A good paint brush is a serious investment and for those of us who love art, we usually spend a lot of time and money ensuring we have the best of the best. An important part of paint brush ownership is cleaning and washing them correctly so that they last for years to come and stay in the best condition.
There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there on how to clean paint brushes and when you don’t know the right way to do it you run the risk of doing serious damage. We’ve got five simple tips and tricks to follow when you’re cleaning paint brushes that are easy to remember and ensure the very best care of these prized artist’s possessions.
#5: A Simple Clean For Water-Based Paints
If you’re working with water-based paints, which most artists do, there’s a simple process you can follow every time to clean your brushes. Follow these steps for a basic clean and then read on if you think it requires something more heavy duty.
- Scrape off any excess paint left on the brush, especially if it feels stuck and dried on.
- Fill a container with warm water and mild detergent. Stick the brush in and get it all wet. Work the brush with your fingers moving in between the bristles to wash the paint away.
- Spin the brush in between your hands to get rid of any paint stuck inside, being careful to do so in a contained space.
- Get a clean pail of water and rinse the brush off until the water runs clean. Repeat in a new clean pail of water after a few minutes to get the remaining residue.
- Choose a heavy style of paper to wrap around the top of the brush and contain the bristles. This will dry the bristles and retain the shape of the brush. Store away horizontally in a sleeve.
#4: Clean Them Straight Away
When you’re in the zone and getting into your painting, you probably don’t have cleaning at the forefront of your mind. Many of us simply dip the paint in, do what we need to do, and then leave the paintbrush there while we grab the next one and start another color.
Although this might seem like the easy approach, it makes matters a whole lot worse when you clean. To make the final cleaning process easier, you should be cleaning the brush as you go with a simple dip into water and then wiping it off with a cloth. It won’t take long but will save you a lot of hard work and heartache trying to clean dried paint off.
#3: Storage Matters
When you think about an artist’s setup, most people visualize a bunch of paintbrushes sitting in a jar of water with the brushes down the bottom. This method actually does a lot of harm to the brushes and isn’t something that professional artists would ever do.
The correct storage for brushes is to have them stored horizontally in a special place like a canvas sleeve that has a spot for each of them. Leaving the handle in water will split the wood and damage it, and leaving the brush side in the water will push out the bristles permanently and ruin them.
#2: Bring Them Back to Life
If your brushes are looking a little worse for wear and you’ve already tried the simple cleaning method, you might need to call for reinforcements. These are some tips you can try to bring brushes back to life:
- Sit brushes in water and vinegar and place in the microwave for 60 seconds before cleaning again.
- Oil-based paints come off easier if you apply oil to the cleaning process. Rub some olive oil or baby oil into them and let it sit for a few minutes before working it through with your hands and rinsing with clean water.
- If your brushes have lost their shape and you can’t get them back, boil some water on the stove. Stick the brushes in the boiling water for just a few seconds and when you pull them back you can rework them again.
- Once brushes have become brittle and aren’t responding to other forms of cleaning, you can do a deeper clean with fabric softener. This will often restore the bristles back to their original softness and let you start from scratch with their care.
#1: Don’t Forget the Bottoms
Most people think that cleaning their paint brushes is all about attacking the top of bristles. While this is definitely the most important area, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the bottoms. The ferrule can be notoriously hard to keep clean and many people avoid it for that reason. Once paint gets stuck permanently it will change the entire shape of the brush and make it useless, so commit a few minutes to clean this specific area.
An Investment Worth Caring For
The most important accessory a painter owns is their brushes, and this is true for serious artists and those who enjoy painting by numbers for fun. Proper care and cleaning of your brushes means they’ll last for years and will deliver a far superior finished product.
To make your paint brush easier to clean, the best thing to do is purchase a quality brand and product to use for all of your paint by numbers projects. The better the quality of the brush, the easier it will be to keep clean and in good condition, so make this your very first priority as an artist.