We’ve talked a lot about brush selection and what the best brush is for each type of project, but we haven’t talked very much about caring for your brushes.

Your Most Valuable Tools

Your paintbrushes are your most valuable tools, whether you’re painting on furniture or canvas and they are an investment in your art. Taking care of them sometimes gets put on the back shelf, when really it should be one of the most important things that we do.

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I’m going to share with you my favorite products and methods for caring for my brushes. I have a lot of brushes that I’ve actually had for well over a decade, that still work great today.  I really do consider them to be an investment.

One of the first steps that I can recommend is keeping two containers of water with you whenever you’re painting with water-soluble paint. You have your pre-washing bucket and your washing bucket.  I try to keep the water in my second bucket relatively clean because I dip in that one to add extra moisture to the project as I go. Also, I usually try to wipe the excess paint off on a rag then rinse it in my pre-washing bucket.

After I’m finished for the day, all of my brushes have been partially cleaned and left soaking in my second bucket. These are my favorite paint washing buckets, but I have an old tomato sauce can that I love too, lol. These are called 1/6 foodservice pans and can be purchased at a restaurant supply store, or on Amazon. 

After I’m done for the day I take my relatively clean bucket of water, full of brushes, back to the utility sink, and this is kind of important if you have a septic system —don’t pour the paint water down your drain.  If you have a city sewer, for lack of a better term, a lot of people say it’s safe to pour it down the drain, I’ll leave that up to you, but I don’t.

I Pour My Paint Water Into a 5 Gallon Bucket

I’ll pour my paint water into a 5 gallon bucket every day, and the water evaporates out of it, and the paint particles sink to the bottom. I then put new water in my wash bucket and rinse my brushes out very well, And dump that water and repeat. When the brushes are free of most of the actual paint, then I start washing them under the running water.

I use my first line of defense, Scrubby Soap. If you don’t have Scrubby Soap, you can use Dawn dishwashing liquid, or something like that, until you get it, but the Scrubby Soap is meant for cleaning the brushes and it’s inexpensive.

If I accidentally let the two much thick paint set into the brush, and some of it has dried on, and I didn’t get to them quick enough, then I will often soak them in a 50-50 mixture of Murphy’s oil soap and water,  and let it soak for a couple of days.

I have successfully used Krud Kutter, but it took a week of soaking and scrubbing with one of the little paintbrush combs, and it was a lot of work.

The latest product is Clean as a Whistle by Belle’s and Whistles, the latest division of Dixie Belle, and I was amazed at how soft my bristles were, and how easily it came clean.  I let it soak about a day and a half on a very old dried-up brush, and it worked wonderfully.

I Did Something Stupid (Imagine That)

However,  I have to tell on myself here for a minute. I put it in a disposable red Solo cup, and it ate the bottom out of the cup.  I am telling you this, because I assumed because it came from Dixie Belle, and it had no smell, and it felt like an emulsion,  that it was like Murphy’s oil soap, just a different brand. It is not. Clean as a Whistle is something that’s going to eat away at that paint, to dissolve it, to give you back your valuable tool, your paint brush. All that to say: put it in a glass jar, or a hard plastic container of some sort, not a disposable cup. 

With the Clean as a Whistle, you can use it diluted, 50-50 like you do the Murphy’s, or if it’s really dried on there and you’re just not sure that you can even save it, then you can use it straight up undiluted. You will be amazed. 

After I clean my brushes, either with the Scrubby Soap, or whatever other procedure needs to be done, I use a baby bottle drying rack to hold my brushes while they drain. It holds them up perfectly, it keeps water from getting in under the ferrule, which causes the bristles to loose. It prevents the wooden handles from swelling and shrinking in and out, and becoming loose in the other end of the ferrule.  It really protects your brushes to have them drain.
Another method that I use is to hang them (the ones that have a hole in the handle) from an old style dish towel hanger. I just leave them in this bottle holder, or on the towel hanger,  until I need them again, and they drain and dry straight down and it protects the bristles.

After they are dry, if I’m in the mood to put things up, lol, I’ll then take the brushes and put them up with the bristles upright, so that no pressure from the weight of the brush itself will bend or otherwise deform my bristles.

If you take good care of your brushes, they will work for many, many, many years to come.  Invest in good tools, take good care of them, and they will take good care of you!  I hope this helps, and I’ll be back with more tips next week.  

Do you have a favorite brush care technique?

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