How To Clean A Paintbrush

…with water based paints and inks…

Use warm water and the shampoo you have at home. Genially speaking, hair shampoo represents the state of the science for hair care. Brushes respond well to shampoo. The basic details are to use a generous amount of shampoo and gently massage the brush bristle to get all of the paint or ink out of it. Warm water feels good on the fingers and also helps to dissolve any of the softer oils that may be on the brush. When you think it’s clean, test the brush by using it on some clean printer paper. If there are any traces of pigment, repeat the washing process.

Once the brush is clean, always dry it with the bristle tip pointing down. The bristle can point down a little or a lot. The goal is to use gravity as your friend and help any leftover pigments work their way towards the tip rather instead of the base. Some elevate the tail of the brush an inch and some suspend a rubber band between 2 posts so that they can hang the brush vertically.

If you want to go a step further, put a napkin or paper towel so it touches the brush tip. It is also a good way to show if there are left over pigments.

A great way to help preserve any natural hair brush is to occasionally put a hair conditioner on it. The procedure is to wash the brush as noted above, then apply a the conditioner. Rinse it thoroughly in warm water and then reapply the conditioner. This time let the conditioner dry on the brush. This will help the brush to absorb the nutrients from the conditioner. Next time you use the brush, rinse thoroughly with running warm water and gently massage the bristles.

Note that if you are using synthetic bristles, there is no need to use conditioner but the conditioner won’t hurt synthetic bristles.

Also see my note on breaking-in or what i call Warming up a brush a this link.

…with solvent based paints and inks…

If you are using solvent based inks or paint, check with the paint manufacturer for their recommendations. Always use the weakest cleaning solution to clean the brush. This is because the same chemicals that help remove the ink or paint, will also tend to slowly break down the bristles.

If you use natural hair brushes with solvent based materials, it is a good idea to use conditioner after the brush is cleaned (see above). Solvents are hard on natural hair bristles, and conditioner will help to restore some of what is taken by the cleaners.

Always dry the brush with the bristle tip pointing down. This helps to stop left over particulates in the paint from work into the base of the brush.

Drying a brush with the bristle pointing up is guaranteed to wear out the brush more quickly. This is because as the particulates collect at the base of the brush, they push the hairs or fibers apart. Over a pretty short time span, that will make it impossible to form a fine tip.

Also (again) see my note on breaking-in or what i call Warming up a brush a this link.