Learning how to clean your oil painting brushes is important, especially if your brushes are expensive and of high quality. You want to protect that investment so that your brushes will last for years to come.
There are a variety of methods for removing oil paint from a brush. If you were to ask 5 different artists how they clean their brushes, you would more than likely get 5 different answers. Some artists use turpentine or mineral spirits while others prefer to use safer alternatives like baby oil or citrus based cleaners.
I would like to outline my process for cleaning my brushes in this post as well as include articles and videos from other artists. This way you will have a variety of resources to help you choose the method you are most comfortable with. The main objective with cleaning your oil painting brushes is to remove as much pigment as possible from the brush immediately after each use. Also important, is try your best to maintain the brushes original shape.
I would like to start by sharing the supplies that you will need if you decide to go with my method of oil paint brush cleaning. I do not use any dangerous solvents, thinners or chemicals to clean my brushes.
Below is what I use. I have included links to where you can purchase these items online through my favorite online art supply store Dick Blick.
- Weber Turpenoid Natural, Plastic Bottle w/ Pump, Half Gallon
- Silicoil Brush Cleaning Tank, NULL
- Paper Towels or Rags
- Soap ( I use The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver. It cleans as well as conditions your brushes. Ordinary dish soap works too but does not condition or preserve.)
- Rubber Gloves ( You can buy these at the supermarket or dollar store. I use the tight fitting latex free gloves for both painting and for step 3 of the brush cleaning process below)
Gently remove the excess paint from the brush with a paper towel. This can be done by gently squeezing the brush at the bottom just above the ferrule with the paper towel or rag and then gently pulling forward. Do this a couple of times to remove as much paint as possible.
Add some Turpenoid Natural to the brush cleaning tank. Gently slide the brush across the coils within the tank removing the pigment from the brush. The coils help spread the brush hairs apart allowing the fluid to remove trapped pigment. Remove excess fluid along the side of the tank. Gently blot the brush on a paper towel, newspaper or rag to remove the remaining fluid. Below is a video demonstration on how to use the brush cleaning tank.
This step may not always be necesarry. It depends on how much pigment is actually on your brush. Sometimes the Turpenoid natural can remove everything. If it doesn’t, then you will have to wash the brush with some soap and water. I like to use The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver for this, but ordinary dish soap will clean the brush as well. I just like The Master’s because it conditions and helps reshape the brush. Make sure you have on a pair of rubber gloves when washing your brush as you will need to use the palm of your hand. Put some of the soap in the palm of your hand. With the other hand, scrub the brush along the palm of your hand, then rinse with water. Make certain the water is not hot otherwise it will expand the ferrule and the hairs may fall out. Repeat this process until all or most of the pigment has been removed from the brush. Rinse well and remove as much water as possible by gently squeezing the brush with a paper towel or rag. If you are using The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver, apply some more to the brush and shape it back to its normal state.
Lay brushes on some paper towels or newspaper and allow to dry. Do not rinse out the soap. Only rinse them out right before you use them the next time. Leaving the soap in will act as a conditioner.