Paintbrush Care 101

Paintbrush Care 101 is all about taking care of your paintbrushes to ensure they last a very long time. This process for cleaning and caring for your brushes is simple and maintainable.

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5 paintbrushes from Christie Hawkins paintbrush set. Teal handles.

What will I need to clean my brushes?

The importance of proper brush care.

Taking proper care of your paintbrushes can be the difference between brushes that last long and help you create beautiful art versus wasted money and botched paint projects. Nobody wants bent, damaged, or cracked paintbrushes! However, these issues are almost guaranteed to occur when you fail to care for your brushes properly.

Christie Hawkins holding a mug she uses to rinse her paintbrushes. 6 paintbrushes with teal handles.

Let’s start with two big don’ts of brush care:

  1. Don’t leave your paintbrushes in a cup of water: The first crucial step is to refrain from doing what I have done myself – leaving your brushes sitting in a water cup. This can lead to bent bristles and cracked handles.
  • Why it leads to cracking: When water seeps into the brush handle, the underlying wood absorbs it, causing the handle to crack. To prevent your brush handles from cracking, make sure not to leave them in the water cup for more than an hour.
  • Why it bends the bristles: When your brushes sit bristle down for an extended amount of time, the bristles can permanently bend. This will compromise the overall purpose and effectiveness of the brushes.
  1. Avoid leaving your brushes to dry with paint on them: Some people lay their paintbrushes on the table instead of putting the brushes in a water cup. If you do this, you will end up with dried acrylic paint on the bristles, which is much harder to fix. Therefore, remember to put your brushes in the water cup between painting steps during your painting session. Always clean your brushes as soon as you are done with your project or every day if your project will take longer than a day.

How to properly clean your brushes.

Christie Hawkins holding up a jar of "The Masters" Brush Cleaner and Preserver.

1. Head over to a sink, and grab your Master’s Brush Cleaner and Preserver. I have been using this cleaner on my brushes for many years. This not only conditions the brushes but also helps preserve them. It is versatile and can be used for watercolor and acrylic paints. It is incredibly easy to use as well!

Christie Hawkins cleaning a brush with Master Brush Cleaner & Preserver.

2. Dampen your brushes with water, and then press down on the brush cleaner in its container. Begin to swirl around the bristle ends firmly in the dried, hard soap. This action will create soapy suds in the bristles. 

3. Take your brushes out of the cleaner and begin somewhat aggressively swirling and smooshing them in your palm.  This motion ensures that the soap reaches the area where the bristles meet the metal part of the brush.

 Aggressively swirling and smooshing a paintbrush in her palm.

4. Then, rinse the brushes. After rinsing, inspect them to ensure that all the soap and color have been removed. Keep checking the bristles, making sure they are completely clean and that no milky substance is coming out of them. Sometimes, if the paint is stubborn, you may need to return to the brush cleaner and repeat the process to fully remove all the paint.

5. You will know you are done cleaning your brush when the water runs clear.

Christie holding a paintbrush in the sink running it through the water to clean the paint off it.

6. Once the brushes are clean, proceed to dry them by laying them flat. If necessary, I reshape them before laying them flat to dry by pinching the bristles in a paper towel and pulling away from the handle.

5 paintbrushes with teal handles from Christie's paintbrush set.

How to fix bent and dried brushes.

The quickest way to fix bent and dried brushes is to follow these easy steps:

  1. Take the smallest pot you have in your kitchen, and add only about an inch of water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil. Since it’s a tiny pot, boiling won’t take long. 
  3. Dip the bristles into the boiling water for a maximum of two to three seconds. Then, remove the brush from the water. 
  4.  Finally, lay them flat to dry.
Christie holding a paint brush on a paper towel. Fixing a bent paintbrush.

Want more brush info?

If you want to learn more about all the different kinds of brushes and how to care for them, check out the FREE Brush Guide! In that brush guide, I give you tons of details about each brush and how to care for them. It’s an amazing tool to have, and it’s completely free to you!

The Social Easel Free Artist Paint Brush Guide.

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Watch my Paintbrush Care 101 video:


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