Paint brushes are fairly easy to use, but they can seem like a huge hassle to clean, especially if you’re working on a tight schedule or need to wash them out so you can move on to painting something else. Many people choose to use rollers or paint guns instead to avoid needing to clean them as often, but it’s actually not too difficult to clean up your paint brushes – you just need to know how to do it.
Best of Machinery have put together this quick guide on the best way to clean paint brushes, along with some tips on how to save time.
Wet or Dry?
Although most people let their brushes dry before trying to clean them off, either intentionally or simply because they forgot to clean them. This can actually make it much harder to get the paint brushes perfectly clean, and might even lead to them being irreversibly damaged or ruined. Buying new brushes isn’t too difficult, but it’s still annoying to have your brushes constantly destroyed by caked-on paint.
You should try to wash your paint brushes while they’re still wet if possible, before the paint has a chance to set – on longer painting jobs, it might be easier to wash your paint brush after you finish each wall, piece of furniture or surface, since this stops the paint from forming a thin layer over the bristles. Just make sure you dry off the brush before dipping it in the paint. Otherwise, the water might dilute the mixture slightly, making it progressively thinner and more discolored over time.
Don’t leave it Soaking for too Long
A common mistake new painters make is leaving the brush in the paint can while they’re doing other things, rather than putting it on a separate surface. The longer you leave it in the paint, the more paint will stick to it, leaving you with a big blob of paint that you’ll need to try and shake off before you can use the brush properly. If you stay there too long, it might even start to dry out, and if it solidifies, then you’ll have to break it off yourself or throw it away.
You can also run into the same problem when cleaning a paintbrush. If you leave a brush in water for too long, it’ll start to soften, and the bristles might start to fall off (or even dissolve), eventually making it almost impossible to use for painting anything properly. At worst, the bristles might even come off while you’re painting, getting stuck in the layer of paint and ruining the way it looks. Water can also seep into the handle, which might make some flimsier brushes fall apart the next time you use them.
Storing the Brushes
Some people prefer to store their brushes bristles-up, others prefer them pointing downwards, and a lot of people will just leave them on their sides. However, these can all have different effects on the brush’s quality and durability, regardless of whether they’re soaking-wet or bone-dry.
When you’re leaving your brush to dry, you should never rest it on its bristles – this will spread them out and deform them, widening the brush head and making it much less useful for major painting jobs, or any kind of painting at all. However, if you have some kind of brush-holder that keeps them in the air while they’re pointing down, you can use it to help the paintbrush dry evenly – you just need to make sure they won’t fall.
If the paintbrush is stored upright while it’s wet, the water will go down into the handle and cause slight damage to it, and might even make the bristles droop ‘backward’ due to the extra weight of the water. Laying them on their sides is the best solution, but you’ll need something that can absorb the water – even something as simple as resting them on a cloth or sponge should be enough.
Storing them while they’re dry generally follows the same rules, but for different reasons – however, you’ll be able to store them up right now that the water’s gone, meaning that paintbrush pots can be a useful alternative to just keeping them in a box.
Cleaning a Brush Quickly
The actual technique behind cleaning a brush is quite simple and doesn’t take very long. To start, simply wipe the paint-covered brush on the inside rim of the can – this will help push most of the paint back into the can with the rest of the paint and removes most of the ‘loose’ paint from your brush. If there’s still a few obviously-wet spots that you can’t scrape off, rub it with some spare newspaper to get rid of any excess paint there might be.
Once that’s done, you can wash the paintbrush as normal – some people refer running water, others rely on buckets of soapy water, but it doesn’t make much of a difference as long as you can get the paint out of the bristles. If you didn’t use running water from the very start, make sure you rinse it anyway just in case.
For more expensive or important brushes, consider wrapping the head in heavy, absorbent paper or cloth to let it retain its shape while it’s drying. This is completely optional, but it can be a great way to ensure that hard-to-replace brushes don’t get deformed with repeated use. For cheaper brushes, it might be easier to simply leave them on an absorbent surface, since the damage will be fairly minimal and only becomes obvious after long periods of frequent painting.