Cleaning Up Paint Brushes After Painting
Cleaning your brushes thoroughly after painting is an absolute must when dealing with oils. Paintbrushes don’t
come cheap, and if you want them to last, you can’t let paint sit around in the bristles, drying and ruining the
It may seem like a hassle that you can’t just swish your brush around in some water and be done with it, but
after a while you won’t be bothered by it and it will become second nature.
So what’s the proper way to make sure your brush is clean and ready for the next round of painting?
First, if your brush has a lot of excess paint in it, run it through a small piece of paper, applying enough
pressure to wipe paint off, but don’t use excessive force. Remember, your brushes deserve only gentle treatment!
Always wipe in the direction of the bristles, keeping them in the right shape.
Old newspaper works great for this, so it may be a good idea to keep a stack in the room where you work. You can
also use this method to remove excess paint from brushes when switching colors. There’s no need to clean the brush
so thoroughly for this reason. Only continue to the more thorough washing when you’re done for the day.
Next, you’ll need to use turpentine to thin the oil paint in the brush for easy removal. Work in a well
ventilated area and wear gloves. If turpentine gets on you it will burn you and be absorbed into your blood stream
via your skin. It can make you very sick, so take care not to splash any on yourself. Rinse the brush in the
turpentine until most of the paint is out.
After using turpentine you’ll need to wash the brush with warm water and a mild soap. Don’t use burning hot
water. We’re taught that hot water washes things better, but this isn’t true for paintbrushes.
The reason is that the heat will cause warping in the metal ferule that holds the bristles to the handle, and it
may loosen the bristles enough that they start to fall out of the brush. The last thing any artist wants is
paintbrush bristles stuck in their painting, so take precautions to avoid this.
Keep rinsing the brush until all the paint is out. If there’s still some in there, go back to the turpentine
stage and get that paint out. Pay special attention to where the ferule starts. Paints like to lodge themselves
After the brush is thoroughly rinsed and all the paint is out, pull excess water out with your fingertips. Make
sure the brush is back in proper form with all bristles in place, because this is how the brush will dry.
Last, put your brush in a cup or jar with the bristle side up to dry. And now you’re done!
After a lot of painting, you’ll work out a system and rhythm for washing brushes and it will be a breeze. The
better you care for your brushes, the longer they’ll last, so get your money’s worth and take care of them.
For more oil painting care and maintenance tips, click here...
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