Look After Paint Brushes


The cost of a brush is in almost direct proportion to the length and amount of bristle used – its “fullness”.
Good paintwork is judged by the absence of brush marks, indicative of the light touch achieved by using the tips of the bristles only – difficult if the brush is so short that there is no “give” to deposit the paint lightly.
Also, since the last 4 centimeters or so near the stock will never be used, a brush with 12cm bristles will give you twice as much wear as a brush with 8 cm.
It makes good sense to buy a good brush provided one takes good care of it, particularly when it is not in use continuously.

Taking care of brushes
Brushes gone hard, spreading, with old paint in the stock, or soggy and bent after storage in a water pot, are a sad and sorry sight as well as a waste of good hog’s bristle and of your money.
Good brush care starts with the preparatory treatment. Bristles have hollow centres and forked ends which keep splitting as the brush is worn down. Both features account for the unique paint holding qualities of a pure bristle brush and these qualities will be enhanced by soaking a new brush for a day or two in raw linseed oil before using.
Increased suppleness and slower hardening, if the brush is left out by mis┬Čtake, are a bonus.
Many a morning tea break on a site has been spoilt by heated arguments as to the relative merits of water or mineral turpentine to store brushes overnight. Turpentine tends to soak into the bristles and requires thorough drying in the morning if one wishes to avoid messy leakage from the brush.
The use of water avoids this, but care must be taken not to cover the metal ferrule: rust will eat quickly through the brads and the wooden stock will swell, forcing the ferrule apart and loosening the bristles.For long term storage, brushes are usually cleaned in turpentine or water, depending on the type of paint, then washed in soap and hot water and stored dry.
However, here the process is often reversed: left too long, the wooden handle dries and shrinks causing the handle and binding to loosen. Suspended in linseed oil the brush can last indefinitely. Linseed oil is a very slow drying oil and thinned with turpentine will not thicken or skin, particularly if the lid of the can is kept firmly closed.
This is a good method of storage for a long period even for brushes used for acrylic paints, although with these, water is used for both washing and overnight storage while they are in daily use.
A good way to remove all residual solvent – water and turpentine – and any remaining traces of paint is to swirl the brush inside a drum. Smaller brushes can be attached to the working end of an electric drill – but don’t stand too close!
What do you do if you did leave that brush out overnight? Soaking in a metal container filled with lacquer thinners or a proprietary brush cleaner or paint remover should soften the paint sufficiently to permit “combing” it with a stiff scrubbing brush or even a wire brush, followed by another soaking and a rinse.
This may have to be repeated a few times but, unfortunately, the brush will never again be as good as new – the resilience will be gone and small particles of old, dried paint will creep down along the bristles and into the fresh paint – clearly a case where your sins are not readily forgiven!
Can’t be bothered to clean that brush at the end of the day when you are going to use it again the next day? Here’s how the pros store a brush overnight – drill a hole through the handle and suspend it in water or turpentine from a piece of rigid wire. Make sure that the water level does not come within one centimeter of the ferrule.

Brushing technique
For gloss or satin enamels and paints a three part system is best:
After dipping in no further than about 2 cm and tapping the side of the pot to get rid of surplus, the paint is deposited by moving the brush quickly across the area to be covered, then spread evenly by brushing it horizontally, and finally “laid off” with the tips of the bristles, taking care to brush into the wet area only as any return strokes are likely to leave a mark.

For flat paints most tradesmen favour “crowsnesting”: the second and third steps are combined by spreading the paint in several strokes from various directions, thus avoiding too even a surface which could produce a sheen.

Leave a Reply