How to Clean Your Paintbrush

Keeping your painting materials in good shape is the best way to save money on future paint jobs. If you immediately clean your paintbrushes, you’ll find that the next job goes smoother. Here are some tips to choosing a great paint brush for trim and baseboards. A high quality paintbrush is the key to a successful paint job and once you learn how to clean paintbrushes, you’ll never purchase another disposable brush but only use those that give a professional look to your work.

There are two different types of paint, water-based paints and oil-based ones. The water-based paint is probably the easiest to clean from brushes and requires very little special equipment. Paint, however dries into the base of the brush so the best maintenance requires you stop every two hours to clean the brush of the built up paint. After the painting project is complete, you clean the brush the final time.

I used to scoff at my life partner when he insisted he knew more about how to wash a paintbrush. “A brush is a brush is a brush” I would scoff and purchase the cheapest I could find. If the job was large and lasted several days, I wrapped the brush inside a plastic bag, squeezing out the air and sealing it at the handle of the brush. It seemed like a great solution to me. One day I helped him paint and used the more expensive professional brush. Oh my, what a difference. From that point on, I carefully followed these instructions on how to clean a paintbrush.

Water-based Paint

  • You need to remove the excess paint from the brush. Either use the edge of a 5 in one tool to scrape it or purchase a brush-cleaning tool that has teeth reminiscent of the hair picks of the 60’s.
  • Fill a 5 gallon bucket half way and add a little more than a cup of cheap fabric softener to the water. The fabric softener makes the job a lot easier.
  • Swish the brush around in the water for about a minute. Check the bristles. They should be clean. If not, swish again.
  • This is my favorite step. If you have never used a paintbrush or roller spinner, buy one if you do much painting. These are not only practical and dry the brush or roller quickly, they’re fun to play with too. You must, of course, remember I don’t leave my writing area, the basement, very often. For the least amount of mess, line a 5 gallon bucket with a plastic bag, cut an opening in the lid to insert the brush and push the handle of the paintbrush spinner several times until the brush splashes out all the paint.

Oil-based Paint

  • Clean the brush of additional residue with a 5 in one tool or brush-cleaning tool as you did with water-based paints.
  • Dip the paintbrush into a jar of mineral spirits and swirl it around to remove most of the trapped paint.
  • Next, have a jar that contains half mineral spirits and half denatured alcohol. Swirl the brush around in this for several seconds. You’ll notice that more paint came out.
  • Finally, dip you brush into a jar of plain denatured alcohol and you’ll remove the last bit of paint.
  • You’re not finished yet. Your paintbrush bristles will be brittle and damaged easily unless you condition them. To do this, mix ½ cup of fabric softener with a gallon of water and stir it around the water for several seconds. It softens the brush and removes the last bit of denatured alcohol. Pat it dry with a clean towel.

You’ll find that when you buy a good paintbrush and keep it clean, it’s an investment well worth the extra money. The brush does make a difference in the results of your labors and cleaning takes less time than purchasing another cheap brush.

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