Art Education

The best way to wash paint brushes (and store them too)

You’ve seen what happens to the paint brushes in your classroom when they aren’t properly cared for. The key to the longevity of a brush is how well you take care of it, and you can help your students learn the right way to wash paint brushes and store them by sharing the tips below. 

Start by reminding students that paint brushes are tools they can use to create great artwork. When they treat those tools with respect, they will perform better. You can also point out that keeping the tools in your art room in good shape helps their school save money and allows you to purchase more art materials for them to use. 

Then, model proper washing and storing techniques and display the following tips in your classroom. You may even wish to share an example of what happens to a paint brush when it’s not properly cared for. 

Using the right brush for the right medium is important.

Choosing your paint brushes

Using the right brush for the right medium is important. The hairs in each brush are made specifically for a particular medium, such as watercolor, tempera, acrylics, or oils. 

What to do with brand-new paint brushes

When your brushes arrive, they will probably be very stiff. That stiffness is the sizing. It holds the hairs together like hairspray so they don’t get damaged before purchasing. Do NOT bend and snap them dry. This will compromise the brush hairs. Simply wash and rinse them and they will be ready to use.

The longevity of a paint brush depends on how well you take care of it.

How to wash paint brushes 

Follow these steps to properly wash your paint brushes. It may take an extra minute, but it’s worth it to keep your brushes in good shape for years to come. 

  • Start by wiping the excess paint off the brush.
  • Rinse the brush to get additional paint out of it. (Oil paint brushes require a special brush cleaner to get the oil out. Then you can follow the remaining steps.)
  • Use brush soap to remove the remaining paint. You do not have to vigorously scrub the brush; be gentle to keep the hairs intact.
  • You may have to repeat the process when brushes have been used hard.
  • One of the most important things to do after you’ve rinsed the paint out is to reshape the brush. Use your fingers to gently put the brush hairs in the shape they came in when you bought them.
  • Dry your brushes flat or hang them upside down with the brush hairs facing down. If you don’t do this, water will get into the ferrule (the metal piece that holds the hair and attaches to the handle) and it will compromise the glue. Drying flat also prevents water from saturating the brush handle, which will help prevent the paint from peeling off.
  • Note: Paint stains happen. As long as the brush is clean, the paint stain will not affect the performance.
The right brush makes all the difference. Just picture what your students could do with quality paint brushes for every type of paint or project.

How to store paint brushes 

  • When your brushes are completely dry, you can store them upright with the brush hair up. Do NOT store them upside down or you will ruin the shape of the brush.
  • When storing them flat, make sure there is plenty of room so the brush hair has room and doesn’t get crushed.
  • Mites can destroy natural hair brushes. An easy tip to prevent this is to dip the brushes into liquid hand soap or dish soap. Wipe the excess and reshape the brush. The soap will not hurt the brush and will keep mites away.
  • Air-tight containers also keep mites out. Be careful not to put your damp brushes away in an air-tight container or they can become mildewed.
  • It is always worth trying to save a brush that has become misshapen or has dried paint on it. Use the appropriate cleaner and then work to reshape the brush. Let it dry thoroughly. If too much damage has been done, then use these old brushes for glue or for projects where brush strokes are not important to the artwork.

Now that you know how to keep your paint brushes in tip-top shape, learn the best way to care for your paint and make it last longer with, “Paint care tips for your art classroom.”

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