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How To: Restore an Old Paint Brush

Keeping Clean Paint Brushes

It’s easier to clean paint brushes when you use them than it is to resurrect them from the dead. So, regularly cleaning your brushes is key to keeping them working properly.

What does “regularly” mean? For me that depends on if I’m painting in hot weather or painting in cold weather. Am I outside or inside? Lot’s variables, but at minimum I clean my brush when I am done painting for the day. As soon as the paint is back in the pail and the lid is on I clean my brush.

The end of the painting day is the minimum, but you may also want to clean your brush if you notice paint drying on the bristles. Take a quick break from painting and clean your brush thoroughly. Dry it off and you can go right back to painting.

Pro Tip:

To take a quick break while painting without cleaning paint brushes put your wet brush in a plastic bag, wrap it up, and place it in the refrigerator (not the freezer). Then pull it out and begin painting when you’re ready if it’s less than 12 hours.

When painting it’s important to keep paint off the handle and ferrule. Only dip your brush deeply enough in the paint to cover the toe and about half the bristles max. Any further up and you will have paint drying too quickly on the bristles.

If you do get paint on or in the ferrule or handle, stop and clean everything up before it dries then start over.

Cleaning a Dried Paint Brush

So what if you forgot to clean your paint brush, and it has now turned into a paint encrusted brick. It will take a little work, but you’re not sunk yet. You can bring a dried paint brush back from the dead with some paint stripper and a little patience whether it had latex or oil-based paint.

  1. Soak in Paint Stripper – Fill a ziplock bag, or other container with enough paint stripper to cover all the dried paint and let it sit overnight.
  2. Scrub the Brush – Grab a metal bristle brush and scrub the paint brush clean under running water trying to break up the dried paint. Make sure you rinse all the paint stripper off the brush thoroughly.
  3. Repeat Until Clean – Depending on the severity of the condition of the brush it may take several soakings and it helps to work the stripper into the bristles as much as possible so it can do its magic.

After saving a dried brush there is a good chance you’ll need some brush conditioning because the process is so stringent. It’s important to avoid getting stripper up into the ferrule because there is glue in most brushes that hold the bristles in place and the stripper can dissolve that too.

Now you’re ready to tackle almost anything concerning paint brushes! Check out my earlier post about picking the right paint brush and partner that with the information here on how to clean paint brushes and you should be able to keep that perfect brush for decades instead of weeks.

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