Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cleaning Brushes

It's Tippy Tuesday! A collection of tips I've gained through experience or stolen learned from other artists.

I'm not very conscientious about cleaning my brushes — I need to develop better habits, as brushes are expensive and they don't last long if you abuse them.

While I'm painting, I keep a coffee can half full of vegetable oil on hand. Plain old whatever-is-cheapest oil, like store-brand canola. I can swish my brush around in it to clean it enough for a color change. Look how disgusting that oil is! Ew.

Submerged inside the can, I've got the screen from an inexpensive brush washer. It fits perfectly! I used to scrub my brush along that mesh to help clean it, but quickly discovered that's a great way to break the bristles. Now I just slide the brush along the handle part to offload a good deal of the paint.

I also dip my brushes in the oil if I'm going to leave the studio for a short time — maybe an hour or less. It keeps them viable until I get back.

When I want a more thorough cleaning while painting, I use the good old turps. I pour a little of this stuff into a smaller jar. You can make it last a long time by NOT swishing the brush along the bottom. Dip it in without touching sides or bottom, give it a second to wick up the turps, and wipe on a paper towel. It takes about 4-5 times to get it clean enough to change color.

At the end of the day, I clean the brushes with The Masters Brush Cleaner. This stuff is the bomb. Inside it looks like... like lard, maybe? No, no, it looks like soap. It's a solid block, somewhat softer than a bar of hand soap. You wet your brush with really hot water and brush it back and forth until a lather works up. Rinse with hot water. It works the same as any other type of oil: water doesn't solvate it, but hot water and soap does.

Recently I've seen this tip about Murphy Oil Soap for Wood all over the place. I've had a bottle of it under the sink for, oh let's see, maybe 15 years. You can see how much I used in a decade and a half. I'm a terrible housekeeper.

I'm experimenting with a pretty beat-up brush; we'll see if it restores the bristles at all. I'm using that aluminum brush washer because the brush can be suspended and soak without the bristles mashed against the bottom. The little plastic cup is because I'm only cleaning one brush and don't want to fill up the entire basin.

Does anyone have any good brush cleaning tips?

[Update: the Murphy's was helpful, but no miracle. If I was out of Masters brush cleaner, I would use it in a pinch.] 


  1. Great suggestions! I will get the vegetable oil. Got a great laugh about the lobster steak and champagne in oil! Is it really tax deductible or am I just being gullible?

  2. Never thought about using cooking oil. You are amazing! thank you.

  3. Can't wait to try the veggie oil tip. For cleaning brushes I've found that Fels Naptha bar soap is the best and you don't have to use hot water which can damage the glue inside of the ferrule.


I love to read your comments - thanks for your feedback!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...