Cleaning paint brushes

I do a lot of painting with alkyd (oil-based) paints, and most of my brushes are "heeled up" (paint has dried in the area at the base of the bristles.)
Any suggestions for how to effectively clean my new brushes so that this doesn't happen again? Soaking them in mineral spirits and spinning them dry doesn't seem to get the paint out of the heel.
Thanks -Mark
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Brush comb for starters. HD sells them, a flat wooden handle with a dozen or so pointed steel teeth. Use it to work solvent into the bristles and help it penetrate the ferule. You will stick yourself several times before learning to avoid the needle-like teeth of the comb. Then use clean solvent as a final rinse working it through the bristles by hand.
--
"New Wave" Dave In Houston



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Mark wrote:

...
The first step is conditioning the brush before using it--dip it fully into the appropriate thinner for the paint _prior_ to each use and then remove the excess, then paint. This prevents the paint that does get in the heel from drying and being so difficult to remove when cleaning.
Second, when painting, be very careful to not over-dip and get paint into the heel to have to remove it. Particularly when working overhead be especially conscious of controlling flow--put the paint on the brush, then efficiently transfer it to the surface rather than letting it run down into the heel.
Third, especially on hot days or long full-day sessions, take a moment every so often to repeat step one and make a mini-cleanup if the brush is getting messy.
Lastly, when you then do get to the cleaning step, be thorough. You can reuse the solvent several times (almost indefinitely, in fact, if you decant it) for the first passes, then a small batch of fresh for the final rinse. If you're continuing the next day, you can hang (don't rest it on the bristles) the brush in a can of solvent. When you're done for good, follow the solvent w/ a strong detergent and water regimen ending w/ clean water.
The key is step one ime. HTH...
Oh, one last thought--Step zero is to start with a quality brush...
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dpb wrote:

Great reply dpb, fantastic info.
Mark
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Your first two steps are incompatible. A brush dipped in thinner, even if spun, will still have some thinner in it. As soon as the brush gets paint on it, some of the paint will thin down and run into bristles right down to the ferrule - and then down onto the user's hand. There is no need to condition a brush for oil-based paints if one is using a brush designed for oil-based paints. I tried brush conditioners and linseed oil years ago and gave them up as a worthless endeavor. My oil brushes are in perfect condition and last years. Trust me, skip the conditioning.

That is, if you notice paint starting to cake on to the point where the brush is hard to use. This is more important for latex than for oil, which is much more responsive to thinner than latex is to water.

Never mix oil and water. Allow me to qualify that: It is possible to use the same brush for oil and latex, but be damn sure that the brush is completely dry before switching products. It's always better to have separate paint brushes for oil and latex, though all-paints brushes typically used for latex sometimes benefit from the occasional usage in oil.

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Mark wrote: ...

One other thing regarding "Step Zero" -- be sure you have the proper bristle for the paint as well as simply a well-made brush.
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I don't see my old recipe I know works because I have used it for 50 years. Do *NOT* do this if the brush is bristle as they will expand to 10 times their diameter.(disintegrate) and you will have to throw them away.
Stir 1/2 can of ordinary lye in a can with some water. Put the brush into the liquid down to the metal. Let it set at least overnight. Wash it out with fresh water the next day. Guaranteed. Didn't quite get it all? Do it again in the same solution for another day. That will get even the most stubborn ones..

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It's "guaranteed", but then you might have to do it again. Hmmm....
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This is the nice thing about posts in NG's, you don't have to try suggestions.

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theres another kind of brush comb that uses triangular notches instead of pins with points. I've never tried one, and I don't think I will. It may scrape the outside bristles better, but the needles get to the other side staring at the ferrule. I go out of my way to a paint store to get them, they aren't at HD here. The ~12 sharpened pins are about an inch long, and are in a single row about 4" long. You can attach it to your hand.
-
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The fundamental techniques for cleaning brushes:
You'll need the correct solvent. Dip the brush into the solvent, saturating it as much as possible.
Use a brush comb to remove the majority of the wet paint when dealing with latex paint. If you can combine the brush comb and running water, this procedure works quickly. Holding the brush underwater while combing is very effective. Also effective is plunging the brush repeatedly into a bucket of water, though you'll need to straighten the bristles frequently when using the plunge method.
A brush comb can be used when cleaning oil brushes if the thinner is in good supply. Brush combs perform best when used with lots of the appropriate solvent.
Rub the bristles back and forth across the grain using your thumb, palm, or a rag to clean the dried paint. Use common sense to keep from skewing the bristles too much by rubbing them too far in any one direction - an inch or two suffices. You may use a wire brush for this twice in your lifetime - no more. God keeps track. Hell awaits.
Get the last remnants of paint out of the brush by saturating it with the appropriate solvent and folding the bristles back toward the handle, keeping the brush tilted so the bristles are up and paint runs down the handle. You'll see the paint getting squeezed out. Repeat this procedure until the solvent running out is the same color as the solvent going in and there are no discernable streams of paint coming out, then switch to cleaner solvent and repeat. It's possible to clean a brush using very little thinner in this way.
Kick out your brush by hitting the seam of the ferrule against the toe of your boot, comb the bristles, and put the brush back in the sleeve to dry. I've decided that spinning brushes is bad for the bristles' memory (as in their ability to return to their original shape) and leads to premature strays. Other than the exercise and aesthetic considerations, there are no good reasons to spin brushes versus kicking them out. Some say it's more thorough, but if it is, it's unnecessarily so.
Those are the basics. The finer points are trade secrets.
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