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Category: Getting Started!

Question: What is the best way to care for my brushes?

Answer: One of the largest investments you make when you paint is your brushes. Consequently, if you take care of your brushes, they will take care of you! Poorly maintained brushes can make it more difficult to paint and obtain the results that you want or are use to. By getting into the proper cleaning routine from the start, your brushes should last a long time.

So, the first question is ‘How do I properly clean my brushes?’ The answer is not as obvious as you might think. Holding your brush under water until the water runs clear might seem like they are clean. But, in reality, there is probably still paint in the ferrule that will not come out with just running water. There are many commercially available brush cleaners on the market that all work well. If these are not available, a bar of soap or dishwashing liquid will do the trick.

Dampen your brush and pour a little bit of brush cleaner in the palm of your hand (if you are using a bar of soap, dampen the soap). GENTLY stroke your brush back and forth. Don’t scrub your brush – that will damage the bristles. Load your brush with soap as though it were paint. Use your fingers to work the soap in the bristles and up into the ferrule. Rinse with cool water. Continue to do this again and again until the suds have no trace of paint color. If you allow paint to dry in your brush, it will and cake up near and in the ferrule and distort the bristles.

After you are convinced that you have gotten all the paint out of your brush, reload the brush with soap. Flatten and shape the brush and lay it flat allowing the soap to dry in the bristles. The dried soap will help your brushes keep their shape when you store them. It is very much like the sizing that is in a new brush. Just be certain to rinse the soap out of your brush before you being to paint.

The next question would more than likely be ‘How do I take care of my brushes WHILE I’m painting?’ Here are some DON’TS:

• Don’t wait until the end of the day to clean your brushes. By doing so, it makes it more difficult to clean your brushes thoroughly. It also encourages the paint to seep up into the ferrule making it more difficult to remove. Many times, you can put a little gel brush cleaner on your palette or the foam plate where you have your paints. After you have been painting for a bit, dab some of the gel in your brush and rinse it thoroughly in your basin. This helps prevent build-up of the paint.

• Don’t scrub your brush back and forth on the ridges at the bottom of your basin. That will go a long way to ruining your brush! You should NOT hear a harsh scratching sound when you are rinsing your brush. The ridges are intended to VIBRATE the ferrule so that the paint does not build up.

• Don’t allow your brushes to stand in the water in the basin. First, the water will seep into the ferrule and loosen the glue that holds the bristles. Second, it will surely misshape your bristles – even if you do it for a short period of time!

• Don’t allow the water in your basin to become so dirty that you can’t rinse you brushes properly. Change the water often.

• Don’t allow paint to dry on or in your bristles. If you for some reason can NOT properly clean your brush – maybe you are taking a class or are at a seminar – ‘dress’ your brush with extender, floating medium, liquid soap, SOMETHING that will keep the bristles moist until you can clean them properly!

• Don’t put the plastic sleeve that usually comes on new brushes back on your bristles. It was meant to protect the bristles during shipping. If you try to put it back on, chances are you will miss a bristle or two and ruin your brush.

Now, when all is said and done, brushes do wear out. You will know this because no matter how much you clean your brush, you cannot get that nice chisel edge or your brush continues to have ‘fish mouth’ (where paint has accumulated in the ferrule and there is a gap now in the middle of your bristles). At this point, you need retire your brush and replace it. Save the old brush for stippling or scruffy-ing grass, beards, painting on concrete, etc.


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