An Artist’s Tips For Cleaning Paintbrushes

It’s amazing the places you can pick up DIY tips from. If you pay attention, you can learn all sorts of tricks and hacks from seemingly unrelated places.
Take for instance, middle-school art class. We had the fortune of being instructed by an art preservationist who specialized in restoration and also worked at our local art museum cleaning the paintings.
After watching a bunch of barely-teenagers try to brutally clean their art supplies, aghast, she immediately set aside the rest of the week to teach us proper brush cleaning techniques for each style of brush and type of paint.

While you may not find yourself cleaning up oil paint from a pointillism brush any time soon (though trust, we could totally tell you how), there are several tips that can be applied to your house painting supplies to keep them in tip-top shape for your next DIY project.
*NEVER splay the bristles. Whether it’s against the bowl of your sink or separating them with your fingertips, this is the number one way to ruin a paintbrush. If you absolutely must spread them out, do so by starting at the base of the bristles with your thumb and first finger holding them like a sandwich. Press lightly as you fan out the bristles, making sure not to separate them too much. If you have a larger brush, do this in sections.
*When cleaning your brushes, don’t scrub. Instead, open your non-dominant hand palm-up and essentially paint your palm. Go back and forth under room-temperature (or slightly warm) water until the water runs barely-tinted, or ideally clear. By using the brush as it was intended even in cleaning, you’ll ensure a longer life and better performance with each use.
*To dry, turn the brush on it’s side and tap vigorously on the side of your sink to shake out excess water. Then take a piece of paper towel or a dry washcloth and fold it around the bristles. Grasp the towel with your thumb and first finger and gently pull outwards away from you. Don’t pull too hard, though, or you’ll pull out the bristles. Repeat until the brush is only damp. Then lay the brush out flat on another clean towel and allow to air dry.
*Want to make clean up easier for the next time? After you clean the paint from the brush, put a good sized dollop of regular dish liquid in the palm of your hard, then brush the bristles back and forth through it, as if you’re painting your hand again. If it suds a lot, rinse with luke warm water, shake excess water out, and try again. This will help maintain the bristles in the correct position and keep them good and stiff for your next project.
*If your brush starts to have stray bristles out to the sides, ALWAYS trim them instead of breaking them off or pulling them out. If you start to remove bristles, you compromise the structure of the brush at its base, which means your brush will fall apart quicker and start shedding bristles into your projects. Use a pair of manicure scissors to trim the strays back so they don’t interfere with your projects.
What are your tips and tricks for keeping your paint brushes in tip-top shape? Let us know in the comments!

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