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Cleaning oil painting brushes

(Heather Slabosz) #1

My brushes are getting stiff at the metal ferrule. For cleaning them I was using Gamsol and rinsing with Dawn. After that I was swishing around in water. I noticed the bristles a bit gunky. Ok so then I tried Gamsol and finished up with Murphy’s oil soap this time. This time for the water rinse part I pushed down more at the ferrule and it seems to have a better result. Before I was just swished the water around. Any thoughts on cleaning your oil painting brushes? To get everything out? How do you get softer cleaner brushes - any tricks?

Newcomer question, using acrylics vs oils
(Lori Twiggs) #2

Once paint gets into the ferrule I have had a devil of a time getting it out. It helped to paint with longer brushes- flats vs. brights but it wasnt a cure. I used to use The Masters Brush Cleaner which was effective, mostly. Ive also soaked them overnight in it (this was not effective). Ive tried reshaping the ends with a piece of heavy paper folded and paper clipped to the bristles (also not effective because once the bristles start to fray, I have not found the cure)
Then a workshop instructor told me he only cleaned his brushes with walnut oil. So now, after wiping with a paper towel and rinsing with thinner, I use walnut oil. This also works to some degree.
However, I ran across this page by Jacqueline Kamin which might offer you some help.
What I have come to decide is that brushes dont last forever. Some last longer than others and if we “take care” of them we might get a couple more paintings out of them but truth be told, at least for me, is that they wear out. The ends wear down, paint creeps into the ferrule no matter how careful I am and eventually they dont hold their original shape.
Different painting styles will,of course, wear brushes at different rates. If Im using a lot of paint and active brush work I will be harder on brushes then someone who does fine detail work.

So to answer your question, “on cleaning your oil painting brushes? To get everything out? How do you get softer cleaner brushes - any tricks?” I think there is more than one way to skin a cat. But at the end of the day have some back up brushes because they dont live forever. The more you paint the faster they deteriorate.

At least. That has been my experience. :slight_smile:

(Sunny Avocado) #3

I soak them in Murphy’s Oil Soap, it’s amazing.

(Heather Slabosz) #4

Thank you Lori. Yes that is the frustrating part when I get down to the end of the painting and my smaller brushes seem to have a gap in the middle separating the bristles. I will try using Maters Brush Cleaner and Walnut Oil. I have both on hand. Thank you for these tips!

(Heather Slabosz) #5

I used Murphy’s this last time and the results seem better. Thanks Sunny!

(Lori Twiggs) #6

Thanks Sunny, This is one I havent tried. Did you soak them in straight Murpheys or add water? Did you leave them in it overnight? I plan to try this this weekend. :slight_smile:

(Jacqueline Davis) #7

There are various way to clean your brushes, but actually the secret to getting paint out of the ferrule is in drying them:

After you have cleaned your brushes, lay out a paper kitchen towel on a flat surface next to a wall. Place the brush on the towel bristles down and standing upright - lean the handle straight up against the wall and leave to dry.
Any remaining paint will drip down onto the paper towel. You will be amazed that the brushes will keep a perfect shape using this method.

You can do this with all of your brushes except with things like rigger brushes (very thin and long, lay these flat)

I actually clean my brushes with linseed studio soap - any brand will do.
It’s kind of expensive but works like nothing else in my opinion and you don’t need a lot of it.

Shake up the soap container a bit.
I dip my finger into the studio soap and then rub it into the bristles with my fingertips then rinse under hottish water.
I do the handles at the same time. This give the added benefit that it also gets the paint off your hands at the same time (I don’t wear gloves).
Repeat if necessary. Give the brush a really, really good rinse to get rid of any remaining soap.
Brushes will clean up like brand new!

If at some point I forget to clean my brushes and have left them for a few days, I soak bristles overnight in Murphy’s oil soap. Murphy’s is a lot cheaper than studio soap but I find leaves the brush handles kind of ‘sticky’.

(David Crowell) #8

I have had reasonable luck soaking brushes in straight Murhy’s Oil Soap to get even stubborn paint out. I clip a clothes pin to the handle so the brush is not resting on the hairs directly. When drying them I hang them from clothes pins and let them drip dry

Once paint gets worked up under the ferule it can be very difficult to get all of it out, I try to avoid getting it there in the first place, but notice I said “try”.

(Sunny Avocado) #9

Yes, I soak overnight, makes them smooth and newish again. I also dip the tips in boiling water, reshape and hang bristle down to dry if I forgot and left them standing in solution too long.

(Jens Ole Olsen) #10

Acetone is a fast and effective way

(Charlotte Fitzgerald) #11

I use one half Murphy oil and one half water. Can sometimes even recondition old brushes. Love it! No solvents!

(Sunny Avocado) #12

Right? Yes, I do use half water too. I should have said that. It does make them nice!

(Gayle Levee) #13

I don’t clean my brushes at all; just rinse in Gamsol and put them in the freezer. That way the paint never does dry in the first place. Also, I never store them bristles-up; always lying flat or hanging from a rubber band around the handle.

(Karen Roncari) #14

I first get the most of it out using paint thinner and paper towels, then work some Pink Soap into bristles; then sometimes follow up at the sink using mini scrub-brush and dish soap. Lie against toweling to dry, straight up or flat if not rigid bristles. I wonder if anyone else likes the Pink Soap and always open to trying other methods, like the Murphy’s for ex.

(Kathleen McDermott) #15

I use cocoa butter which is mostly mineral oil and scrub oil paint out of the brushes and squeeze out excess paint in a paper towel three or four times - then wash the bristles several times with dish liquid and hot water. Cocoa butter is also great for getting paint off my hands.

(Elizabeth See) #16

I have not cleaned a brush in ten years. I leave them in water. If they never dry out, you can keep using them for about a month and then you have to get another brush…small price to pay for not having to clean them. I paint in oils. Go ahead, be horrified, it has worked well for me.

(Deb Grise) #17

If you have concern for the environment, here is a great way to clean and condition brushes used for oil painting.
First clean with odorless solvent. Clean until there is no residue when squeezed with cloth or tissue between your fingers.
Then to condition, dip them in mineral oil, squeeze and shape with another cloth, and stand upright in jar.
Because they are coated with oil, they won’t dry out, even if there is a little bit of paint residue left.
With this method, nothing ever goes down the drain.
Note: Cleaning cloths should be kept separate from oil cloths.
Cleaning cloths with solvent, can be left to dry out, then disposed of in regular garbage with no harm to environment.
Oil cloths can be reused many times then can be tossed in regular garbage, as mineral oil is actually edible.

(Pamela Munger) #18

this is what i do too, leave them in water and buy new ones when they wear out or get ruined by me leaving them out. I’ve had some of my brushes for years, though.

(Marjie Laizure) #19

Apparently there are as many methods to clean brushes as there are brushes! I just did this for the 1st time last night: I cleaned a synthetic bright by dipping it in boiling water for a minute or 2, then washed it with Masters. Then I dried it and put brush conditioner on it. I think it worked!

(Dinah Steveni) #20

Have to agree that Murphy’s breaks down gunky paint. Use neat. I use a long, shallow narrow container which allows brush to rest nearly horizontal. Standard Mason jar crimps brush because of length of time needed to soak away buildup. For oil painting I clean my brushes, as I work, in safflower/oil of cloves mix. Dip and wipe on cotton rags. No oms. I use lots of brushes for the different values needed. End of session dip and then prop up. Found tip on DrawMixPaint. Murphy’s excellent for brushes used with acrylics too.