To make a great traditional work of art, you have to use many brushes that allow you to get the lines and textures you want. The problem is that once you finish painting, the brushes are dirty and worn, which makes subsequent strokes with them not have the same quality as when they were new. In this situation, many artists simply choose to throw away the dirty brushes and buy new ones, but this can become a great expense in the medium term, let alone the amount of waste that is generated. Maybe what you need is to find the best way to clean paint brushes.
The first tip to keep in mind is that the faster you clean the brush, the better. Waiting too long will make the paint stick to the bristles to the point where cleaning methods will only break them. If you finish using them, clean them immediately.
Now you will learn how to clean paint brushes, but know that these methods will only serve so that the brushes can be reused with some defects. It is impossible to make a brush look like new after several uses.
Some soap to clean the water-based paint
Water-based and latex paint is relatively easy to clean due to their composition. However, before soaking the brush with soap and water, you should try to remove as much paint as possible by rubbing the bristles over hard or absorbent surfaces. To do this, try scraping the bristles with the edge of a can, or use a newspaper to try to remove excess paint.
The next step for cleaning paint brushes involves soaking them in a mixture of soapy water. Turn the brush tightly inside the container and use a paint brush comb to try to remove the toughest paint.
When the water changes color to the point where you can hardly see the brush inside, replace it with clean water and rinse the brush again. Use the brush comb or your hands to remove the paint. Repeat this process as many times as necessary, changing the dirty water for clean water periodically.
This process can compromise the brush shape, so it is necessary to wrap the bristles to dry them properly. To preserve the shape, wrap the brush with paper. Use a string or elastic band to hold the paper in place while the brush dries.
In the case of resistant paints
Some water-based paints will be more difficult to remove than others. In these cases, it is best to first wet the brush with lacquer thinner or alcohol, and then carry out the process with water.
The use of hot instead of lukewarm water is also recommended, especially for latex paints. Dip the brush in the water and leave it there for 20 minutes, then use a stiff brush to clean the bristles, always passing it in the bristles’ direction so as not to break them.
Fabric softener is an alternative
When the water isn’t enough to remove acrylic latex paint, the best way to clean paint brushes is with a bit of fabric softener.
In the same way, you will have to try to remove as much paint as possible before washing the brush with fabric softener. Use the edge of a can, newspaper, or absorbent paper towels.
The mixture will consist of half a cup of fabric softener diluted in one gallon of warm water. These are almost 4 liters of the mix, so you should be able to use it multiple times before you have to throw it away. In fact, you won’t have to soak brushes in clean water; it will be enough that you rub them inside the container until the paint comes off.
Using a paper towel, squeeze out excess water from the brush until completely dry. Take the opportunity to mold the bristles with your hands while wet, so that they recover their shape.
How to clean oil-based paint brushes
The best way to clean paint brushes when it comes to oil-based paints is by using a solvent. Not any solvent will work, that’s why you should read the paint container to find out which one the manufacturer recommends.
Some of the most common solvents used to clean brushes are mineral alcohols, varnish solvents, and lacquer alcohol. At your nearby hardware store or art store, they can recommend the right solvent, and they can tell you how to use it properly.
To handle the solvent you will need to wear gloves, and if possible, an apron. Also, it is recommended that you do this process using an old container that you will not use for other things.
For your safety, do not use the solvent indoors, as the odor given off can cause severe poisoning.
The first thing you should do is remove as much paint as possible with an old rag or towel. Strongly rub the bristles. The paint that is housed inside the brush can be removed by pre-pressing the bristles on an absorbent surface.
In an old or unused container for food storage, add a little of the solvent, enough to soak the brush bristles.
Shake the brush in the solvent with repeating movements. It shouldn’t take much force to see the paint begin to separate from the brush. With as much diluted paint as possible, remove the brush from the solvent and proceed to wash it with warm, soapy clean water. Never press the brush against the bottom of the container as the paint could get into the brush heel, making it much more difficult to remove it.
While the bristles are wet, use your hands or a brush comb to shape the bristles. Even if you have removed the paint, if the bristles lose their original shape, you will not be able to use the brush. Finally, dry the brush using a clean cloth.
The best way to clean paint brushes – Proper maintenance
The secret to keeping your brushes for longer is to take care of them and perform the correct maintenance. You can apply some habits that will help you with this task.
The first is to keep the brushes ready if you plan to continue the project the next day. This means that if you plan to continue painting, it is best not to clean the brushes, but to keep them with the fresh paint to continue using them.
To prevent the paint from drying out, just wrap the brush in plastic or aluminum foil. You can also go for a more radical option if you leave the brushes soaking in water or solvent so the paint doesn’t dry.
For this, you will need a container with enough space to stick the brushes using adhesive tape. Inside the container, you must pour the liquid that you will use to clean the brushes, be it water or solvent. Insert the brushes inside until only the bristles are submerged, and with a tape stick the brushes to the walls.
These techniques serve to preserve the brush softness for approximately 8 hours, but if you want to wait more than 24 hours, then you must resort to freezing the brushes. Store them in an airtight plastic bag to keep the refrigerator from getting dirty and to keep the smell of paint from contaminating your food.
Tips for preserving brushes
The best advice for keeping brushes in pristine condition will always be to wash them as soon as you’re done using them.
Have a dedicated space exclusively for storing brushes. If this space has supports to keep them firm, much better. Keep the plastic bag or container where the brush came when you bought it so you can put it back inside, like a case.
A bristle out of place is no reason to throw away a brush. Like hair, bristles can be sorted by heating them slightly with water. Just use a nylon brush to avoid damaging them.
If possible, try to have unique brushes for each type of paint, so don’t mix those you use for oil-based paint with water-based paint. It is better to subject a brush to a single cleaning treatment so that the bristles last longer.
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