Taking Care of Paintbrushes

Paintbrushes are one of the most important tools for furniture refinishing. Investing in quality brushes is essential as you use them everyday and they effect the finish on your work. There are many different paintbrushes out there and finding the ones that match your needs is much like finding the right paint to use. I use all kinds of paintbrushes for varying reasons such as size, type of bristle, shape, and cost. I still use chip brushes when I want a certain finish but I expect them to fall apart and shed bristles like crazy. They are basically disposable and not long term brushes. These I’m not too concerned with maintaining but what about the brushes you spend $30-$60 on a piece? You want to make sure you are taking care of your expensive brushes.

I’m not the best at taking care of my brushes or gently handling them. I’m the type where my paint brushes are covered in paint splatters and never look like new after the first use. For that reason, I invest in durable brushes that can withstand the occasional overnight with paint still on it type of scenario. I can clean them and get them back to serviceable shape. What do you do when the paint has dried on the bristles? What do you do when the bristles have hardened over time? What do you do when the bristles have bent out of shape being in the water and crammed with other brushes? There are a few tips and tricks you can use to get the bristles soft, paint free, and in original condition.

Murphy’s oil soap will remove dried up paint and condition the paint brush bristles. I soak them in a solution of Murphy’s oil soap and water for 12 hours and then use dawn soap and a scrubby sponge to clean off the dried paint. I’ve been able to resurrect many paint brushes because of Murphy’s oil soap. Another way to revive your brushes is to soak them in fabric softener. Use 1/4 cup of fabric softener to a quart of water and soak your brushes over night. If you’ve been using oil based paint or oil based products with your brushes, you’ll want to clean them with some mineral spirits and soak in some turpentine to get all the oily residue off. If you’ve been using the brush to wax, use mineral spirits to clean.

Cleaning my paintbrushes that have not been near death and are just dirty with wet paint, I love using Scrubby Soap. It’s made of biodegradable oils so not harsh on your hands and smells citrusy. Using dawn dish soap works mostly as well. I will also spray my brushes that get a lot of residue with Krud Kutter’s tough task cleaner. You can use denatured alcohol to clean your brushes but just be aware that it will dry out the bristles. There are better alternatives to alcohol when cleaning. There are also specialty paint brush cleaning solutions you can use that work well like Krud Kutter Brush Wash-Cleaner and Renewer. I highly reccomend the Krud Kutter brand because their products are nontoxic, biodegradable, and eco friendly.

How you store your paint brushes is just as important as cleaning. If you want to be extremely thorough you can wrap a wet paper towel around the brush bristles after it has been cleaned, put the brush in a zip lock bag or wrap with cling wrap and store it into your refrigerator. It will be ready to use when you need it. Never store your paint brushes with the bristles down in a container as it will splay the bristles. I hang mine on my peg board if I can or store them with the bristles up in a container. I just dampen the bristles with water before I need to use them so the paint does not go on too thick or dry quickly on the bristles. I use Cling on brushes a lot and those you store in clean water. Before I got the Cling On brush keeper my brushes would get bent out of shape with splayed hairs but now that I’ve been using the brush keeper it’s been a game changer. It’s a big fancy stainless steel bucket with 8 rubber holders to prevent the brushes from being crammed on the bottom. It’s also allowed me to easily switch brushes while I paint.

If your brushes are splayed and have the annoying stray hairs sticking out here and there, you can fix it by wrapping some twine around the clean and damp brush bristles loosely. Let the brush dry and the bristles should be back to normal. Making sure you don’t keep the brush bristles down so they rest on a surface while storing, will help to stop this from happening. Maintaining your paintbrushes is essential if you don’t want to keep replacing them. However, if you forget to clean them after each use, you can still revive your dried up paint brushes and bring them back to life.