How to Properly Store and Care for Your Paint Brushes (2022)

A good-quality paintbrush is an expensive precision tool that can last for many years if properly cared for. Learn different techniques for the preparation of a new paintbrush, and how to store it, both during use and at the end of the project.

Let's walk through how to avoid paint brush issues, step by step.

Selecting an Inexpensive Paintbrush

Not all paint brushes are created equal. Trying to scrimp on quality with a paintbrush can cost you more in time and frustration than it's worth, and it can make your paint job look poor. There are times, though, when an inexpensive paintbrush might be appropriate for jobs where a disposable brush is called for.

(Video) How to Clean and Store Paintbrushes Like a Pro

Cheap paint brushes should be used for the application of glues and paint that will not be part of a visible interior finish. What makes them inexpensive is their material and construction.

  • Bristles: The bristles on an inexpensive brush will be synthetic (nylon), and if you spread them with your fingers you will note that the bristles are untapered and have a blunt end. That's a disadvantage because the brush tip will not hold paint, resulting in a streaky paint job. The bristles also tend to be thicker and fewer in number
  • Foam brushes:Though the finish will be rather poor and unsuitable for serious paint jobs, foam brushes are fine for small touch-ups and for spreading glues when you don't want the hassle of cleanup. A foam brush can also be great for touch-up application of clear wood finishes. But do consider the fact that throwing away foam brushes adds non-biodegradable plastic to landfills.
  • Ferrule: The ferrule is the metal strap that holds the bristles to the brush handle, usually aluminum on cheaper brushes. On these inexpensive brushes, the ferrule will not fit tightly against the wooden handle. With a cheap brush, the ferrule does not hold the bristles very well, resulting in loose bristles that will wind up stuck to your paint job.

Selecting a Quality Paintbrush

Good quality paint brushes are all you should use for interior painting using standard, ceramic paint or other low VOC alternative paints. The type of bristle and brush style will depend on what you are painting and the type of paint being used.

A good quality paint brush will make your painting job easier and more professional looking. It makes your time on the ladder worthwhile. What makes the brush a bit more expensive is how the brush is made.

(Video) Paintbrush Care for Beginners (+How to Fix Old Brushes!) Tips for New Painters

  • Brush style: Brush styles typically include "Wall,""Trim" and "Sash-Trim." Wall brushes are usually flat-bottomed and wide, about 3" to 6". Trim brushes are also flat-bottomed but are thinner and narrower, usually 1" to 2". Sash-trim brushes are cut at an angle and are usually 2" or less in width. For cutting-in or trim work the sash-trim brush is your best value and is most versatile.
  • Bristles: The bristles on a quality brush may be either natural animal hair (hog or ox) or synthetic (polyester, nylon) or a blend of the two. For oil-based paints, use only natural bristles. Do not use natural bristles with water-based paint, because the bristles will become ruined. Synthetic bristles are the choice for latex-based paints ​but are also suitable for oil-based paints. The bristles of a quality brush will be of several lengths, taper near the end and have fuzzy-looking tips (flagged), like a hair with split ends. This design allows the brush tip to hold paint and results in a smooth paint job.
  • Ferrule: The ferrule on a quality brush is usually non-corrosive metal and will look tight and neat, securely holding the bristles to the brush handle.

Breaking in a New Paintbrush

When you get your new quality brush, it's best to break it in a little. To break it in, proceed as follows:

  1. Slap the brush bristles against your hand several times to loosen them.
  2. Then slap the brush against a table edge several times to further loosen the bristles.
  3. Spin the brush handle in your hand back and forth to spin out loose bristles.
  4. Dip the paintbrush in the paint (1/3 the bristle length), and paint a newspaper page (several sheets thick) back and forth in an "X" pattern to break in the bristles.
  5. Look at the brush, and remove any bristles that are bent and sticking out by cutting off with a nail clipper.
  6. For a natural-bristle brush, you may also want to condition the bristles by soaking the brush in linseed oil overnight before use.

