how to clean paint brushes

Have you just finished a big DIY painting project and are wondering how to properly clean your paint brushes? Then you’re in the right place! In today’s article, we go through all the strategies and tricks for taking care of your bristles. Explore everything you need to know about how to clean paint brushes below.

Cleaning Your Paint Brushes

When taking on the task of cleaning your brushes, you need to bear in mind that there are different types of paint that will affect the bristles differently. For example, when cleaning brushes that were used with oil-based paint, we recommend using mineral spirits instead of water. However, to remove latex paint from a paintbrush, we recommend using warm soapy water.

Below is a step by step guide on how to clean paint brushes after you’ve finished your painting project.

Step 1: Remove Excess Paint

The first step to cleaning paint brushes is to remove any excess paint by gently rubbing the bristles on some old newspaper. This will help keep any future mess to a minimum and make your clean-up quick and easy. Once you’re satisfied that you can’t remove any more, you can simply throw the newspaper out and move on to the next step.

Step 2: Place Brushes in Soapy Water

Clean acrylic paint brushes with your hands using soapy water. For paint brushes with a lot of remaining paint on them, you may find it easier to use warm water to help remove any dried paint. Spin the paint brush in various directions in the water to help remove all the paint that may have built up and caked onto the bristles.

Step 3: Allow the Brushes to Dry

Gently tap the brushes on a cup or the edge of a sink to remove any excess water droplets. Avoid attempting to dry the brushes with a cloth and allow them to dry naturally, storing them upright in a cup. Try to keep the bristles from making contact with any other object to help them retain their shape.

How to Reshape Brush Bristles After Cleaning Them

Watercolour Brushes

Set of watercolour paintbrushes

To care for watercolour brushes, you’ll need to remove any excess water after cleaning them and then dry the handle. Rest them upwards so that the handle is at the bottom and the bristles are pointing towards the ceiling to let the brushes dry properly. Keep the brushes stored upright in a pot to ensure that the bristles face in the right direction. You may need to keep the brushes in the jar overnight or until they’re completely dry.

Oil Paint Brushes

Care and clean oil paint in the same way, following the same procedure as the above technique. However, make sure that the brushes are completely clean and dry before storage.

To store your paint brushes, it is good practice to first ensure that they are completely dry and keep them in a tight-fitting box, as this will help prevent any damage and mildew.

Caring For Paint Brushes

Aside from cleaning brushes with warm soapy water, there are several other ways to care for synthetic brushes or other paintbrush bristles.

Don’t Let Acrylic Paint Dry On Brushes

A great way to keep a paint brush in good condition is to avoid letting the paint dry on the bristles. In fact, the longer you allow the paint to remain on the brush, the more difficult it will be to remove. Remember that acrylic paint dries extremely quickly, so you should always keep the brush wet.

You can prevent the paint from drying on the bristles by using one brush at a time rather than having several different paints on the go at the same time. Additionally, you can also dip the brushes in water and remove the excess, keeping the bristles moist if that suits the project you’re working on. And, when you’re not using the brush, rest it in a cup of water to loosen up the paint.

Keep the Ferrule Clean

The ferrule is the silvery part that connects the brush handle to the bristles. You do not want to get paint on this part, if at all possible. This is because if paint gets caught at its base, it could dry out and cause the bristles to spread apart and fray.

Clean Brushes Regularly

Regular cleaning, preferably after every use, is the best way to keep your brushes intact and looking good. Don’t let the paint dry and cack onto the bristles and, if possible, clean your paint brushes every time you reach for a new colour.

Clean Them Gently

It can be tempting to remove oil paints vigorously for quick results, but it’s important to use gentle motions to protect the brush’s bristles and avoid them losing their natural shape. Work with the bristle’s intended directions during the cleaning and drying processes to keep them in shape. 

Don’t Soak the Brushes for Too Long

Keep brushes and rollers in tip-top condition by not leaving them to soak in soapy water for too long. If the brushes soak for a long time, this can cause the handle to warp, destroy the brush’s materials, and loosen the brush handle. It may also cause the bristles to fray and stick out in all directions.

Keeping Paint Brush Bristles Soft

Depending on the project you’re working on, you may want to ensure that your paint brushes’ bristles remain soft. Or, perhaps, you’ve found that your paint brush set has hardened, and you’d like to reverse that. If this is the case, follow the below steps.

Step 1: Use Vinegar

Place the brushes in a pan filled with vinegar and bring to a boil for several minutes until the bristles begin to move.

Step 2: Remove Any Excess Paint

Even though you may not see any visible paint on your brushes, you will find that most bristles are stiff due to paint residue. The gentle scraping will remove this residue from the brushes.

To scrape them properly, remove the paint brushes from the vinegar and use a spatula to scrape away from leftover paint.

Step 3: Bring to the Boil Again

Boil the vinegar again if you feel like your bristles still need cleaning and the bristles don’t feel soft yet.

Step 4: Apply Conditioner

Once you’re satisfied that the paint brushes are clean, it’s time to add conditioner to the bristles. Once you’ve rubbed your chosen conditioner on the bristles, place the brushes into a plastic bag and add the bag into boiling water. The heat will help to condition the bristles for around an hour.

Step 5: Rinse the Brushes

Finally, rinse your paint brushes with water to remove any remaining conditioner until the bristles are soft.

Storing Your Painting Equipment

If you’ve been painting your living room or bedroom, the chances are that you still have leftover paint. Below we recommend how to best store it so that it doesn’t go to waste.

Storing Paint

It’s important that your tinned paint is stored correctly and in a cool and dry environment such as a cupboard. Don’t keep the tinned paint in freezing temperatures, as this could damage the paint. If you choose to keep the paint outdoors or in your garage, keep it off the ground to protect it from extreme temperatures.

Storing Used Paint

If you have leftover used paint and it’s a shame to throw it away, you can retain this leftover, ensuring that you follow the correct procedures to keep it in tip-top condition.

Choose an Appropriate Container

The most important thing is to keep leftover paint in a container that can be sealed tightly to prevent air from coming into contact with it. If your existing paint tin is almost full, you can just leave the paint inside. However, if the tin isn’t full of paint, we recommend transferring the remaining paint to an airtight container that’s an ideal capacity for the amount you have left. For example, clean jars or plastic containers work well.

Leave a Note on the Container

Next, it’s time to label the container to remind yourself of the contents, including the colour as well as the date of when you last used it.

The Importance of Cleaning Brushes

Whether you choose to buy a store-bought brush cleaner or use dish soap, it’s important that you regularly wash your paint brushes. Keeping your brushes clean helps increase their longevity and prevents you from dealing with bristles that become frayed.

Removing paint after every use is an important part of caring for your bristles to ensure that they remain soft to improve the flow when painting. Use gentle motions, following the natural direction of the bristles to prevent them from fraying.

Do you have any tips on caring for your brushes or have an effective way to clean paint from bristles? If so, we’d love to hear your tips in the comments below.

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