I have tried many ways to clean my brushes through the years. Some artists say only do this and never do that. I once heard a professional artist make this point. “Think about it, most brushes are made from real animal hair and fur. Take care of the brush hair like you would your own hair. It needs to be conditioned and not get dried out”. It makes sense, right?
There are many brush cleaners out there. Some can get very expensive as you can imagine.
Some of the best cleaners I have found are:
The most obvious is to use the odorless paint thinner that you are using to paint with. This is fine to get the majority of the paint out but the OPT does tend to dry out the bristles in your brush. But don’t let your brushes sit in the turp can in the OPT because it will just dry out the bristles and is very harsh on them.
“The Master’s Brush Cleaner & Preserver” is a good brush cleaner and is probably the most commonly found at stores like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. This will usually clean your brushes well and doesn’t dry out the bristles too bad but it really doesn’t do much for the reshaping of your brushes. You really need to use a re-shaping product to get your brushes back into the shape after using this cleaner.
I really like Jack’s Linseed Studio Cleaner. For a while, you could only find it at fine art supply stores or online but Hobby Lobby has recently started carrying it. I love this stuff! It really cleans your brushes but leaves a bit of conditioning in them to keep them supple enough to retain their shape. Another benefit of this cleaner is that you can also clean your hands with it because it’s non-toxic. So you don’t need to be so careful with it.
Straight Up Baby Oil !
What I am currently using to clean my brushes is straight baby oil or mineral oil. Yep. It’s cheap easy to find and boy does it get out the paint. It conditions the bristles and they go back into shape beautifully.
If I’m in my studio, I fill a flat plastic container with some baby oil and just lay my brushes (bristle end in baby oil of course) in the container with the ends of the brushes resting outside of the container. You don’t want to just plop them in a cup or jar because you’ll damage the shape and ends of the brushes. And let them soak.
If I’m traveling, I just take a zip lock baggie with me and pour in some baby oil then let my brushes soak in it. I usually prop the bag and brushes up just a little on something so that the oil won’t leak out.
It doesn’t take a lot of oil. And it can be reused a few times before you need to throw it out.
Work All The Paint Out
After they have soaked for a few minutes, start working the paint out of the bristles and squeeze out as much baby oil as possible. Use paper towels to soak up any left over paint and oil. You’ll see that the bristles are renewed to their original shape and look great. I love how the oil gives the brushes back their shape and restores the spring in the bristles.
People are always asking me “Aren’t the brushes too oily? and doesn’t the baby oil interfere with the paint next time you use them?” Nope!
The baby oil doesn’t interfere at all with the paint when I use them again. Of course, you need to work out most of the oil with the paper towel like I mentioned above. And sometimes as a precaution, I will wipe them down once more right before using them again just to make sure all the oil is out.
For some reason, the baby oil gives them such a great shape and conditioning. The bristles hold together more than with other cleaners. Other cleaners just tend to dry out and therefore the bristles will fray and separate.
I prefer the baby oil method because there have been times when I was traveling and didn’t really have access to water to wash out my brushes or at a workshop and they don’t want you to use their sink to wash them out. Understandable. Just put your brushes in a baggie and add some baby oil. Easy!
Well, that’s probably more than you wanted to know about brush cleaners but people are always asking me about it and just thought I’d pass this along.
Hopefully, this will help you save some money and have more to spend on other art supplies that you need to spend money on.
Do you have a favorite product or process for cleaning your brushes?
Please let us know if you do. We’d love to hear about it.
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Originally posted at RedPaletteStudio.com