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How To Care for Paintbrushes

There are many different kinds of paintbrushes varying from cheap “chip” brushes used to clean away wood or metal chips to expensive natural bristle brushes like china bristle and sable brushes. Usually, synthetic bristle brushes are used for latex based paints because they do not absorb water and they hold their shape well. Natural bristle brushes like china or sable are typically used with oil based paints because of their ability to lay down a smooth finish and because the paint flows smoothly and evenly from their bristles. Whether your project calls for natural or synthetic brushes, you should purchase the best quality brushes you can afford because their quality will show up in the finish of your work. Because you want to buy the best brushes possible, you will want to clean them properly after completing your project so they will last a long time, delivering a premier finish job after job. Treat a new paintbrush before you apply any paint with it to ensure it works properly time after time. It will apply paint more smoothly and will last a lifetime.

Pretreating your new brush

Cleaning paintbrushes makes them good as new and helps them last a lifetime

Cleaning paintbrushes makes them good as new and helps them last a lifetime

  1. Comb out any loose bristles with a paintbrush comb.
  2. Soak the bristles of your new brush overnight in linseed oil (boiled, not raw) by suspending the brush bristles down in a can of linseed oil. Do not let the bristles rest on the bottom of the can or be bent in any way.
  3. Wipe the bristles, removing any excess linseed oil, and wrap it in paper, storing it on its side or hanging it up.

Cleaning your natural bristle paintbrush

  1. Using your paintbrush comb, remove any clumps or heavy build up of paint and straighten the bristles as much as possible.
  2. Pour turpentine, benzene, or paint thinner in a can and wash the bristles carefully in it. You may need to soak the brush in several different applications of solvent until the bristles leave no paint residue.
  3. Once the brush leaves the solvent clear, wash the bristles softly in warm water with a mild soap.
  4. Rinse the brush in clean warm water.
  5. Let the brush dry gradually by wrapping it in kraft paper or foil.

Cleaning your synthetic bristle brush

  1. Once again, you will want to use the paintbrush comb to remove any heavy build up of paint and straighten the bristles.
  2. Wash the brush in clean warm water and mild soap.
  3. Use care in washing the bristles that you do not work them too vigorously or you can damage them.
  4. Be sure to work the comb in right against the ferrule and comb out as much paint from the base of the bristles as possible.
  5. Once you are certain the brush is clean, wrap it in foil or paper to dry gradually. Newsprint works well for this too.


If you are going to be using the paintbrush in the near future, you can wrap the bristles in paper or foil and freeze it in the freezer. When you are ready to resume painting, simply thaw the paintbrush.

If you do not use your paintbrush for a long period of time pre treat it again by soaking the bristles in linseed oil.

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