How to Properly Care for Your Paint Brushes

You can use your paint brushes for multiple home improvement projects across a span of years -- if you know how to take care of them, that is. Knowing how to properly care for your paint brushes also means you can invest in better brushes, which will help your painting projects go more smoothly from the start.

Use them gently

If you drive your car ruthlessly, it will be harder to keep it in top condition. The same idea goes for paint brushes. Proper paint-brush care starts the first time you paint with a brush. To keep the brushes well-shaped, avoid smashing the bristles as you apply paint, even when you are trying to create harsh or clipped effects.

Also take care when you charge (dip) your brush. Only dip the bristles of the brush into the paint. Don't dip all the way up to the ferrule (the metal part that holds the bristles to the handle). If paint dries in the ferrule, your bristles might loosen or become misshapen.

Rinse your brush by swishing it in a bucket of water or under a running hose or faucet. Never, however, leave a brush sitting in a rinse bucket; it can damage the bristles and compromise the brush's shape. Instead, find a place where you can rest the brushes as they dry. (If you take a break mid-project, you can wrap your wet paint brushes in plastic wrap or put them in a plastic bag -- keeping the paint away from the ferrule -- for an hour or so. That keeps you from having to clean the brushes before your break and prevents the paint from drying onto the brushes.)

Wash them regularly

A big part of keeping your brushes in top shape is washing them as soon as you're done painting. If paint dries on its bristles, a brush is more or less ruined. Properly caring for your brushes requires that you wash them a certain way.

  • Swish your brush in the rinse bucket and squeeze the bristles gently with a paper towel to eliminate all the paint you can before actually washing.
  • Wash brushes in lukewarm water. Cold water will not clean the brushes properly, and hot water could loosen the glue that holds the bristles in place.
  • Use a gentle hand soap, such as Castile soap, to wash your brushes. Don't use dish soap or detergent, because the chemicals in them are too harsh and could damage your brushes.
  • Gently work the soap through the bristles until the water running through them is clear.
  • Hold your brush horizontally while cleaning. Never allow water to run directly into the ferrule.
  • When your brushes are clean, gently squeeze the excess water out of the bristles with a paper towel and lay them flat to dry.

Store them safely

The last step in proper care is storing your brushes in a safe location to preserve their shape. Never store a brush vertically with the bristles down; that will ruin the shape. Even storing brushes in a cup with the bristles up isn't a terribly good idea, because they are too vulnerable to being knocked over or ending up in a bad position. A number of products on the market can safely store and transport your brushes. Look for one that keeps the brushes securely in place and protects their bristles as much as possible.

Treat your brushes with care and importance, and you'll be able to paint with them for many years to come.

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