How to Clean Acrylic Nail Brushes?

by Anne B. Robinson

Both professional and amateur nail artists can agree on one thing: the acrylic nail brush is your most valuable tool. To keep your brushes in good shape, they need to be clean, conditioned, and free of any product clumps that can clog the bristles.

Keeping your brushes clean while working is essential to accomplish good nail art. However, accidents happen! Some acrylic can get in the brush, cure, harden, and become a pain to remove.

If you have a nail brush that fits the description, keep reading to find out how to clean it and get it as good as new.

How to Clean Acrylic Nail Brushes

A good-quality new brush “snaps” back into its original position if you hold the bristles down, then release them. This is what you want for your brushes at any given moment.

The truth is nail brushes can get contaminated by a million things. For example, leaving them in a brush holder for a week will get dust particles trapped between the bristles.

This situation can be a minor annoyance, but it can also interfere with their shape and how they move. Worst of all, it can lead to dust and glitter particles messing with the design you want to achieve.

To clean nail brushes that don’t have too much stuck to them, follow these steps:

  1. Wipe the dry brush on a clean paper towel.
  2. Put enough acrylic monomer in a small cup or bowl to coat the bristles.
  3. Dip your brush into the monomer.
  4. Take it out, twirl, and wipe it on the paper towel.
  5. Repeat until the brush doesn’t leave any dust, glitter, or acrylic debris on the paper towel.
  6. Dip the brush into the monomer one last time.
  7. Lay it flat on a clean towel or cloth to dry completely before storage.

Some brushes come with caps to protect them from dust and debris. You’ll want to make sure the lid has a ventilation hole to prevent moisture damage.

How to Clean Clumpy and Hard Acrylic Nail Brushes

Unlike nail gel, which needs a special lamp to harden, nail acrylic is a polymer that cures and hardens with time. Unfortunately, this can lead to acrylic particles getting trapped between the bristles and clumping them together.

When left for over 24 hours, the acrylic hardens completely and becomes impossible to remove without damaging the bristles.

You can try soaking the brush in monomer for a full day and then pushing out the clumps using an orangewood or popsicle stick.

Unfortunately, this won’t work in severe cases where the brush is saturated with acrylic, or it’s been left to harden for too long. You can either use a professional brush cleaner or 100% pure acetone in these cases.

To remove stubborn clumps and soften a hardened brush:

  • In a small dish or bowl, put enough brush cleaner or acetone to cover the brush’s bristles, but not the ferrule (metal part) or the handle.
  • Dip your brush upright without pressing on it or pushing the bristles down.
  • Keep it submerged in the acetone or cleaner for 30-second intervals.
  • After each dip, take the brush out and loosen the acrylic clumps with a wooden tool.
  • Once all the chunks have been removed, dip the brush in acetone or brush cleaner one last time.
  • Wipe it from the acetone on a paper towel and immediately saturate it with the monomer, then wipe it again.
  • Repeat the wiping and monomer dipping step a couple of times until the brush is clean, soft, and well-pointed.

Should I Use Acetone to Clean My Nail Brushes?

Some sources advise against using acetone to clean natural hair brushes because it can make the brush less “sticky” to acrylic beads. However, this seems to happen if the brush is left in the brush cleaner or acetone for a long time.

Keep in mind that high-quality nail brushes are made of natural sable (also called kolinsky) hairs, which can withstand a few minutes of dipping into acetone with no problems.

The trick is to keep the brush conditioned with the monomer at all times and only wiping it along the direction of the bristles, not against it. This can quickly replenish the bristles with the needed moisture and reduce the friction caused by the repetitive wiping.

Synthetic nail brushes are less finicky when it comes to cleaning, though some nail artists don’t prefer them. Just keep in mind that a good-quality synthetic brush can be easier to work with than a lower-quality natural hair brush.

To avoid severe acrylic clumping and hardening, make sure you have a dish of monomer or acetone on the side while you’re working. You can easily get acrylic out of your brush when it’s still soft and malleable by dipping the brush and then wiping it immediately after.

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