How to Clean Paint Brushes

It’s easy to make your brushes last longer. Yes, even for the super cheap kind! Here’s how to clean paint brushes properly.

Despite my love for high end brushes, brush care plays a much larger part in how long brushes last than the quality of the brushes themselves.

Of course there are limits to this, but that’s the main reason why novice painters tend destroy their brushes at a fast pace, regardless of their quality.

But if you’re to splurge and buy quality brushes, might as well know how to take care of them.

Paint Brush Cleaning Tricks

Here are my three favorite tricks to take better care of your brushes that are not all that common knowledge.

Halfway Fill

This is more of a prevention trick than a cleaning tip but it’s the most important.  And it is so important because failing this makes proper paint brush cleaning impossible thereafter.

Paint should not reach the metal part of your brush (called the ferrule).  Ever.

Once paint dries in there, it not only splits the bristles of your paint brush, it’s near impossible to get out.  And it only goes downhill from that point on.

The tricky part is that this will happen over time.  The longer you paint with a color, the higher on your brush paint creeps up.  As such, it’s important to pay attention to this as you go, specially if you are doing something that requires lots of refills.

Frequent Cleaning

This is one thing we’re all guilty of:  not cleaning our paint brushes nearly often enough.

The common cleaning frequency is between colors only.  It should not be.

If you’re line painting a unit, or doing a color that’s on the miniature a lot (looking at you silver weapons) you should take some time to clean your brush.

If you’re anything like me, this is a habit you have to drill yourself in doing and keep thinking about while you are painting.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m hurrying to finish or if it’s hardwired in my brain, but it is a battle.

Shaken Not Stirred

Don’t rub your brush around the side or bottom of your water pot.  Shake your brush around in water vigorously and just pat it on a cloth to take out the excess water.   This is pretty much it.

This goes hand in hand with the frequent cleaning.  If you clean your paint brush more, you don’t need to be has heavy handed with the cleaning, which is how it should be anyway.

Think about it this way, if you NEED to use force, your problem is not now; it was ten minutes ago when you should’ve cleaned it.

Faucet Quality Time

This is another one of those tricks that works for regular paint brush cleaning, yet is somehow lost or forgotten in miniature painting.

Once every now and then, take your brushes to the faucet and run them in hot water.  This will deep clean through some of the debris that might be hiding in the bristles.

I would not do this after every paint sessions, as it is not only time consuming, but also not necessary.  You don’t need to subject your brush to extra stress from cleaning for no reason, much like you don’t use a fine detail brush to paint the side of a tank.

Rinse & Lather

Buy a bar of brush soap that you use at the end of each session. Some brand also offer it in liquid form, but I’ve only ever used the brick, and they last me around five years each.

For high end paint brush cleaning with soap goes a long way. I have not had that much success with cheaper ones, as I can’t really tell if it makes a difference.

You can read this guide for Masters Brush Cleaner that goes in more detail

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