Paint brush cleaning basics for different paint types

Does your basement work shelf hold an assortment of dried out, gummy paintbrushes? Many do-it-yourselfers enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that can be found in home renovation. They just don’t enjoy the clean up involved. The problem is when you leave things for later, especially important things such as properly cleaning your equipment, you risk ruining said equipment, and that’s a waste of money. This is especially the case with paint brushes. One should never, ever leave the cleanup for later. Not unless you like running out and replacing your paintbrushes every time you redecorate.

When you are done painting for the day, clean the excess paint off the brush by painting it back and forth either on a rag or piece of newspaper. Even though it’s messy, try and scrape off as much of the excess paint as you possibly can. Before cleaning your paint brushes, be sure to check the back of the paint can for tips. Your next step depends on the type of paint used.

If you used water-based or latex paint, clean up is a snap. Fill a coffee can with water and a little dish detergent. Use your hands and try to work out as much paint as you can. Mix the brush around in the soapy water until the water changes color, then rinse out the can and repeat the process. Once you’ve removed as much of the paint as you possibly can this way, run the brush under lukewarm water, separating the bristles with your hand until you are sure all the paint has been cleaned out and the water underneath the brush runs clear.

If you used oil-based paint, stain, or varnish, you will want to half fill your coffee can with paint thinner or mineral spirits instead. Move the paintbrush in and out and around the paint thinner until no more paint comes off of the brush, then rinse the can and repeat the process until no more paint can be removed.

If you used shellac, it’s best to clean your paintbrush in alcohol and follow the same procedure as was used with paint thinner.

If necessary, you can use a brush specially made for cleaning paint brushes. While your brush is in the coffee can filled with your choice of cleaning solvent, use the special brush to get the paint out from between all of the bristles.

When you are sure all the paint has been removed, hang your brushes to dry. Most paint brushes have a small hole drilled through the top of the handle for hanging to dry on string or fishing line. When your brushes are dry, store them in their original plastic container or plastic cling wrap.

As you can see, it does not take much effort to keep your paint brushes clean. If you clean your equipment immediately upon finishing your task, they are less likely to harden, clean up will be easier and your brush will last a long time. Taking care of your brushes now means less last-minute trips to the hardware store later and that means spending more time on the things that are really important.

When you start a painting project, the first thing you are told is to buy a good paint brush. A good quality paint brush, when treated properly, can last for years. You can even stretch the life of a lower quality paint brush when you clean and store it properly. By following a few guidelines, cleaning a paint brush can be an easy job that can be accomplished in as little as ten to fifteen minutes.

Water-based paint:

When painting with a water-based paint such as latex, cleaning is easily accomplished with soap and water. Remove as much paint from the brush as possible by scraping the paint brush on the edge of the paint can. Rinse the paint from the brush under clean running water, squeezing as you rinse. Add some dishwashing liquid and work it into a lather. Shampoo also makes a good cleanser and will help add natural oils back into the bristles. Squeeze the soap and water through the paint brush and rinse again in clean water. Once the bristles are rinsed free of all paint and soap, separate the bristles using a brush comb or old fork. Wrap the brush in its original container or brown paper to re-form the bristles. Store the paint brush either lying flat or hanging from the handle.

Oil-based paint:

To clean a paintbrush that was used in oil-based paint such as an acrylic, a paint solvent or paint thinner will be necessary. Mineral spirits or paint thinner will clean most polyurethane and enamels made with alkyd (oil-based) resins. Read the manufacturer’s guidance on the side of the paint can for the best results. For easiest cleanup, fill two small coffee cans about half full of the proper solvent.

Dip the brush into the first container of solvent and spin the brush inside the can. Use a brush comb or old fork and work the solvent into the bristles. Dip the brush into the second, clean container of solvent, swish it around and spin the brush again vigorously. Repeat the process once more if necessary. After the brush is clean of paint, wash the brush in a soap and water mixture to remove any excess solvent. Squeeze the brush to remove all water, reshape the bristles with the brush comb and allow it to dry thoroughly. Store the brush in its original packaging or wrap it securely in brown paper.

Tips:

Before using a paint brush for the first time, dampen the brush with a small amount of paint thinner. This will help prolong the life of your brush and make final cleanup much easier.

It is best to clean a paint brush as soon as you are finished using it; however, if this is not possible, you can store the brush for later use. If you are painting with a water-based latex paint, wrap the paint brush in either foil or plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. Bring the paint brush to room temperature when ready to use. If the paint is oil based, the paint brush can be stored for a short period of time in the proper cleaning solvent.

A paintbrush that has dried hard can be salvaged by soaking it in hot vinegar.

Never store a paint brush standing it on its tip. It is necessary to either hang it by the handle or lay it flat to keep the brush tips from becoming malformed.And remember: Always dispose of all cleaning solvents properly.

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