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How To: Make an Old Brush New Again

How To: Make an Old Brush New AgainLike anything, paint brushes have a lifespan, but most people treat their brushes so roughly that they die long before they should. A good paint brush should last you years or even decades if cared for properly.

After a lot of use, and maybe not the best cleaning, paint brushes get paint stuck in the bristles and up into the ferrule (the metal base) which can make it extremely stiff. Eventually, the brush is not good for painting anymore and you chuck it in the trash and slap down some precious cash for a new brush.

Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s your kids, but either way, this trick works great for fixing the problem of a gummed up old paint brush.

The good news: You don’t have to throw your old paint brushes away! They can be saved for just a few cents instead of spending another $15-20 on new brush.

How To Revive an Old Paint Brush

CitrusStripThis is so simple that I’m amazed more people don’t do it. My only guess is that you just haven’t thought about it yet. What’s the quickest way to strip paint from irregular surfaces? Paint stripper!

My favorite stripper for resurrecting my paint brushes is CitriStrip. It has a pleasant smell, it’s not toxic like methylene chloride strippers, and it cleans up with water. Long story short, it works without having to worry about growing a third eye or ear because of harsh chemicals.

Clean old Paint Brush
Mix the stripper into the bristles well.

The process takes about 10 minutes and the brush is good as new. Here’s how I do it.

Step 1 Add Stripper

Pour a generous amount of CitriStrip in a ziplock bag and insert you gummed up old paint brush. Really work the stripper into the bristles and ferrule. Make sure every inch of the brush is covered and the stripper is well inside the bristles.

Step 2 Let it Sit

Wrap the baggy up tight so that the stripper doesn’t dry out and then leave it overnight. Make sure it’s safely out of reach of the pets and kiddos since this stripper has a delicious orange scent that they may not know is unsafe to eat.

clean paint brush
Rinse VERY well with water

Step 3 Brush it Out

The next morning, pull the brush out and dispose of the baggy. Using a stiff metal brush or paint brush comb brush the paint residue (which should be mush at this point) off of the brush cleaning into the bristles as much as possible.

Step 4 Wash it Well

Wash the brush off in the sink or at the hose until you get everything off. Then rinse it some more! The last thing you want in you paint brush is stripper residue which can really mess up your future projects. Rinse the water back into the ferrule and thoroughly into all the bristles. Did I mention you should rinse it well?

After that put the brush back in its husk or cover (if you don’t have the husk anymore read this: DIY Paint Brush Cover) and you’ve got a new looking and workable paint brush again.

Next time, make sure to clean the brush a little better and keep from reaching the point where it becomes a brick on a stick. Take a look at the results below and go save some paint brushes and money this weekend!

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21 thoughts on “How To: Make an Old Brush New Again

  1. Thanks for the Tips. This will come in handy when I go to paint my shed. I will need to clean the paint brushes. I am glad I will be able to use them over. I will have to do several coats.

  2. You can also put brushes in a large glad bag and seal it while you are painting. Leave it upright and it saves having to wash and dry the brush on projects that extend for days.

    1. I had to expensive Purdy brushes used once and I thought I was going to have to throw them out until I found this and tried it. Being busy I left them in zip lock bag for several days nd cleaned them this morning. I now have 2 reusable brushes. This worked great. Will use it again.

  3. I am considering using SarcoSeal Type M glazing compound (Dap 33 is driving me crazy with waiting) for some window sash we are restoring. I have one concern. We are in Savannah, GA and we have terrible mold issues. Have you ever seen mold problems with the SarcoSeal glazing compound?

    1. Sarco, like any linseed oil putty, can mold. The best way I have found to prevent it in the warm humid south is to give the putty extra time to skin over (7-10 days before painting) and then I add mildewcide to the finish paint.

  4. Does the stripper affect the glue holding the bristles? Do they even use glue in paintbrushes? My only experience is with makeup brushes which do use glue and if you get too much water up in the ferrule, the bristles start falling out. I’m curious, because I have some paintbrushes that I didn’t clean right away because I was going to do some touchups, then forgot about during the whole move in process. Guess it can’t hurt to test it out since they’re junk anyhow.

    1. Pat, I haven’t had any problems with that happening but I try to avoid getting the stripper deep into the ferrule since rarely do I end up with much paint back in there.

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