or the like) will leave lint in the brush.

Nail Art Brush AfterAn alternative method (that’s not really recommended….)

If you’re in a serious pinch (and by serious pinch I mean you need to use the nail art brush ASAP) you can use clear nail polish. This will take the color out but once the brush dries it will be rock hard. You’ll still need to follow up with nail thinner.


  1. I’m a bit confused as to why it’s ok to use thinner but not remover-one of the main ingredients in the thinner I use is acetone, so will it still be ok? And what about non-acetone remover?

    1. I’ve never seen a nail polish thinner that has acetone. The vast majority of thinners are just Butyl and Ethyl Acetate.

      Acetone will break down the glue in the brushes which is why you don’t want to use it. I have my doubts that non-acetone remover will really do much good. Thinner is really the way to go as it’ll break down the polish on the brush without damaging it.

What do you think?