Cleaning acrylic paintbrushes

Acrylics dry very fast and when dry they’re water resistant. On a canvas that’s a good thing, but in the bristles of brushes it’s not. It’s important to clean your brushes in time.

When to clean your brush?

You clean your brush when you want to:

  • paint with another color
  • use another brush
  • quit painting

How to clean your brush?

When you clean your brushes in the following manner, you will hardly make your water dirty and therefore hardly pollute the enverinment.

1: Wipe of excess paint

Use a (paper) towel to remove excess paint. Wipe from the ferrule in the direction of the bristles.

2: Moisten the bristles and wipe again

Dip your brush into water. Do not stir or stamp; just dampen your brush. The remaining paint will become moist. Now you can wipe again, and again some paint wil remain on your towel.

Repeat this process several times, until almost no paint comes off the bristles anymore.

3: Running warm water

When your brush is almost totally clean, you can rinse your bristles under warm water in your sink. Don’t use hot water, it will damage the bristles. Also, if necessary, you can use a mild soap.

4: Shake your brushes

Shake off the excess water.

5: Shape your brushes

You can easily bring back the original shape of the bristles, because they are damp.

6: Let your brushes dry

Let your brushes dry lying down. If you leave a brush to dry standing up, the moisture can sink into the ferrule and cannot leave. It will then rot there and there is a chance that the ferrule or the bristles will come loose. If you have a brush holder, you can of course hang it up to dry with the bristles pointing down.

7: After drying

When they are dried, you can easily put them upright in a pot or container. With the hairs up, of course. Also make sure that the hairs do not touch anything, because then they get out of shape.

Some tips regarding brushes and cleaning

Reuse kitchen paper

You use quite a lot of kitchen paper, but you can put it in a special waste bin. You can simply reuse the paper the next day. Acrylic paint dries to a waterproof consistency, so the paint from the previous day will not smudge. In this way you can work for a long time with the same collection of kitchen paper.

Use only as few brushes as possible in one session

When working with oil colours, you can work with five brushes at a time and set them aside for a while. Oil colours do not dry quickly.

With acrylic colours this is a completely different story. It is better to to use as few brushes as possible in one session. For example a broad one and a narrow one, but be careful: if you work with one brush for too long, the other will dry out in the meantime.

Don’t put the brush top down in water

It’s tempting to postpone cleaning by putting your brush top down in a jar of water. However, this is damaging the bristles and shape of your brush.

Paint on ferrule: clean immediately

If you see that there is paint on the ferrule, it is best to clean your brush immediately. If you wait too long, the paint – which is also in the ferrule – dries out. The hairs will then stand out and the brush will become useless.

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