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How to Clean & Care for Paint Brushes

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Professional paint brushes can be expensive but deliver a better finish than cheaper alternatives. They require proper cleaning to prolong their life. Follow our expert tips to care for your paint brushes.

Step 1

Scrape Off Paint Residue

Scrape Off Paint Residue

Use the blunt back of an old kitchen knife to scrape paint off the brush. An old, unwanted cardboard box makes the ideal location for such work. Clean the knife afterwards with a cloth dampened with white spirits.

Step 2

Cleaning Off Water Based Paint

Cleaning Off Water Based Paint

Hold the brush under warm running water. When most of the paint is rinsed away, add a drop of washing up liquid to the bristles. Work this in well and rinse again until the water runs clear. Dry off the brush with a cloth and store it in a warm, dry place.

Step 3

Cleaning Off Oil Based Paint

Cleaning Off Oil Based Paint

Scuff the bristles on a piece of cardboard or some old newspaper to remove any remaining paint. Add a splash of white spirits to the bristles and vigorously scuff the bristles on a fresh piece of cardboard. Repeat this step using a fresh piece of cardboard each time, until the card shows only the white spirits and no paint. Wash the brush in warm running water, working washing-up liquid into the bristles. Rinse until the water runs clear. Dry the brush in a cloth and store it in a warm, dry place.

Step 4

Store Brushes like a Professional

Store Brushes like a Professional

Professional painters like to wrap their brushes in brown paper before storage to protect the shape of the bristle cluster; tin foil will work also but the brushes must be completely dry first as the foil will stop them drying.

Step 5

Brush out Hardened Brush

Brush out Hardened Brush

If a brush was not cleaned properly after its last use, it will have become hard and unusable. To begin restoring it, lay the bristles flat on a hard surface and brush them firmly with a brass bristled or small wire brush. Start at the base of the bristles and work toward the tip teasing out any hard clumps of paint.

Step 6

Soak Hardened Brush

Soak Hardened Brush

Drill a hole in the brush handle as shown, and pass a nail or piece of wire through. Suspend the bristles downward in a jar, fully immersed in brush restorer, and leave for a few days to soften. Tip: if the brush bristles are deformed, the brush may not be suitable for a finish coat. Instead keep this brush for rough work, like metal paint or undercoating.