Brush care : down and dirty October 19 2014

Let's talk about brushes!

I've been asked about brush care a lot lately.
(DISCLAIMER:: My least-thorough child washed these brushes last, so they aren't perfectly clean)

So boom. Here you go.

I use a couple of different types of brushes. Primarily natural hair bristles brushes, and synthetic. They both clean very differently!

Oh and wax brushes. They deserve a mention here, too.



Natural hair brushes are just that-natural hair. Hair that needs conditioned once in a while, just like your own hair. For that reason, you should avoid using regular soap.


When I paint with a thick, dense hair brush, I try to keep the paint just on the tips of the bristles if I can help it, because they hold a lot of paint. And my patience for washing out brushes is about this long, *hold fingers an inch apart*.

After I finish painting with a hair brush, I try to unload all of the paint before I start washing, by brushing it out on something. (A paper towel works). After that, I fan out the bristles and do a fast initial rinse.
Then I put a drop of Murphy's oil soap, (about a half a teaspoon), and work it in well. I usually smoosh the brush around in my palm under the running a water a bit to work it in. Then rinse, rinse, rinse. (Super boring) fanning the bristles under the running water helps speed up the washing.
Rinse until no more color comes out. Then hang dry. Sometimes, if I need the brush, I wrap it tightly in a towel and squeeze out as much water as I can, and then paint.

Now how about synthetic?
Part of what I love about superfine synthetic brushes is that they are easy to clean!
I also unload as much paint as I can, and I do pretty much the same thing that I do with a hair bristle brush, but I use regular old dish soap instead of oil soap. Fan out the bristles, put in a drop of dish soap, work it in, and then rinse well.
Make sure the bristles are all straight and smooth and hang dry!

Now on to wax brushes...
It's pretty frustrating to get ready to wax something only to realize that your brush dried out and has dandruffy wax flakes.


Wax brushes are a giant pain in the rear to clean. Wax+water=no bueno

So here's what I do. First off, I have a brush for clear wax, and brush for dark wax, and a brush for mixed light and dark, so I don't have to clean between projects. I keep them tightly wrapped with plastic cling wrap between projects so they don't dry out. Once in a while, though, they DO dry out. and it is the WORST.

To clean, pour a little bit of vegetable oil on a paper plate. About a tablespoon. Then smear it around with your wax brush until the oil is all absorbed into the brush. Continue working it around until the bristles are soft. Then rub the brush on a scrap cloth for a minute or two to get the excess dirt/wax/veg oil off, and you're done!

Once in a while if you do really have to clean a wax brush with soap and water, so use Murphy's oil soap in place of the vegetable oil, and rinse well and then hang dry.

Note that they don't get completely clean, but it will be considerably cleaner than when you started.

-MJ