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How to Clean Your Brushes

(This is the 3rd in our “cleaning series!” Click here to see our post on cleaning your brush tub, and click here to see our post on cleaning your practice head!)

Taking good care of your brushes is absolutely essential if you want to have clean, crisp linework and brushes that last more than one gig!

This is what I do to my brushes at the end of each gig or practice session.  It’s the same method taught to me by my college painting instructor….

First, pump a small amount of liquid hand soap into your palm.

Next, add just a tiny bit of water.

Now, swirl your brushes around in your soapy palm in a circular motion.

Rinse the brushes…it doesn’t hurt to repeat this process either, until your soap and water are clear in your palm. 

It’s always a good general rule when using a brush to avoid getting any paint so far into the bristles that it touches the ferrule.  However, in our industry and the speed with which we work, this can be almost impossible for face painters. 

If you find that you have paint up inside the base of the bristles and the ferrule, after you do one cleaning and rinsing of your brush, add some more soap and water again.  Then, with the brush pointing up, firmly grasp the tip of your brush with your fingertips, and the handle with your other hand.  Work the soap and water down into the base of the bristles and the ferrule by moving the handle in a circular motion, as if you were cranking a fishing reel.

You’ll see the soap work it’s way down into the ferrule, while the spinning motion will scrub the bristles together, loosening paint.  Now, thoroughly rinse the brush to get the paint and soap out of the ferrule.

Once your brushes are clean and rinsed, gently dry them and squeeze excess water out of the bristles with a towel.

(If you really want to get serious about extending the life of your brushes, check out our new assortment of Loew-Cornell brush cleaning jars, pads, and fluid!)

You’re not done yet! 

This next step is really important, and critical for keeping a nice point to your brushes.

Grasp the base of your bristles with your fingertips, right where they come out of the ferrule. Pull the brush back while you squeeze and re-form the bristles into a nice point.

Clean, formed bristles, ready to air dry.

Do the same with your flat brushes, only with these you will press them flat as you pull the brush back.

Now, lay them FLAT to dry. I lay mine on a towel.  Never store them with the bristles pointing up while wet.  This allows the water to seep down into the ferrule, eventually loosening it from the handle and sometimes even rotting the handle.

Better yet, you can even hang them upside down to dry.  This draws the moisture down and out of the bristles.  We actually carry a wonderful little Brush Well made by Loew-Cornell ($6 on, which not only stores your brushes safely so that the bristles aren’t touching anything, but the foam that holds the brushes and the string attached also allows you to hang the entire container upside down for drying.

Once they are fully dried, they are safe to put away in your storage container of choice!  Or, if you use the brush well, simply screw on the lid and you’re ready for your next gig!

Got any other cleaning and care methods that you swear by? Please do share with us in the comments!  Thanks for visiting and happy painting!  🙂

2 thoughts on “How to Clean Your Brushes

  1. I have one more tip to add…I discovered it when I attempted to restore a brush I would have otherwise thrown away.
    So when my brushes are clean and dry, I use a small amount of hair gel to shape them. Once dry, the shape to hold until use and even seemed to fix older brushes. Hair gel washes off quickly in water when ready to use.
    Any gel will do…try it, you'll be amazed at how this will work. Thanks for all information here for me as well. It has made me a better painter. Thanks so much!!!!

  2. What a great tip, thanks for sharing! I'm totally going to try that!!