Caring For Paintbrushes

When most people think about painting their houses, they focus on the paint: its color, texture, durability, and sheen. But a paint-job isn't just about the paint—it's also about the equipment you use and how you care for it after use. Using a quality paint brush is important, but it's important to learn how to maintain the quality of your investment. Start by learning how to care for your paintbrushes after a paint-job.

Soapy Water

*Always clean paintbrushes as soon as you've finished painting, so the paint won't have a chance to harden. Clean oil-based paints from brushes with the solvent especially formulated for these paints. If you used paints with a latex base, a washing with warm soapy (you can use detergent) water should do the trick. If you find that the brush still isn't clean, try cleaning it with paint thinner, then give a second wash in the warm water mixed with detergent.

*Use a metal comb to comb out the wet bristles.

*If you'll be storing the brush at length, return it to its pouch or wrap it in heavy paper or aluminum foil. Make sure the bristles lay flat and smooth.

Store Flat

*Brushes should always be stored flat or suspended from a hook or a nail so that the bristles remain straight. Never stand a brush on its bristles.

*Never allow a paintbrush to stand on its end in water or paint.

*Never soak a brush in water. Lengthy standing time in water can damage the filaments or the epoxy settings, and may also cause the metal ferrule to rust.

Natural bristle brushes are best used with oil-based paints and stains. They are also ideal for use with varnish, lacquer, and shellac. The paint container will tell you which solvent to choose for cleaning the brush. Solvents include, for example: paint thinner or mineral spirits for use with paint, stain, or varnish, and alcohol for shellac.

Brush Comb

The idea is to work the solvent through the brush bristles. Do this by dipping the brush up and down into the solvent container several times in a row. It's important to make sure that the solvent is worked into the center part of the brush, and all the way down to the metal ferrule. A brush comb is handy for getting out what's left of any remaining paint residue and also serves to straighten the bristles for proper drying.

Brushes made with synthetic filaments such as those of nylon or polyester are suitable for use with any paints but are most often used with latex and water-based paints. When used with these quicker-drying paints, warm, soapy suds are the best cleaning solution for synthetic brushes, otherwise use the method outlined above for cleaning brushes after use with oil-based paints. You may need to wash the brush several times, rinsing after each cleaning in a clear water rinse. The brush comb should take care of any stubborn paint remnants.

Keep in mind that brushes stored the wrong way will "finger" or twist." The filaments will curl at the tips and be rendered incapable of ever again applying a smooth coat of paint.