How to Thoroughly Clean Your Paint Brushes May 05 , 2017

Paint brushes are designed to be used more than once and the good ones can last years if properly taken care of. Even the cheapest of brushes can be used for several sessions of painting if your brush is cleaned well after each use.


The process of cleaning your paint brushes depends upon the kind or type of paint being used. Clean up after use with oil paint is quite different from acrylic or watercolor. So, the type of paint determines the process of thoroughly cleaning your paint brushes.


When using oil paint:


1. A solvent is necessary to clean your brushes. Gum turpentine or just plain mineral spirits are the most common choices for a solvent. There are others out there but for the money these are the best for clean up. (Not to be confused for a painting medium at this point)


2. Use glass jars with a lid as a container to put your solvent in, fill the jar about ¼ to ½ full and cover with the lid when not in use.


3. You will need some paper towels - one or two pieces


4. Dip your brush into the solvent - about a third down the tip of the brush


5. Take the brush and immediately cover the tip with the paper towel and swish the tip of the brush in the paper towel. This process will get the paper towel dirty leaving paint and solvent in the towel and not the paint brush.


6. Continue this process (replenishing the paper towels as needed) till only solvent is seen in the paper towel and no paint color is present


7. Set brush aside to dry, the solvent will evaporate


8. I find that a periodic (1-3 times a year depending on use) cleaning of my brushes (when dry) with dish soap and water helps to keep them supple and user-friendly


When using acrylic paint or watercolor


Acrylic and watercolor are both water based paints, therefore it is not necessary to use a solvent to clean your paint brushes, however because of their quick drying time it is important to not let the paint dry in the brush or you will ruin it! To avoid this problem it is best to have a shallow tray of water close by that you can lay the bristle part down into the water. This will prevent it from drying out with paint residue on it while you continue on with your painting session.


As a word of caution, never stick your brushes bristle-end down in a jar of solvent or water and leave it. This will most likely alter the shape of it permanently.


After your painting session proceed with clean up as follows:


Rinse your art brushes in water till you no longer see any of the pigment of color when you wipe it with a paper towel or cloth, be sure to wipe close to the ferrule to ensure there is no collection of paint hidden there

Then use a little dish soap and clean them again under running tap water till they are squeaky clean. Lay flat on a paper towel to dry

Always remember to store your brushes in an upright position or lying flat, never with the brush part down

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