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
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
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
Then use clean solvent as a final rinse working it through the
bristles by hand.
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...
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.
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
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.
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
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
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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