Essential Brush Care: 7 Tips for Your Paintbrushes
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Clean your brushes immediately after use
  2. Store brushes bristle-side up
  3. Reshape brushes while drying
  4. Use soap and water for acrylics
  5. Use paint thinner for oils
  6. Invest in a brush conditioner
  7. Avoid soaking brushes

Keeping your paintbrushes in top-notch condition is a whole lot easier than most people think. It's all about mastering the art of "brush care 101: proper cleaning and maintenance for your paintbrushes". Good brush care habits can make your brushes last longer, save you money, and even improve the quality of your work. So, let's dive right in and learn how to keep your brushes performing their best with these seven simple tips.

Clean Your Brushes Immediately After Use

Getting into the habit of cleaning your brushes right after you're done with them is a small step that pays off big time. It's the first and foremost rule of brush care 101. When paint dries on the bristles, it can make them stiff and hard to use. Plus, it's a lot harder to clean a brush with dried paint on it.

Here's the deal—you don't need a fancy brush cleaner or even a special soap. All you need is some warm water and a mild dish soap. Here's a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Clean: First, rinse the brush under warm water. Make sure you get all the paint out from the base of the bristles.
  2. Soap: Next, gently rub some dish soap into the bristles. This will help break down any lingering paint.
  3. Rinse: Rinse the soap and paint out of the brush. Repeat the soap and rinse steps until the water runs clear.
  4. Dry: Finally, use a clean towel to pat the brush dry. Don't rub it—this can damage the bristles.

Remember, the goal is to keep your brushes clean and well maintained. So, committing to this simple brush care routine can make a world of difference for your paintbrushes.

Store Brushes Bristle-Side Up

How you store your brushes is as important as how you clean them. And, it's the second tip in our brush care 101 guide. Here's a friendly tip: Always store your brushes bristle-side up. But why, you might ask?

Well, storing your brushes bristle-side down can cause the bristles to bend, which can lead to a misshapen brush. And let's face it, painting with a misshapen brush is like trying to write with a bent pen—it's not going to give you the results you want.

Here's a simple process to ensure proper brush storage:

  1. Dry Thoroughly: Before storing, make sure your brushes are completely dry. Storing a damp brush can lead to mold and mildew.
  2. Upright Position: Store your brushes in a jar, cup, or brush holder with the bristles facing up. This helps maintain the natural shape of the bristles.
  3. Avoid Crowding: Don't crowd your brushes. Make sure there's enough space for each brush to keep their bristles from touching.

It's a simple step, but one that can help extend the lifespan of your brushes and keep them in great shape for your next painting project.

Reshape Brushes While Drying

Now, onto the third tip in our brush care 101 guide: reshaping brushes while they're drying. This is a step often overlooked, but it can make a world of difference in maintaining the form and function of your brushes.

After cleaning your brushes, it's important to reshape the bristles. This helps to maintain their original shape and ensures they're ready for your next creative endeavor. Not doing this is like leaving your hair to air dry without brushing it—can you imagine the tangles and frizz?

So, how do you do it? It's simple:

  1. Dab Don't Rub: Gently dab your brushes on a clean towel to remove excess water. Rubbing them can damage the bristles.
  2. Shape Them Up: Use your fingers to mold the bristles back into their original shape. Doing this while they're still damp allows them to dry in the correct form.
  3. Leave to Dry: Leave your brushes to dry in a well-ventilated area, ideally flat on a towel. This prevents water from seeping into the handle and causing damage.

And voila! Now you're an expert in reshaping brushes for drying. Remember, proper maintenance for your paintbrushes isn't just about cleaning—it's also about reshaping and storing correctly.

Use Soap and Water for Acrylics

Our brush care 101 journey continues. Let's talk about cleaning those acrylic brushes. Yes, you heard that right! Simple soap and water can perform wonders. So, no need for any fancy cleaning solutions or magic potions here. Well, unless you consider soap as magic—which, in this case, it kind of is.

