Hot Topics: Are all Paint Brushes Reusable?

A paint brush being dunked into clear water.

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What's the key to making your paint brushes last as long as possible? Do you get what you pay for with brushes? Our forum members share their opinions with a questioning DIYer.

Original Post: Are all paint brushes reusable?

Charlie2 Member

I'm looking for a 2" or 3" paint brush for interior drywall touch ups. In the past, I have tried to wash and dry the brush, but when I tried to use it again, it was not as good as when it's new. I was wondering if there is a certain brand/model of brush that is better for reuse because the ones I've tried before are not very good.

Furd Member

It helps to start with a good brush, but I'll admit that most of the time I use a Harbor Freight "chip" brush and I definitely reuse them.

You DO need to properly clean any brush you intend to use again. Part of the job of cleaning starts by properly using the brush in the first place.

Do NOT dip the brush into the paint (or whatever) to a depth more than halfway between the tips of the bristles and the bottom of the metal ferrule. This is to prevent (as much as possible) getting any paint into the "heel" of the brush. Do NOT let any paint accumulate in the brush and dry. When cleaning the brush, first work out as much of the paint as possible by scraping it back into the can and then working out more by brushing full sweeping strokes onto clean (no dust or dirt) scrap wood or newspapers. Then, thoroughly work in the proper solvent (might be tap water) through the bristles using your fingers to clean out any trace of dried paint. Use a clean (not dirty or greasy) wire brush stroking from the heel/ferrule towards the tip to remove any remains of dried paint. If you have used water as the proper cleaning solvent, use a couple of drops of dishwashing detergent along with the water to clean it even more thoroughly, but be sure to rinse out all of the detergent with clean water.

Dry the brush by shaking out as much water as possible. If the brush has a round handle, then spin it between your palms, holding your hands together and rubbing them back and forth. Wrap paper around the bristles carefully to reshape them to the original shape and store them with the paper in place.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

IMO, there is no substitute for a good quality brush! I'm partial to Purdy brushes for latex and Wooster brushes for oil-based, but there are many brands of quality brushes. I detest a cheap brush! It's easier to paint with a good brush and if you clean them up and store them properly, they'll last a long time.

While I have stored brushes wrapped in paper, I prefer to use the shuck/wrapper that they came in. Either way, a wrapped brush will hold its shape better. As mentioned above, properly cleaning the brush will extends its life.

stickshift Group Moderator

I find I use a helluva lot of water cleaning brushes after latex paint (I try to be a little more conservative with the mineral spirits after oil-based); my best guess is you are just not getting them clean enough.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I've heard some say you only need to rinse a brush three times, but I've always cleaned mine so that after the last rinse the thinner/water was still clean or just has a tint of color. If you have a safe way to store it, you can keep the used thinner and use it for the first rinse next time.

XSleeper Member

Unless you only used the brush for five minutes, most brushes need to be combed with a wire brush as you clean them. The brushes should look like new once you have cleaned them if you are doing a decent job. I've got some I've had for probably 10 years or more.

Marq1 Member

I've never taken a wire brush to a paint brush, but I have always bought Purdy brushes and have some that are getting upwards of 20 years old.

Clean, clean, clean—lots of soap and nice and dry. Never wrapped!

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I couldn't imagine not using a wire brush when cleaning a paint brush. The wire brush removes any dried paint and straightens out the bristles.

As noted above, a properly cared for brush will last a long time although a lot depends on how much you use it and what type of substrate it is used on. While I probably have a few brushes that are 30+ years old, I've also worn brushes down in less than a year. A well cared for brush in a DIY setting could last a lifetime.

Norm201 Member

If you're going to use the brush within a day or two of last use, rinse and keep about half to three-quarters submerged in water, or if a roller is being used again within a short time, I wrap it in a plastic bag.

For long-term storage, clean as described by previous posters.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Generally I prefer to clean the brushes at the end of the day although I routinely wrap a roller in plastic if I expect to use it the next day. I have wrapped brushes with plastic also on occasions.

Handyone Forum Topic Moderator

I don't use a wire brush, but I do use a brush comb. The combs work very well.

I've been using the same Purdy 2" and sash brush for many years. People ask me how I keep it so clean and all I do is comb it under running water, soap it, and comb it again.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I don't remember if I've ever used a brush comb or not, although I've known painters that do. I was taught to use a wire brush long, long ago and since it's effective, I've never seen a reason to change.

I've always preferred to clean brushes in a bucket. Maybe that stems back to my apprentice days as well; back then half of the coatings we used were solvent-based. I feel like I can clean a brush better using a bucket of water than using a water hose or spigot.

XSleeper Member

"Chip" brushes aren't worth cleaning. They are usually the 99 cent variety that leave bristles behind as you paint. The package usually says "economy" or "one-time use." I would hardly call them a paint brush.

Furd Member

I flex the bristles back and forth several times before using the brush and that gets out the majority of the loose bristles. May not be cost-effective when you are being paid to do a job, but it works for my projects. I generally get a half-dozen uses out of one brush and then I toss it.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

The chip brushes I've seen were all natural bristle, intended for solvent-based coatings and not latex. It's always a good idea to take any new natural bristle brush and kneed it through your fingers to remove any hairs that might be loose. I don't recall ever having issues with synthetic bristles coming loose.

Esand1 Member

I've been able to reuse a high quality brush that I use with water-based paints for over a year.

On the other hand, I once tried to clean a brush I used for a bituminous paint—didn't even come close to working. Now I just buy the cheapest ones I can find and consider them disposable for that application.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Not all brushes are suitable for all paints. While it's possible to clean any type of wet coating out of the brush, solvent-based coatings are best applied with a natural bristle brush. Some solvents will melt synthetic bristles. Sometimes you need to consider the cost of the solvent needed to clean versus the cost of the brush. Old brushes come in handy for coatings that you don't want to clean up. IMO, an old worn brush works better than a brand new cheap brush.

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