Sunday, 24 March 2013

Tutorial - Brush Cleaning and Maintenance

Greetings one and all. Today was one of my maintenance days; somewhere along the line I realised that what I ought to do was take some pictures. Thus allowing me to share my tips for protecting one of the most expensive consumables we use. Brushes.

Same brush, top and bottom, one of my old ratty ones to show just how effective it is.

So in true infomercial style: do your brushes look like this? Good paint brushes are savagely expensive, each of my lovely, lovely Raphael brushes costs a minimum of £5. If you abuse them you'll buy them again, and again, and again. Care for them a bit and they'll last you a fair while. No brush lasts forever, most of us downgrade from 'A'-grade to 'B' when they lose the fine point. B-graders are for base coating and rough work. Once even these die I wind up using them for glue or sacrificing them for improvised tool holders. Until then though they get the following treatment.

About once a fortnight I give my 'A'-brushes a quick clean in brush soap. Truthfully, any old soap will do but the stuff in the picture above is actually designed for brushes and won't leave them smelling funny or loaded with moisturiser or what the hell ever else they put in hand soap. Treat them rough at this point, really work the soap up into the bristles near the ferrule (the metal bit). Rinse in clean water and wipe on kitchen paper trying to spread the bristles as you go to loosen any dried paint at the heart of the brush. Good brushes form a large reserviour and it is hidden in the middle. Dry paint hides there too.

Those are nice large lumps of old paint coming out of what looks like a clean brush. It's worth doing this folks. Finally, repoint the wet brush into a nice perfect brush shape and leave to dry naturally. It'll be like you bought them new. I go another step roughly every quarter or so but I do paint a ridiculous amount (eight hours daily, five days weekly at least).

The Heath-Robinson contraption in the picture above is holding my bristles submerged in the Turpinoid brush cleaner and restorer you see next to it. There are tons of different brands for this and it works kind of like conditioner. Brushes are made of hair and need to be softened and smoothed once in a while just like your hair. The Turpinoid does this. I usually leave them soaking for an hour or so and then comb the bristles:

Just run the Turpinoid laden brush through the bristles of a toothbrush, a nail brush or something similar. It combs off any lingering paint that might be clinging to the bristles. Once you have cleaned it in the restorer you need to wash it with the soap like usual to finish off.

And there it is. A slightly over exposed photo of four perfectly clean brushes. The 0-size brush (second from bottom) is nearing the end of its life - the point is rounding off. They are however perfectly clean! These are about a year old now, meaning about two thousand hours of painting time and they look clean as when I bought them. Do this process and you'll have more money for buying models. Why? Because you won't be buying paint brushes all the damn time! Hope this helps someone, there are other methods out there. This is kind of the amalgamated PVP method cribbed from the bits of best practice I've found out there.

If your paint is caked onto miniatures then you need a different process. Try this. Until next time Ladles and Jellyspoons.



  1. Very good information; thanks! I've used the brush cleaner before, but not the restorer. I may have to find some of this next time at the craft/hobby store. Best, Dean

  2. I have so many brushes I need to do this with. Heck, I even have brush soap, but it's somewhere in The Pile.

  3. If you haven't washed them properly like this before, will this work for oldish brushes?
    Thanks for the tutorials, this is fast becoming one of my favourite blogs for the painting tips mixed in with some cool projects

    1. Thanks! Yes, the turpinoid will renovate a knackered brush BUT it'll probably never be A grade again.