I have a collection of good brushes (natural bristle) that I keep for
fine painting, such as varnishing. I just finished varnishing the new
woodwork in a room we remodeled, and spent a lot of time picking loose
hairs out of the varnish. I had the problem with both older and new
brushes, so I'm thinking there must be a problem with the way I clean or
store them, that makes the bristles brittle.
I clean them using thinner, then detergent, and finally fells naptha
soap. Then I let them dry and keep them on a shelf. I recall seeing a
device that suspended your brushes in, as I recall, kerosene, to
preserve them, but it never explained what to do when you want to use
one of these kerosene impregnated brushes; I didn't think wiping them
and then using them was a good idea as I didn't want to get kerosene on
my work, which left the option of cleaning them, then waiting for them
to dry before using them, which could take a lot of time.
So what is the best way to preserve a good brush so it doesn't leave
bristles in your work?
I have a few loose bristles whenever I paint. I use good brushes, but
never the most expensive. When I have a project underway, I wrap my
brushes in foil and put them in the freezer overnight. If there is a
longer delay, such as letting part of a paint project cure before going
on to the rest, I store bristle brushes in mineral spirits. I use metal
coffee can, a couple of inches of m.s., cut an "X" in the lid to stick
the handle through and suspend the brush in the m.s. so bristles aren't
resting on the bottom.
When I finish a project, I clean the brush thoroughly in clean m.s.
Wring out as much m.s. as possible, use full-strength Dawn and work it
into the bristles very well, esp. up to the ferule. Let it rest a
while, rinse very well, shape bristles with hot water, dry upside down.
It's possible the wood handle gets saturated with water or solvent,
expands and loosens the hold on the bristles.
Before using a brush, I wet it with the appropriate thinner, to reduce drying of
the paint at the top of the bristles. I start cleaning by squeezing as much
paint out of the brush as I can by folding newspaper around it an squeezing the
paint out. I then rinse it thoroughly in paint thinner, using a little bit of
thinner for each rinse (maybe 1/4-1/2 inch in container about brush size). I
rinse repeatedly until the thinner no longer gets dirty. I re-use thinner by
pouring the dirty thinner into an old bleach jug and leaving it a few weeks to
settle, then decanting it into a cleaner jug. When I clean brushes, I use the
recycled thinner for all but the last few rinse cycles, so even though I use a
lot of thinner, I really don't. I never use water on bristle brushes used for
oil based paint.
Natural bristle brushes are for oil based finishes. Wash the
brush out with solvent until clean. If you've gotten paint up
into the heel, use a steel wire brush to get the paint out - I
usually use one just a matter of course, brush only towards the
tips. A good warm water and soap helps get out any residues.
Flick as dry as possible. Rinse one last time in clean thinner,
wrap in paper ( I use masking paper because the masking machine is
hanging handy). Hang by the handle. I guess we all get an
occasional loose hair, but I've not ever had enough to call it a
problem. I think the oils in the thinner help keep the bristles
Keep the whole world singing . . . .
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