Storing While Pausing in Work

If you're using a paint pail, such as the Handy Paint Pail, it will have a little magnet on the side of the pail. This little convenience allows the brush's ferrule to cling to the magnet, allowing the bristles to remain dipped in the paint during your break in work.

Other pails may have a separate compartment that you can slide the brush into to keep it wet while pausing. If you don't have a paint pail with these features or are working from a paint can just find a way to leave the brush bristles in the paint.

(Video) Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Paintbrushes

Tip

When you are storing the brush temporarily, make sure you do not place it too far into the paint and overload it. Remember to only place 1/3 of the bristles in the paint!

Storing for Long Interruptions

For intermediate storage of the brush—several hours or overnight—an easy way to keep the brush fresh is to wrap the bristles and ferrule in plastic wrap. Plastic wrap is cheap, easy to use and gets you a nice airtight seal, It offers better results than wrappingthe bush in aluminum foil, as is sometimes recommended.

(Video) How to Store Paint Brushes.

Another technique, although it involves a bit more work, is to get a glass jar or paint bucket and fill it with the appropriate solvent for the paint you are using. This would be water for latex paintand paint thinner withoil-based paint.

Take a 1-foot length of duct tape, masking or blue painter's tape. Then place the brush against the jar or bucket, extending into the solvent so the bristles are fully immersed. Tape the brush to the jar looping the tape around the brush handle and taping the ends against opposite sides of the jar or bucket.

Storing for an Extended Time

Now you're done with your paint job and want to store your quality paintbrush. Here's what you do:

(Video) How to Store and Care for Paint and Brushes | LittleArtTalks

  1. First, clean out the brush by removing excess paint. Scrape the brush against the edge of the paint can to remove any large amounts of paint.
  2. Then, work out most of the remaining paint by painting sheets of newspaperbrushing back and forth in an "X" motion until the brush is pretty dry.
  3. Remove all remaining paint by cleaning the brush with the appropriate solvent. This would mean water for latex paint and paint thinner for oil-based paint.
  4. Dispose of the solvent in an ecologically responsible manner.
  5. Once cleaned of paint, wash the brush with soap and water to clean off any remaining paint or solvent, and rinse well.
  6. Slap the brush against your hand a few times to bring the bristles back into alignment and then reshape the brush so it looks like new. A good way to do this is with a paintbrush comb, available at home centers and paint supply stores.
  7. Wrap the brush in ​apaper towel or a sheet of newspaper and secure with tape or a rubber band.

FAQs

What is the best way to store your paint brushes? ›

The best way to store paint brushes for a period of several hours or more is by wrapping the entire head of the brush in plastic wrap or a plastic bag. Create a tight seal at the neck of the brush using masking tape, and store for up to two days in a cool area of the home or in your freezer.

What is the proper way to clean and store brushes? ›

Packaging you can protect the shape of your brush by wrapping it in a paper towel or newspaper. Or

Where should paint brushes be stored? ›

Simply wrap the head of your paintbrushes and roller in cling film or secure in an airtight plastic bag. Seal around the handle with masking tape and store in a dry place for up to two days. Once you've finished painting, it's now time to give your brushes and rollers a proper clean.

How do you keep your brushes in good condition? ›

Brushes can lose their shape very quickly, especially when they are left to dry in the wrong position. Always store your brushes in an upright position and NEVER EVER leave them facing downwards in water or turps overnight.

Should you store paint brushes upside down? ›

Never store your brush bristle side up. Almost every beginner painter simply puts their brushes upside down inside a can until the next session. Fact is, that you should avoid this position as much as possible!

Do you put paint brushes in the fridge or freezer? ›

If you're using latex paint, brushes and rollers can be frozen overnight, saving you the arduous task of cleaning them until you're done with the project. Simply put the brush or roller into a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer.

