I have to admit I’m a bit lazy in some ways. Cleaning paint brushes is not a chore I enjoy doing, especially since I use so many in one sitting. The worst offence to a poor defenseless brush is leaving it in the water promising yourself you’ll clean it tomorrow. Tomorrow seems to turn into days for me!
I have been known to forget (ignore) a sad group of assorted brushes in a water bucket long enough for slime to develop on the handles and the water surface itself. Yuck! I’m not proud of this but I just want you to know I have some bad habits and I make mistakes too.
Since I’m supposed to be a role model here, I do pledge and solemnly swear that cleaning paint brushes will now be a regular part of my painting process. I hope you’ll take this pledge with me. It’s not hard to do at all, it’s just that it’s not as much fun as painting, that’s all.
While you’re painting, keep an eye on the ferrule of the brush. If paint finds its way up into the ferrule, rigorously rinse it out. Keep all of your brushes rinsed when not in use, blotted and rest them on paper towels during your project. If you store them upright, dirty water will pool into the ferrule and into the wooden brush handles. In time this will compromise the brush.
When you’re finished for the day, acrylic paint requires simple soap and water clean up. A bar of moisturizing soap will do. And using cold water is very important. Using warm or hot water will make clean up difficult, as heat will help to set the paint.
So here’s what I do. Take the brushes to the sink. Take one brush at a time. Rinse it thoroughly until the water runs clear.
Next, stroke the wet bristles onto the bar of soap. Grasp the tip of the bristles between you index and thumb. Now, wiggle the handle of the brush while holding on to the hairs. This will create suds and will push the soap up into ferrule which will grab the last stubborn bit of paint that may have found its way up there.
Now rinse. Blot on a clean white paper towel. If any trace of paint remains, repeat this process. Do all your brushes this way.
Cleaning paint brushes has to become a labor of love. Truly, what a joy it is to paint with a properly cared for brush. In time your brushes will wear out, no doubt, but proper care will ensure they have a long and happy life! And that saves you money!
Once your brushes are clean and still damp, brush the very tip of the brush onto the bar of soap. Re-shape the brushes gently. For Flats, pinch the chisel edge flat and tap the sides back into shape. For Rounds and Liners, coax the hairs to a point without twisting them.
As the brushes dry, the soap will harden and act as a protective shield. Be sure the brushes dry horizontally and that the hairs are not resting on anything that may distort their shape.
There are many products on the market that can save your brushes from this potential disaster.
But there are also some simple home remedies.
RUBBING ALCOHOL: You can use rubbing alcohol to remove dried on acrylic paint.
However, this can dry out the brush hairs and you’ll need to finish the cleaning job with the bar of moisturizing soap as mentioned above.
MURPHY’S OIL SOAP:
You can soak your brushes in this household cleaning product and the paint will dissolve without harming the brush hairs.
Follow with a proper rinse and a soap and water clean up.
Of course, most craft stores will carry wonderful products designed specifically for cleaning paint brushes.
Keeping your oil painting brushes in tip top shape is very important so cleaning them is an important part of maintenance.
I must confess that I’m not an oil painter. Oil paints bother me, and the smell of turpentine and mineral spirits, which are used for cleaning, does not agree with me either. However, I do know that cleaning paint brushes of oils is important for their life cycle.
You’ll need newspaper, plastic container with a lid, turpentine or mineral spirits, liquid hand soap and paper towel.
Start by removing as much paint from the brushes as possible. Keeping stacks of newspapers on hand for this is perfect. Wipe off the paint. Then place the brush inside the folds of the newsprint and apply lots of pressure to literally squeeze the paint out of the bristles, like a tube of toothpaste.
The only thing that will get the oils out of your brushes is turpentine or mineral spirits. You don’t need a lot and you can re-use it quite a bit, especially if you’ve taken the time to wipe most of the paint off first.
Get a small plastic container with a lid (about the size of s custard cup / ramekin). Add the turpentine and then plunge the brush hairs in there to saturate them thoroughly. As tempting as it might be to leave the brushes in there to soak, don’t. The chemicals are too strong and will affect the quality of the brush in no time.
OK, so the hairs are saturated with the turpentine. Go to your sheet of newsprint and keep wiping off and squeezing the hairs to get the paint out. At this point most of the paint will be removed. If you feel you need to, repeat this step.
With the brush almost clean, add some liquid hand soap to the palm of your hand and rub the brush hairs into the soap and get them good and sudsy. You want to loosen all of the paint from the bristles. Run warm water over your hand and the brush and repeat this step until the brush seems clean. Blot on a white paper towel. If there is still some color leaching from the brush, continue with the hand soap and warm water until there is no trace of color on the paper towel.
Allow your brushes to dry horizontally on clean paper towel. I think cleaning paint brushes, as much as it’s not fun, is critical to the success of each future project you undertake. So keep ‘em clean!