Disclaimer | This article may contain affiliate links, this means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for qualifying purchases.
As artists, we have gone through those frustrating times when brushes become too hard to deal with.
Then, what we usually end up doing is changing them every other time, especially when it comes to oil paint brushes which are tougher to clean.
And the funny thing is, we don’t want to keep buying cheap brushes just so that we can switch them up time and again.
The one reason behind this may be due to the improper maintenance of the oil paint brushes.
We will hand you the steps to properly care for your oil brushes.
Without further delay, let’s begin!
How to Clean Oil Paint Brushes
Remove the excess paint
Once you finished painting, have a rag or a paper ready with you.
Put the brush inside the rag/paper and wrap it.
Start applying pressure to remove the paint.
Remember to apply just the right force for getting rid of the color because too much pressure can damage or loosen the bristles.
It is also important to thoroughly wipe the paint off the brush by starting from the metal holder and proceeding up to the tip. That can help prevent rust which may occur due to leftover paint stains.
So after you are done with removing the excess paint, it is time to move ahead with thinning the brush.
There is always some paint left inside the bristles. That is why thinning is a necessary step which every artist has to take when cleaning the brushes.So for this step, you are required to have beside you a thinner or safflower oil. Other options include linseed oil and odorless solutions.
Pour any one of these liquids into a bowl or a jar. Make sure that it is not a daily kitchen-use container, but one which is meant for studio-use purposes only.
Some artists prefer to get on with the thinning immediately while some prefer to keep the brush in the solution for some time.
We recommend leaving the brush in the liquid for some time because it will help soften the paint and will also ease the paint-removing process.
While the paintbrush is still dipped in the solution, gently swirl and twist it around. That will ensure getting the paint off even from the tighter parts of the bristles. Then, take it out of the thinner and start wiping off the wet bristles with the rag.
When wiping, make sure that you don’t keep rubbing it on the same area of the cloth. You have to keep changing the spots where you’re disposing the excess paint.
Then, repeat the process by dipping the brush into the liquid and wiping it with a rag again. Do this until you are satisfied with the results.
If required, repeat these two steps: There are no rules as to when you have to stop. Besides overdoing, you can repeat the two steps above if you feel that they are required until you are quite satisfied with the outcome of the brush.
You can repeat the processes in cases when the brush is too dirty and needs a thorough cleaning.
That is when you have to change the liquid/solutions and use different containers. Do this until you can see the liquid getting more transparent with every changing.
Wash the brush with soap
Of course, you didn’t have to thin down the paint till the actual color of the paint bristles shows. After all, sometimes the tone has become a part of the brush.
So as soon as you are done, you can go ahead and wash the brush with lukewarm water and liquid soap, preferably. Lukewarm or warm water removes oil better than cold water can. This is because the oil starts to melt when it becomes warm, so that makes it easier to clean.
Lukewarm water also makes soap foamier because of its fast-moving molecules. So we would suggest using warm water and not water that’s too hot because that can damage the bristles.
When washing the brush, make sure to dab the bristles and try to rid as much paint as possible. But as we have mentioned before, going gentle on the brush can help preserve it better. Otherwise, it will just cost you more money if you have to keep changing brushes that you’ve spent so much time and energy to take care of.
Dab off the water
Remove the water from the brush by dabbing it on a rag/cloth. Remember not to use the same rag this time. Use a clean one because you do not want some of the previous paints to stick to your brush again. However, you do not necessarily have to dab the brush until all the moisture disappears. In the next step, you will see how to do that the easy way.
Then, if the brush still contains a certain amount of lather, it is advisable to do another round of rinsing it under running water.
As we have mentioned earlier, the color of the brush will still appear to be dirty, but that is not the case here. If your brush is old, it will likely have changed its color due to continuous and extensive use.
Dry the brush
Now for drying the brush, there are three best options to do it properly.
The first is a natural way of removing moisture off the bristles.
All you can do is hang it dry after rubbing it on either dry tissue paper or a dry towel. However, this process takes a long time, and it may not be ideal if you are a busy person.
Then the second which is a much faster and easier way to do it is by blow drying it.
To complete this step, you must have a blow dryer by your side. Turn on the dryer and start drying the brush. Make sure you don’t hold the bristles too close to the dryer is you set it as hot. That can overheat the hairs to the point that they start curling or deform.
This trick, however, works best on fluffy brushes that on flat and thin bristles.
The last is also a simple, yet effective way to dry your brushes.
What you need to do is flick the hair multiple times with your finger. And this will remove the remaining moisture away. It does take some time for the brush to dry with this method. However, what we usually do is to use a blow dryer to speed up the process.
We are done with the cleaning part, and now, we will guide you through how to care for your brushes so that they last longer and still keep functioning well.
Here is what you can do!
- Trim your brush
Right after you finished cleaning and drying, it’s time to trim and shape the brushes.
Sometimes the bristles will lose their original shape or cut because of all the duties they go through. On top of that, the cleaning part also contributes to this problem.
If you leave it as it is, it will not work as effectively as it would on the day you first got it.
So when you know that the brush is completely dry, start trimming off excess hairs with a scissor.
Make sure you stay as close as you can to the actual outline and shape of the bristles and that you don’t cut it too short. Otherwise, that would make the brush difficult to work with afterward.
Another thing to consider while trimming is to only focus on the tips of the bristles and extra hairs (if available) that stick out from the sides. You need to be gentle while chopping off these extra bits.
So when you finished trimming, move the fibers gently with your fingers to see if they align perfectly. If they are still uneven, cut a little more. But remember to cut only the ones which are not in harmony.
If you are sure that every bit is even, move the bristles with your finger again to keep them in the right shape.
- Use conditioner
Just as our dry and rough hair needs conditioner to stay silky, so do brushes.
If you notice that your brush has lost its shine or has become harsh, it is time to apply some conditioner on those bristles.
Keep in mind that you must not use conditioners every single time you wash the brush because that will destroy the fibers.
There are preservers and liquid products you can get online or from a local art store which are for brushes only.
But you can also use oil as a substitute.
However, we would still recommend using a conditioner because oils can accumulate dust and dirt if not applied in the right manner. That can damage the brush’s hairs slowly.
- Keep the brushes in a safe place
Where and how you store the brushes can also affect the quality and shelf-life of the bristles.
So we would recommend getting a separate container only for storing clean brushes.
Remember to place the tips facing upwards because the fibers will be damaged if placed downwards. Also, store only a few brushes in one container because if the jar is packed, it will be difficult to reach the handles of the brushes without touching the other brushes’ bristles.
A vessel with an ample storage space will help in this case.
And lastly, get a container that has a cover so that it protects the brushes from insects and dirt, therefore, maintaining the quality of the brushes for a very long time.
- Save up the thinner
The last step is not about brushes but it has an indirect impact on maintaining them – and that is tosave up the thinner for later use.
The thinning agent that you used earlier for cleaning the brushes should not go to waste just like that; even the one that is moderately dirty. Changing it every time you clean brushes will only cost you a lot of money.
What you can do to save it is by waiting for all the dirty particles to sink to the bottom for a night.
Then, gently pour the clean thinner into another container and seal it tightly for the next cleaning process.
Safety reminder: Keep in mind that the thinning agent should be stored away from heat sources because it is flammable.
Alright, so that is all for today’s post. We have broken down and simplified all the steps as much as we could so that none of them seem complicated or hard to follow.
We sure hope you enjoyed the article and that it has helped you in one way or the other.
And with that, we wish you good luck! See you again in the next post!