Paint Brushes & Paint Rollers: Care & Cleaning

Taking a Break

During short breaks in work, professional decorators wrap their brushes in plastic bags, clingfilm or tin foil, so the paint doesn’t dry on the bristles. You can also use a rag moistened with the appropriate solvent to keep out the air and stop the paint from drying out.

During longer breaks, to save the process of cleaning oil-based paints from brushes, decorators suspend their brushes in a jar filled with water so the level covers the bristles. The brush has a hole drilled through it, just above the metal ferrule, through which you can insert a nail or wire which lays across the mouth of the jar. This stops the bristles from becoming bent out of true.

Cleaning Up and Storing Tools

At the end of each job, brushes should be thoroughly cleaned. When stripper is used to remove excess paint from bristles, decorators always wrap the handles of their brushes in plastic bags secured with rubber bands so the stripper doesn’t remove the varnish from the brush handle. Afterwards, brushes are hung up to dry and then, to help maintain their shape during storage, a rubber band is placed around the bristles.

Water-Based Paints

Brushes, rollers, pads and other tools used with water-based paints should be cleaned using soap and water. First, wipe off any excess paint onto old newspaper, then fill a container – a large-necked jar is ideal – with mild

household detergent and suspend the tools in it for a few minutes. Don’t let the water cover wooden handles as this causes the wood to swell and eventually to split. ‘Swizzle’ the brushes around in the water and then work the bristles of the brush into a bar of household soap, right down to the ferrule, to dislodge the paint. Any paint that is really dried in can be removed with a nail brush. If this fails, try restoring it by suspending it in a proprietary brush cleaner overnight.

Rinse brushes well in clean water and then stand them in a container of warm water with a dollop of hair conditioner for around 20 minutes. The conditioner will stop the bristles from becoming brittle and breaking off onto your next paint job. Squeeze out the excess water, shake the brush and leave it to dry, ideally suspended by the handle.

Solvent-Based Paints

As with water-based paint, wipe the excess onto old newspaper before suspending your brush in a jar of white spirit or proprietary brush cleaner. Stir the brush vigorously and press it against the side of the jar to dislodge paint. When you take the brush out of the solvent, draw the bristles across the edge of the jar top to ‘squeeze’ out excess solvent. Use a stiff brush or nail brush to ‘comb out’ any dried-in paint. Keep repeating the process in clean solvent until the brush is clean and then wash it in soapy water and rinse it well. Again, it’s worth conditioning brushes, especially after harsh solvents have been used.

Sponges, combs and rollers should be cleaned and stored in the same manner as brushes, but don’t soak plastic decorators’ combs in white spirit or they’ll dissolve. Just wipe them over with a rag lightly dampened with solvent to remove oil-based paints.

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