Can You Clean Paint Brushes In The Sink?

Whether you’re painting a room or a canvas, bringing an old piece of furniture back to life with a fresh coat, or doing touch-ups on your doorframes, maintaining the quality of your paintbrushes is almost as important as choosing a paint color. Cleaning your paintbrushes immediately after each use is a surefire way to extend their life, but can you clean them in the sink?

You can’t clean paint brushes in the sink without removing the excess paint first. Letting too much paint wash down your sink can cause damage to your plumbing and could leech chemicals into the local water supply. 

This article will teach you how to clean your paint brushes in a way that is effective and environmentally conscious. 

Can You Clean Paint Brushes in the Sink?

As mentioned above, you can’t clean paint bruises in the sink. Doing so can poison the local drinking supply, damage your plumbing, and cause other issues. 

Instead, you should dry the paint off with paper towels or a newspaper. This approach will prevent paint from getting into the water supply or interfering with your plumbing. 

Is It Okay To Wash Paint Down the Drain?

Washing too much paint down the drain is unsafe for your plumbing or the environment. Water and oil-based paints contain chemicals that must be disposed of properly per local regulations. 

With so many different types of paint available, it may be challenging to know which ones are drain-safe and which aren’t. Even if a certain kind of paint is safe for your plumbing, it is probably not safe for the local water supply. This is especially true for oil-based paints. By reading my previous article, you can learn more about why oil floats on water

It would be best to look up your local government’s laws on hazardous-waste disposal or contact a wastewater treatment facility near you since the rules will differ from city to city. Overall, paint is considered hazardous because its chemicals are flammable. Pouring anything flammable down your drain is extremely dangerous. 

What Is the Best Way To Clean Your Paint Brushes for the Environment?

The main concern when cleaning your paintbrushes is the chemicals running down the drain and leeching into the water supply, local watersheds, and, eventually, the ocean. 

The best way to clean your paintbrushes for the environment is to wipe any excess paint on a newspaper or paper towel so it can dry and be thrown in the trash. You can also use buckets of water to rinse your brushes, let the paint sink to the bottom, and strain it away to be disposed of. 

Here are two environmentally-friendly ways to clean your paintbrushes:

First Method

In the first method, you will remove any excess paint so it can be disposed of separately. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Wipe excess paint onto a newspaper, paper towel, or cardboard.
  2. Let the paint dry thoroughly before disposing of the paper in a trash can.
  3. To clean the paintbrush, use warm soapy water and rinse over the sink.
  4. The small amount of diluted paint that will run into the drain is acceptable.
  5. Dry your paintbrushes thoroughly before using them again.

Second Method

Another way of cleaning your paintbrushes safely for the environment and your plumbing is by employing a few spare buckets instead of using the sink. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Fill three buckets: one with warm soapy water and two with clear water.
  2. Clean the paint from the brush’s bristles in the warm soapy bucket.
  3. Transfer the clean paintbrush to the second bucket and rinse out the soap and any remaining paint. 
  4. Finally, rinse a third time in the last bucket until the water runs clear off the bristles.
  5. Let all three buckets sit overnight while your paintbrushes dry.
  6. Drain the water from the buckets, and you’ll be left with the excess paint that has sunken to the bottom.

How To Dispose of Water After Cleaning Paint Brushes

After cleaning your paintbrushes, you should dispose of the water in a way that follows local regulations for hazardous materials. You can call your local EPA or take the leftover water to a wastewater treatment plant so they can dispose of it. 

If you opted for the second method of cleaning your paint brushes in an environmentally-safe way, you could take the buckets used to clean your paint brushes to a wastewater treatment facility. They can give you the proper guidelines on hazardous-waste disposal or even take the water out of your hands. 

You can also contact your local recycling center or waste removal department and ask them what the proper disposal procedure for paint and contaminated water is. As I said previously, the regulations vary from city to city, so checking with local authorities will be the most effective way of disposing of water after cleaning your paint brushes.

Check out this YouTube video that shows how to wash paintbrushes.

Can You Wash Emulsion Down the Sink?

Emulsion refers to water-based paint. While the term “water-based” may lead you to believe it is plumbing-safe and okay for the environment, that is not the case.

You should not wash emulsion down the sink after painting. Even though the paint is water-based, it still contains chemicals that are unsafe for the water supply or your plumbing. 

How To Dispose of Emulsion

Because the chemicals in water-based paint are just as unsafe to wash down the drain as oil-based paint, acrylic, or latex, you must follow safe practices when disposing of it. 

If the paint is still in the can and unused, here are some ways to get rid of it:

  • For a small amount of paint in the can, let it dry and set it out for curbside garbage pick-up.
  • Mix the paint with cat litter to dry it out before disposing of it.
  • If you have a good amount of unneeded paint, check with local schools or churches to see if you can donate it. 
  • Ask a friend if they could use it instead of letting it go to waste.

To clean water-based paint from your paint brushes, you can use the two methods outlined in the above section to protect your plumbing and the local water supply. 


Cleaning your paint brushes regularly will keep them looking good and working efficiently for your next project. In summation, you can clean your paint brushes in the following ways:

  • Wipe the excess paint on a piece of paper and let it dry before throwing it away.
  • Use the bucket method to wash your paint brushes without the sink, then dispose of the leftover water according to local laws.

Handling and disposing of paint correctly is crucial to maintaining your sink’s plumbing and inhibiting dangerous chemicals from leeching into the local water supply. 

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