Here's how you can get your acrylic brushes sparkling clean:

  1. Rinse Them Right: Start by rinsing your brushes in warm water. This will help to loosen up the acrylic paint.
  2. Soap Session: Next, gently work some mild soap into the bristles. If you want to take your brush care 101 to the next level, you might consider using a brush soap specifically designed for paintbrushes. However, a gentle dish soap will usually do the trick just fine.
  3. Rinse and Repeat: Rinse the brushes thoroughly. If there's still paint lodged in the bristles, don't be afraid to repeat the process until the water runs clear.

And there you have it! Clean brushes, happy artist. Remember, proper cleaning and maintenance for your paintbrushes isn't a luxury—it's a necessity. And soap and water are your best allies in this battle against dried-up acrylic paint.

Use Paint Thinner for Oils

Moving on in our brush care 101 guide, it's time to discuss oil paint brushes. Unlike acrylics, soap and water alone aren't going to cut it. But don't worry—I've got your back. The secret weapon in this case is a good old paint thinner.

Why paint thinner, you ask? Well, oil paints are a bit more stubborn than acrylics. They need a little extra persuasion to let go of your precious brushes. That's where paint thinner comes in—it's the perfect negotiator in this standoff.

  1. Gentle Introduction: Start by wiping off as much excess paint as you can with a rag. This will make the paint thinner's job easier.
  2. Thinner Time: Next, swish your brush in a container of paint thinner. This will break down the remaining oil paint.
  3. Soap Up: Following the thinner, wash your brush with mild soap and warm water to remove any lingering paint and thinner residue.
  4. Final Rinse: Rinse the brushes until the water runs clear.

And just like that, you've ensured the longevity of your oil brushes. Remember, every artist deserves clean, ready-to-go brushes. Your brush care 101: proper cleaning and maintenance for your paintbrushes regimen should always include a good paint thinner for those stubborn oil paints.

Invest in a Brush Conditioner

Let's continue our journey into brush care 101. We've talked about cleaning brushes, but what about keeping them soft and flexible? Just like your hair needs conditioner, so do your paintbrushes. Yes, you read that right. A brush conditioner can be a real game-changer.

Why does a brush need conditioning? Think about it. Your brushes work hard, dipping in and out of paint, swiping across rough canvas, and then surviving a thorough clean. Over time, this can leave them feeling a little under the weather. Conditioner helps restore their former glory, making them soft, flexible, and ready to paint another masterpiece.

  1. Choose Your Conditioner: From specialist brush conditioners to plain old hair conditioner, you've got options. Choose one that suits your budget and brushes.
  2. Apply Generously: After cleaning, apply your conditioner of choice to the bristles of your brush. Remember, a little goes a long way.
  3. Rinse Well: After letting it sit for a few moments, rinse your brush thoroughly. You don't want any conditioner residue messing with your next artwork.

Voila! Your brushes are now clean, conditioned, and ready for their next adventure. Remember, brush care 101 is not just about proper cleaning and maintenance for your paintbrushes, but also about treating them with the love they deserve. After all, they're more than just tools—they're your partners in creativity.

Avoid Soaking Brushes

As we dive deeper into brush care 101, I must share a common mistake that many of us make while cleaning our paintbrushes—soaking them. It may seem like a quick and easy method to get rid of stubborn paint, but let's pause here. Is it really good for your brushes?

Well, the short answer is no. Soaking your brushes, especially for prolonged periods, can cause serious damage. The bristles can become overly soft, lose their shape, and in some cases, even start shedding. Not to mention, it can loosen the glue holding the bristles, causing them to fall out. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn't it?

Here's what you can do instead:

  1. Wipe Off Excess Paint: Before you even think about water, wipe off as much paint as you can. Use a rag or paper towel for this.
  2. Clean With Appropriate Solvent: Depending on your paint type, use soap and water or paint thinner to gently clean your brush.
  3. Rinse and Repeat: Rinse out the solvent and repeat the cleaning process until the water runs clear.

Remember, the goal of brush care 101 is to ensure proper cleaning and maintenance for your paintbrushes, not to send them to an early retirement. So, let's say no to soaking and yes to gentle, loving care for our brushes. After all, they are our allies in bringing our artistic visions to life.

If you're eager to improve your overall painting technique, don't miss the workshop 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' by Rachel Christopoulos. This workshop will not only help you take better care of your brushes but also elevate your acrylic painting skills to new heights. Dive in and bring your artwork to life!