A good brush, if kept clean, will last for dozens of painting jobs. This article will show you the right way to clean a brush, no matter what kind of paint you use, and how to keep its shape once you’ve cleaned it.
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Cleaning Water-Based Finishes and Latex Paint
Follow these tips to get your brush completely free of paint and properly shaped for the next job. Even if you’re not cleaning water-soluble paint, pay special attention to Step 5 immediately below; you’ll need it no matter what kind of paint you need to clean out of your brush.
Scrape off excess paint. It may seem obvious, but be sure the brush is as free of paint as possible. Use the rim of a can and then work some of the paint onto newspaper before cleaning in soapy water.
Spin the brush. Remove any remaining paint and water. Rinse the bristles in a another Jar of clean water. Work the bristles with your hand. After a few minutes, spin the brush again and then rinse it in another Jar of clean water.
Wrap the brush with heavy paper. Prefold the paper, then wrap it around the brush and tie it loosely with string. This step is critical to retain the shape of the brush.
PLEASE NOTE: Spin flammable solvents only in well-ventilated areas away from furnaces, pilot lights and electrical devices of all kinds. Outdoors is best.
Cleaning Oil-Based Varnishes and Paints from Brushes
The process here is very similar to cleaning off latex paint except you’ll use paint thinner (mineral spirits) instead of soapy water to rinse the brush clean. Again get the brush as free of paint as possible before cleaning. This is especially important with oil-based paints and varnishes so you can use less thinner and have fewer mess and disposal hassles.
Rinse the brush thoroughly in Mineralised Methylated Spirits (Paint Thinner). Work the bristles with your hands (wear chemical-resistant gloves, which are available at your hardware store or home center). If necessary, use a brush comb to get rid of paint clinging to the brush. This is less of a problem with oil paint than with latex.
Spin the brush for 10 seconds. Use a brush-and-roller spinner after nearly all the paint solids are out of the brush.
Dip the brush into a Jar of lacquer thinner. Agitate the brush for about a minute to remove any remaining paint residue. Shake the brush onto newspaper to remove the lacquer thinner and residue. Lacquer thinner is extremely flammable—be sure to do this outside.
Clean the brush in a Jar of soapy water. Use laundry or dish soap. Work the bristles for only one minute. Purists may not want to do this, especially with natural-bristle brushes. A quick cleaning with water won’t damage the bristles, though. Spin the brush free of water.
TOP TIP: Don’t dump the paint thinner when you’re finished. Let the paint solids settle to the bottom of the jar, then pour off the rest into a clean container. Let the solids dry outdoors and then dump them in the trash for landfill or hazardous waste. Call your local trash service for proper disposal.
CAUTION: Always work in a well-ventilated area when cleaning brushes in solvents such as paint thinner, lacquer thinner, alcohol and ammonia. In fact, it’s best to work outside. Don’t ever clean solvent-laden brushes around water heaters, stoves or any device with an open flame or potential electrical spark. Keep the solvents in proper, well-marked containers out of reach of children and pets.
Cleaning clear shellac varnish or pigmented shellac paints requires a different solvent than does latex and oil. You must use Denatured Alcohol or an Ammonia Household Cleaner.
When using an Ammonia Solution, mix it with warm water at twice the strength recommended for cleaning floors. Then rinse the brush in lukewarm water, and spin and wrap the brush. When using Denatured Alcohol, follow the same steps as for the oil-based paint cleanup, but use the alcohol instead.
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PLEASE NOTE: PLEASE READ ANY SAFETY PRECAUTIONS FOR THIS PRODUCT. ALSO NOTE THIS IS A GUIDE ONLY. PLEASE COMPLETE A PATCH TEST BEFORE USAGE OF THE PRODUCTS.