Often a time I see other artists abusing their brushes and it just irks me. During one of my mural projects which involves 20 other artists, I left my brushes lying around. To my shock, I discovered some of them dried with paint and another group of them drowning in a pail full of paint. They were all unsalvagable to my disappointment. I vowed never ever to leave my brushes lying around anymore.

When I was working with Vinn, she used to nag me about cleaning my brushes. She never ever let me wash our brushes and she would take care of all them. I didn’t heed her advice then. Haha. I know better now.

Brushes are tools for artists. The quality of the artwork depends on the brushes we use. After throwing away many good quality and expensive brushes, a better alternative would be to take care of them properly.

Using Brushes

  1. Never load paint by stabbing into the paint vertically. Doing so will just result in the brushes splitting wide open eventually. Always load by scooping up the paint sideways.
  2. Store brushes vertically and  not horizontally in a container. Storing them horizontally in a container would cause longer brushes to lose its shape when it is permanently resting on the side of the container. I know some artists purposely do this to create a brush of different shape for different effects but let’s make it intentional and not accidental ya?
  3. Never ever load paint past half the length of the brushes’ hair. Especially acrylics or fast drying paints. The worst you can do is loading it right past the metal ferrule which can cause the paint to dry deep inside the brushes’ hair. This can cause the brush to split open and it cannot be saved past this point.
  4. Rinse your brushes regularly when you paint. Use  water for acrylics and turpentine for oils. I always have a painting cloth or paper towel handy to wipe of excess paint before rinsing them. Once I realize my brushstrokes are not behaving properly, it is usually full of paint and the brush is no longer flexible for painting. Time for a good rinse!

Our brushes after spring cleaning. We call it brush spa


Cleaning Brushes at the end of the day

  1. Wipe off any excess paint and rinse thoroughly with water or turpentine. After that, squeeze hard from the metal ferrule to the ends of the hairs to release any paint stuck in the center, this step is very important. Wipe clean the handle as well. Handles are prone to being destroyed after long exposure to moisture.
  2. Reshape all the brushes to maintain their shape by pinching them back in shape and setting it with a dry cloth press.

Spring Cleaning Brushes

  1. For brushes used often for acrylics, this can be done every 3 or 6 months depending on the condition of the brushes. For brushes used for oils, this has to be done after every project or every month.
  2. If you are on a tight budget or doesn’t believe in brush cleaners, you can get the following for this :
    • Deep cleansing hair shampoo or soap (For oils, the best would be Murphy’s Oil Soap)
    • Hair conditioner
    • Hair gel
    • Turpentine/Thinner
    • Cloth/Paper towel
    • Clips
  3. For brushes used with acrylics :
    1. Make a solution of 8 parts water and 1/2 part hair shampoo, 1/2 part hair conditioner in a pail
    2. Examine brushes. Separate bad ones apart.
    3. Dunk all the good brushes into the pail and let it be for 5 mins
    4. While you wait, cleanse the bad ones in turpentine by rubbing the brushes into them one by one. Once they are done, wipe clean and dunk it into the pail.
    5. Once all your bad brushes are in the pail, rub and scrub all the handles with your fingers or toothbrush if the stains are stubborn.
    6. Gently clean all the brushes’ hair and marvel at how soft they seem now.
    7. Rinse them in clean water and let dry.
    8. When they are 80% dry, you can start reshaping them with hair gel. For brushes that have splitted, try to salvage them by applying hair gel and clamping them with clips. Remove the clips once the gel has set to avoid leaving a dent in your brushes.
    9. The next time you use, rinse the brush in water to soften it and enjoy almost new brushes!
  4. For brushes used with oils
    1. Have your Murphy’s oil soap or soap bar ready. I usually have my soap bar in a dish filled halfway with water.
    2. Examine brushes. Separate bad ones apart.
    3. Bad ones have to be dipped in oil to soften them. Once they are soft to a degree, rinse in turpentine. Wipe clean.
    4. Soak them in Murphy’s oil soap for 5 mins.
    5. For soap bar, rub the brush on the soap until all the paint comes out. Rinse clean in water.
    6. Repeat until brush is soft to touch.
    7. Reshape using hair gel. For brushes that have splitted, try to salvage them by applying hair gel and clamping them with clips. Remove the clips once the gel has set to avoid leaving a dent in your brushes.
    8. The next time you paint, rinse the brush in turpentine to soften it and enjoy your new brushes!