Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

May 3, 2018

Top Tip: Washing a Brush

Filed under: How to do,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Rob Adams @ 11:54 am

Easy eh? We are talking about oil paint brushes here. Not hard is it? Quickly wipe it off, swish it about in some white spirit, then soap and hot water bash it about on the bottom of the sink a bit of a dry and yer done… Well maybe not, you have actually just spent 5 min damaging you expensive brush.

  1. Ok, the wiping off, this is the key bit, do not skimp on this stage. Really wipe it pulling hard from ferrule to tip spreading the hairs. Repeat until no paint shows on the rag or paper.
  2. Next he swish about in white spirit and hammer about by pushing it down on the bottom of your pot… Hold it there, you have just created a very dilute pot of paint, the idea is to get the paint off the brush, not transfer it into your white spirit. The pushing the brush down working it around… don’t do it! It damages the hairs of the brush against the sharp edge of the ferrule and weakens them, also it pushed paint up into the ferrule which then hardens. So don’t do 2 ever… it is destroying your brush.
  3. So don’t do any swishing in fact ignore 2 altogether, just gently dip into the spirit and leave for a few seconds, then do stage 1 again. Always do your wiping from the ferrule to the tip, repeat the process spreading the hairs until no more paint shows on the paper.
  4. Do stage 3 again maybe twice, often not, just once is enough.

That’s it you are done, no need for the soap and water bit. At no stage whilst painting or cleaning should paint ever get on the hairs as they enter the ferrule.

OK you have let your brush dry for 4 days… what now? Being quite forgetful this is a regular scenario with me. So… just dip in white spirit for 1min, then gently bend the brush until the hairs separate a little, no need to be brutal. Then dip again for a further minute and go to stage 1.

Worse it is a big expensive brush that was loaded with paint and it rolled unheeded under the table 2 months ago… So… leave in white spirit over night. Then take a wire brush and comb the brush from ferrule to tip until paint breaks up. Dip in spirit for an hour or two and off you go to stage 1 again…

Remember all cleaning is aimed at moving the paint away from the ferrule and the removed paint needs to end up on your rag or paper not in the spirit! Rags should go in a metal bin ideally outside… there you can’t sue me for burning your studio down now!


  1. The wire brush is a great tip. thank you

    I paint a lot of murals, on a large scale ( I’m talking a room 4x3metres, floor to ceiling), so I use house paints, acrylics and some oil glaze. I have a lot of trouble with brush cleaning! Especially when I get tired at the end of a session and the temptation is just to leave the brushes in a pot overnight, a temptation succumbed to ……

    Comment by Niobe — May 3, 2018 @ 7:48 pm

  2. Thank you for this. Do you have any advice on must have brushes for landscape artists?
    All the best,

    Comment by Lino — August 1, 2018 @ 5:58 am

  3. Sorry I missed this, I use flats and a couple of rounds a rigger and that is it. You really don’t need more than 4 or 5 brushes with you!

    Comment by Rob Adams — August 17, 2018 @ 5:13 pm

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