How To Care For Your Paintbrushes

Three paint brushes

To produce a quality paint job you will want to use a quality paint brush with flexible bristles that won’t stick on your work surface as you brush. Once you purchase quality brushes you'll want to care for them properly to get the long-term benefits of your investment. Follow these guidelines to maintain the quality of your paint brushes.

Precondition Your New Paint Brushes Before Using Them

The first thing that you should do before using a new paintbrush is to precondition it. Doing this not only makes the brush easy to use with the paint but it also ensures that the brush will last longer. Begin by tapping the brush lightly on one hand to remove any loose bristles. Then stand the brush in some linseed oil while ensuring that the bristles are not bent. Alternatively, you can pour some linseed oil on the bristles and then lay the brush on a flat surface.

Never Keep a Paintbrush in Water

a paintbrush in water
Allowing a paintbrush to soak overnight in water is one of the surest ways of destroying it before its time. Water ruins your brush by making the bristles inflexible. The best way to clean your brushes begins with the use of solvents like turpentine or benzene to dissolve the paint. Once the paint is removed, wash the brushes using warm water (not hot) and soap and then rinse them in clean warm water. If you have used a latex paint, you may not need chemicals at all. Washing in water generally removes all paint. Allow the brushes to dry gradually by wrapping them in wax paper. Again, don't allow the bristles to bend.

Caring for Specialized Paintbrushes

Different paint brush types require different types of care. Shellac brushes, for instance, will require cleaning in either diluted ammonia or in alcohol. In case you use the former you should proceed to rinse the brush with warm water. Stipple brushes require washing in either turpentine or benzene first. You should then give them a second wash using warm water and soap. Repeat this process every time you use them. Calcimine brushes, on the other hand, just require a thorough wash and rinse in cold water before being hung to dry.

What About Dried Paint Brushes?

paintbrushes with dried paint
You can restore dry paint brushes that aren’t too damaged by letting the bristles soften in hot kerosene. Start by suspending the brushes in a container that has sufficient kerosene. This container should in turn be suspended in a bigger container that has very hot water, taking care to keep both containers away from flames. Once the bristles feel soft to the touch, remove the brushes and wash using benzene before drying in wax paper or foil.

Handy Tips for Paintbrush Care

Never use the same paintbrush for water-based and oil painting. Separate paintbrushes should also be used for masking fluid, gesso, and varnish.

Use the least possible amount of pressure to remove paint from a brush. Stubborn paint will eventually come off after several rinses in a solvent. However, it is always best to wash brushes as soon as possible after use.