How do professional painters clean brushes? ›

Purdy® | How to Clean Paint Brushes - YouTube

How do you keep paint brushes from getting hard? ›

Let each paintbrush air dry, then wrap it with the cardboard cover it came in or heavy paper (like grocery bag paper). To keep the bristles straight, hang the brushes from a nail or hook, or store them flat.

Should you keep your paint brushes in water? ›

Don't Leave Brushes Soaking for a Long Time

You don't want to let the paint dry on the brush, therefore it's useful to keep the brush wet during the painting session, but leaving a brush soaking in water for a long time can damage it, irreversibly.

Is it OK to wash paint brushes in the sink? ›

You should never clean paint brushes in the sink. The biggest reason is paint can ruin a septic system. Even a small amount of paint can lead to blockages, contamination, a flammable hazard and costly repairs.

How do you clean brushes? ›

How To: Clean Makeup Brushes | Easiest & Cheapest Way! - YouTube

Why do my paint brushes curl? ›

As the brush dries by evaporation, the outside of the outer hairs will dry first - and in drying, it will shrink. As a result, the brush tends to further curl and splay.

Should you wet a paint brush before painting? ›

Before use, flick the bristles back and forth to remove dust. Then moisten the brush in water if you are about to use water-based paint, or mineral turpentine if you are about to use an oil-based paint. Make sure you remove excess liquid before painting.

How long should paint brushes last? ›

Depending on the quality of your paintbrush, their lifespan can range from a few days up to three to four years! For the standard interior paint brush, there are two types of bristles: synthetic materials—like nylon or polyester—and natural hair.

Why do we store brushes with bristles facing up? ›

Store with bristles up. If you're storing your brushes vertically, make sure that the bristles are stored facing up. When your bristles are stored facing down, you can cause damage to the bristles, reducing the lifespan of your brush. Alternatively, you can store your brushes horizontally.

How do you keep paint brushes soft? ›

How to Keep Paint Brushes Soft
  1. Boil in vinegar. ...
  2. Scrape off excess paint. ...
  3. Boil again. ...
  4. Rub conditioner through the bristles. ...
  5. Place all brushes in plastic bags.
  6. Place the bags in hot water. ...
  7. Rinse the brushes.
5 Sept 2016

Can you reuse a paint brush? ›

A good, well-maintained paint brush can be used several times, over a period of several years. For example, all the paint work I have done in the last seven years was done with the same paint brush! However, it is less advisable to reuse a paint roller.

Why do people put paint brushes in the fridge? ›

Storing during a project

If you plan on waiting more than 24 hours to use them, drop them in a airtight bag, squeeze out all of the air, and place them in your fridge to keep the paint fresh. Henrique prefers stashing brushes inside plastic sandwich bags during painting breaks.

How do you preserve paint brushes between coats? ›

How To Protect a Brush Between Coats of Paint - YouTube

How do you store paint brushes long term? ›

The best way to store paint brushes long term is by hanging them with the bristles pointed down, the same way you would hang them to dry. However, there isn't anything wrong with storing them in a container made for this specific purpose.

What do you do with paint brushes after painting? ›

How to Clean Paintbrushes Like a Pro | Ask This Old House - YouTube

Can you save a paint brush with dried paint? ›

Soak the brush with hardened paint in vinegar for an hour. If the bristles don't bend, soak for an additional hour. If it needs more loosening after two hours, submerge the head of the brush in vinegar in a pot, place the pot on a stove and bring to a boil. Afterwards, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool off.

Do you have to wash paint brushes after every use? ›

While working with water-based paint, you should plan to clean your paintbrushes every two hours and at the end of your project. You can use these same steps to clean paint rollers and pads as well.

How do I make my brush soft again? ›

How to Soften Hard Paintbrushes with Vinegar - YouTube

How do you prevent paint brush bristles from clumping? ›

Drying your brushes

Place your brushes handle down in a mug or cup to let the bristles stand freely. This stops the weight of the handle from leaning on the bristles and working them loose. It also keeps them in a natural position and prevents them from drying awkwardly and clumping.

