Proper Paintbrush Care

With proper maintenance, paintbrushes can last a long time.

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Paintbrushes are valuable tools. My toolbox holds all the paintbrushes that I use on a daily basis. With proper care, they can last a long time. Good paintbrushes can be expensive, but they're worth it. I recommend buying great brushes and treating them right.

I always use a paint pail so my brush can be set in the paint (for short periods) when I'm not using it. Setting the brush on top of the paint can may dry it out and make it harder to clean when the job is finished.

Fill the pail only a couple of inches and try to place only the tip of your brush in the paint. This will allow the bristles to remain moist. Once you are ready for a short break, cover the pail with a damp cloth. However, remember not to leave the brush in the pail overnight.

When you are done painting, always try to remove as much of the paint from the brush as possible before cleaning it. Gently scrape the paint over the edge of the can.

Fill the pail with a few inches of water, work the brush into the water and wring it in your hand, working the water up into the handle. Do this several times, then change the water and repeat until the water runs clear.

If the paint does start to harden up near the handle, lightly brush it with a wire brush, stroking from the handle down into the bristles. Do this until you have removed all the old dry paint, then continue to rinse it with water.

Once you have finished cleaning, dry the brush by spinning it in the pail, place it between the palms of your hand and spin it to remove the water. Removing the water not only allows the bristles to dry faster, it will make the handle and the glue that holds the bristles last much longer. If you are working with a fairly large brush like an exterior brush, remove the water by tapping the brush against the toe of your boots. Never try this with sandals.

Next, store your brushes in the packages that they came in. Storing them in their original packages will help retain their shape and protect them when they are in your toolbox. If you have already thrown the original packages away, you can wrap the brush in a rolled-up newspaper, but always cover them in some way.

Remember, if you are ever working with my partner, Shari Hiller, make sure that you have done a few sample boards of paint colors with a foam brush. That way, although she often changes her mind, you won't have to repeat the whole cleaning process when she does!

(Matt Fox writes this column with Shari Hiller.)

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