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How to Clean Your Acrylic Nail Brushes (and When to Replace Them)

Clean and conditioned acrylic nail brushes are the magic behind seamless acrylic application— along with your technique of course!  

Maybe you're here because you’ve got a stiff situation on your hands (a glob of acrylic product build-up on the tip of your broken-in acrylic brush). This can happen even if you’re cleaning your brushes regularly. Using acetone or even brush cleaners with harsh chemicals can cause the hairs to get dried out and brittle.  When this happens, it is more likely for the bristles to fray out or even break. 

High-quality nail brushes are an investment—and one that’s well worth it. The shape and texture of the bristles are crafted with an eye toward precision and dexterity to help you create perfect nails every time. 

Learn the best way to clean your acrylic nail brush after every use, what to avoid, and how to maintain your nail brushes so that they’ll last for well over five years. Yes! They can last THAT long, and even longer—as long as you use the right acrylic brush cleaner.

Tools You Need to Get Started

Acrylic nail brush

Liquid monomer

Table towel 

Ceramic Dappen Dish

How to Clean Your Acrylic Nail Brushes

After any acrylic application, it is important to soak your brush in monomer to clean out any acrylic residue that may be remaining.  If you skip this at the end of your application, any acrylic left in the brush can harden and clog up the brush.  The following procedure can be completed to loosen and remove any hardened acrylic from the brush.

Step 1

Pour fresh, clean liquid monomer into an empty dappen dish and lay out a clean table towel beside the dish.

Step 2

Place the bristled end of the brush in the dappen dish of liquid monomer and allow it to soak.  

If your acrylic nail brush is clogged with acrylic, the soaking period can last anywhere between five minutes to a half an hour or longer, depending on how hardened your nail brush is.

Step 3

After soaking, remove the brush from the monomer and wipe the bristles on your table towel.  Place the brush on the clean table towel and fold over to envelope the brush with the towel.  Lightly press on top of the bristles and gently pull the brush to clean out any acrylic residue. Avoid scrubbing or pulling on the bristles as this can damage or break them.

Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as necessary if the brush is still clogged. 

Step 4 

Once your brush is clean and you no longer see any acrylic residue, gently touch the tip of the brush to your table towel and roll the handle between your fingers to bring the bristles back to a point.  

Rest your acrylic nail brush on a clean, dry table towel so that it can properly dry. Store your brush in a drawer or covered area so it remains clean until the next use.

Optional Step 5

If you have repeated the above steps and there are still stubborn specks of hardened acrylic on your acrylic nail brush, a dash of acetone will do the trick. 

1. Add a drop or two of acetone to the monomer, and soak your brush in it for five to ten minutes.

2. Repeat Step 3 above.

3. Repeat soaking as necessary to fully clean out all of the acrylic residue.

4. Once the brush is completely free of acrylic, rinse it in fresh, clean monomer to remove any acetone from the brush.

5. Re-shape and store your brush as in Step 4 above.

When to Replace Your Brushes

Acetone can be harsh on the construction of brush bristles, so if you’ve had to resort to the extra tip to fully clean your acrylic nail brush, then the brush itself might not have the potential to get back to its as-if-it-were-brand-new conditioned state. If you end up with frayed, sparse ends after resorting to acetone, that’s a sign it’s time to replace your brush. 

The easiest way to avoid hardened acrylic product buildup on your nail brush is by cleaning your brushes regularly after you use them on each client.