Is it OK to leave paint brushes in paint thinner? ›

As much as possible, do not let your brushes soak in paint thinner for longer than five minutes. Swirling your brush in thinner for a while will be enough to loosen the paint from its bristles. There are several ways for you to clean your brush.

Should I wash paint roller between coats? ›

In between painting

In between paint coats or short breaks, avoid washing your roller/brush, instead, wrap it with cling wrap to keep it fresh.

How do you store paint brushes long term? ›

The best way to store paint brushes long term is by hanging them with the bristles pointed down, the same way you would hang them to dry. However, there isn't anything wrong with storing them in a container made for this specific purpose.

How do you store paint brushes and rollers overnight? ›

A Trick for Storing Paint Brushes Overnight - YouTube

Why do we store brushes with bristles facing up? ›

Store with bristles up. If you're storing your brushes vertically, make sure that the bristles are stored facing up. When your bristles are stored facing down, you can cause damage to the bristles, reducing the lifespan of your brush. Alternatively, you can store your brushes horizontally.

Can you put paint brushes in the fridge? ›

After you're done painting for the day, wrap the roller or paintbrush in a wet towel. Place it in a plastic bag or wrap it with plastic wrap, and then—here's the secret—put it in the fridge. The roller or brush will stay fresh until you're ready to paint again!

Is it OK to wash paint brushes in the sink? ›

You should never clean paint brushes in the sink. The biggest reason is paint can ruin a septic system. Even a small amount of paint can lead to blockages, contamination, a flammable hazard and costly repairs.

How do you prevent paint brush bristles from clumping? ›

Drying your brushes

Place your brushes handle down in a mug or cup to let the bristles stand freely. This stops the weight of the handle from leaning on the bristles and working them loose. It also keeps them in a natural position and prevents them from drying awkwardly and clumping.

How do you keep paint brushes soft in between coats? ›

How To Protect a Brush Between Coats of Paint - YouTube

Is it OK to leave paint brushes in water overnight? ›

The brushes must soak overnight (cover the container on the left with foil in a well-ventilated area). If the paint isn't softened after 24 hours, let the brushes soak another day. You must suspend the brushes as shown or the bristles permanently bend as they soften and settle into the bottom of the jar.

How do you keep paint brushes from drying out overnight? ›

Wrap your paintbrush or roller in aluminium foil to prevent drying out overnight or cover it in plastic wrap for a shorter period of time. Whether you're a DIY or professional painter, it's smart to maximize the use of your roller or brush.

Can you leave paint in the tray between coats? ›

As long as you can get it airtight, it will work just fine. I use the disposable tray liners and try to get as much of the paint off the liner as possible, pouring the remaining paint back into the can.

How do you make paint brushes soft again? ›

Fill a cup or bowl with enough rubbing alcohol to completely submerge the brush bristles. Set your brushes in the rubbing alcohol for a few minutes until the paint colors start to run and the bristles feel less stiff. Use a dry cloth to clean off any paint that's still stuck in the brushes so they feel soft again.

How long do paint brushes last? ›

Depending on the quality of your paintbrush, their lifespan can range from a few days up to three to four years! For the standard interior paint brush, there are two types of bristles: synthetic materials—like nylon or polyester—and natural hair.

Videos

1. The Holy Grail of Paint Brush Cleaning!!!
(The Funny Carpenter)
2. How to Take Care of Watercolor Brushes Properly | Cleaning & Storing Watercolor Brushes
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3. Tips from a Painter - Storing your paint brush
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4. How to Clean and Store Paint Brushes | Benjamin Moore
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5. How to clean synthetic paintbrushes and fix hooked tips
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6. How to Properly Clean and Store Paint Brushes | Island Paints
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