Every artist should know not only why Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain, but also how to clean his oil paint brushes. If you don’t clean your paint brushes, you risk losing them as a tool forever! To prevent this, let’s think about different ways to clean brushes.
First of all, let’s see what oil paint is. There is already a hint in the name – this is a color pigment diluted in oil (often in linseed); we omit all other additives (wax, glycerin, etc.), because we will talk about cleaning brushes of oil paint and oil as its main component. The oil paint brushes should be cleaned based on this knowledge and rules.
As oil is a fat, then we can clean it with a “degreaser” accordingly.
Video “how to clean brushes” (in Russian)
Ways to clean oil paint brushes:
Cleaning brushes with thinner
You use it many times during painting, dipping the brush into the oil can with a solvent in order to take another clean paint color. This is a simple and quick way to remove all the paint from the brush pile.
What thinner should be used to clean the brushes? You can take any thinner No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4, because all of them are suitable for cleaning brushes. But the best choice is pure white spirit, it is considered less toxic.
You will need a cloth to wipe the brush. Before starting to clean the brush with thinner, squeeze the paint brush between the piece of cloth and remove any remaining paint. After that, feel free to dip the brush pile into the thinner and immediately repeat the previous step. Repeat several times until the brush is completely clean.
The thinner can be used to clean both natural (bristles, for sable pile it is better to choose more gentle methods of cleaning) and synthetic brushes.
There is an article about thinners and solvents “Choosing an Oil Painting Thinner”
How to clean the oil paint brush with laundry detergent or dish soap?
Here the chemistry can help us, because laundry detergent or dish soap is excellent at removing the fat. You’ve seen this “trick” with clothes and dishes after fat food, when not a single spot remains after washing. In this case, any laundry detergent or dish soap is suitable.
- Dish soap. Before proceeding, do not forget to wipe the brush with a piece of cloth as in the previous method. The remaining paint should be removed before cleaning the brushes. Pour a little bit of dish soap into the palm of your hand, dip the brush into this “puddle” and whip it with circular movements. After such actions, the brush is cleaned of the paint. Rinse the foam from the brush under water, and if it is not clean enough, repeat these steps.
- When you use laundry detergent, it is better to clean the paint brushes in a slightly different way. Take a container (for example, a jar), make a strong solution of laundry detergent in warm water. Bathe your brushes properly in this strong solution, periodically rinsing them under water and wiping them with a piece of cloth.
Is it possible to clean oil paint brushes with gasoline or kerosene?
In short, yes. But as always there is one flaw, and in terms of gasoline and kerosene it is big. This is toxicity … the gasoline toxicity is harmful to brushes, skin of your hands and to your breath. I advise you to think carefully before using this method for cleaning oil paint brushes.
Quickly dip the brush into gasoline/kerosene, and then wipe it with a piece of cloth. Washing off the paint is quick and easy.
Can I use soap to clean brushes? Yes, of course.
It is probably the most common method for cleaning brushes. Soap, after all, easily removes the fat from your hands (natural or artificial oils). Absolutely any solid soap is suitable. For whoever is wondering, the less dye and different flavors in the soap, the more natural it is, but I think this can be omitted. Our main task is to clean the brushes.
Take the soap in one hand and brush in the other hand, moisten it and soap under water. Clean the brush in circular movements, moving the brush over the soap surface until the foam formation. During this, the paint is washed from the brush pile. Rinse the brush under water and repeat until the brush is completely clean.
In art stores, you can find cleaning soap for brushes.
Brush washer for cleaning brushes
The brush washer is a funny thing, being a container and a spring above it. You can pour thinner into the container and fix the brushes so that the pile is dipped into it. After cleaning, you can use the brush washer to store the brushes, replacing the thinner with oil (even the sunflower oil) and lowering the brush tips into the oil. You will know that they are completely safe.
Some artists, often novice artists, put the brush in the water not being sure that the brush is clean. It’s quite reasonable, as the water does not let air in and does not allow the brush to dry. And the brush itself can be damaged, as it is better to store brushes in a vertical position and pile up.
Clean the paint brushes properly, and we will discuss their preservation in another article.
Clean brush is the key to quality of your work.
I wish you success and creative heights!