Your Guide to Brushes – Paintbrush Care

By Nicole Tinkham

Image used under Creative Commons from flakeparadigm.

Paintbrushes can be expensive (especially high-end ones), so it’s important to take good care of them to ensure longevity. Here are 5 of our favorite tips for a happy brush (and happy artist).

  1. Don’t let paint touch the ferrule
    The ferrule is the metal part of a paint brush that connects the bristles to the handle. When paint gets on this part of the brush it creates a blob and causes the bristles to fan apart and fray (no matter how many times you wash it). This tip is simple: don’t get paint on the ferrule!
  2. Don’t leave your brush in a cup of water
    When a brush is left with bristles down in a cup of water, the hairs will bend and fray. This type of damage cannot be fixed! For a like-new brush, you need to get out of the habit of doing this. There are several different brush holders available (ask the art department at Keeton’s) or you can lay the brush horizontally on the table with the bristles hanging off the edge.
  3. Don’t let paint dry on your brush (especially acrylics)
    Acrylics dry extremely fast and as they dry, the paint hardens making it nearly impossible to get off your brush. We suggest using one brush at a time and once you’re finished with that brush, clean it thoroughly. Already have dried paint on your brush? See tip #4 to get your brush like new again.
  4. Use Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean your brushes
    If you accidentally let paint dry on your brush, there is still hope. Soak your brush in Murphy’s Oil Soap for 24 to 48 hours. It will dissolve the paint and return your brush back to normal. This soap is also great for cleaning brushes regularly (without dry paint). Just put a dab on the bristles, rub it in with your fingers and rinse with water.
  5. Never let brushes rest on their bristles
    This is important because doing this causes the bristles to bend and take on a shape they were never meant to have. Instead, use a brush holder as mentioned in tip #2 or rest the brush with the bristles hanging off the edge of a table or cup.

As you can see, it’s not too difficult to properly care for your brush. Just get in the habit of cleaning your brush thoroughly after use, don’t leave it in water, and don’t let paint touch the ferrule. The tricky part remains in the choice you make when buying brushes. Don’t worry, we’ll get into choosing a brush in future posts. If you have a brush question that you would like answered right away, please ask us in the comment box below, Tweet it, Facebook it, call us (941-747-2995) or stop in and see one of our art specialists!  

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