Cleaning and Storing Paint Brushes: My Experience

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One of the questions I am asked most often at painting parties, outside of the usual questions about the painting process itself, is how do I clean and store the paint brushes afterward.

First and foremost, I would like to say that I make sure each brush is thoroughly cleaned before I put everything away. The last thing I want to be bothered with is trying to get dried paint out of brushes.

Every instructor is different, and some do prefer to clean the brushes after they return to their studios. I have tried this, but often I am so tired after a paint and sip party that I just don’t feel like cleaning brushes after I get home.

My laziness isn’t the only reason why I make sure the brushes are clean before leaving a paint and sip event though.

Keep reading to learn more about why it is important to make sure that all of the brushes are thoroughly cleaned at the end of each painting session, and how I clean and store the brushes after every paint and sip class.

Protect Paint Brushes by Keeping Them Clean

At the end of every sip and paint party I teach at, I go around to each of the painting stations and gather up all of the brushes. Once I have the brushes, it’s time to start cleaning them.

No matter what medium is used for a paint party, brushes must be cleaned immediately. They should look as close to their original state as possible. 

Once I get home, I unpack the brushes and store them properly until the next paint and sip party.

Acrylic Paints Can Clog Drains

How I clean the brushes depends on the type of paint that was used at the painting party. For instance, when acrylic paints are used, I make sure to never clean them under running water at the host’s home.

This is because the acrylic paint goes into the drain, and it can end up clogging it up. The last thing I want to do is cause plumbing problems for anyone who hires me to teach painting classes in their home.

How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes

The first step to cleaning acrylic paint brushes is to rinse them with water or paint thinner and continue rinsing until you can blot the brushes and no paint comes off.

I like to use a plastic brush washer for this. It holds the water needed for cleaning, and the ridges on the bottom give me something to rub the brushes against to scrape off excess paint.

Next, I use brush soap to make sure the brushes are completely clean. The soap helps when cleaning the part of the brush where the handle and bristles meet.

The final step is to reshape the brushes and leave them on a flat surface to dry. Of course, I can’t do this until I get home from paint parties.

Use Brush Cleaner

When using acrylic or oil paints, I always use a brush cleaner afterward. These cleaners do not contain any solvents, but at the same time, work as solvents.

This solvent action can remove both wet and dry paint from your brushes. If you are working with oils, I recommend using turpentine or mineral spirits. Check my guide on turpentine vs mineral spirits for more tips.

I wrote a specific guide on oil paint brushes cleaning, don’t forget to check it out.

There are also brush cleaners you can use that are specifically made for acrylic paints.

If you want to clean dried paint brushes without vinegar, make sure to always have brush soap available in your studio.

Brush soaps contain oils that make it easy to remove wet or dry paint from brushes. I also like to use a silicone brush-cleaning egg. This has ridges that you can rub the bristles against to get them clean. There are also hard brush soaps that work similarly.

Watercolor Paints are Easy to Clean

If the class is using watercolors, cleaning the brushes is simple. Because the paint is water-based, it isn’t going to get gummy and clog the pipes.

When cleaning watercolor brushes, I use a plastic brush washer. Even though the paint is water-based, it can still cause a lot of problems. It gets into the water system, and then into rivers and lakes, where it can harm wildlife and plant life.

Check my guide to learn more about how to dispose of paint water.

Storing Paint Brushes Once They Are Clean

Once paint brushes are clean and dry, they need to be properly stored. There are three ways that you can store your paint brushes.

#1. Store Brushes Upright

I always recommend storing clean paintbrushes upright. I usually use a jar or a cup for this. There are also some cool paint brush organizers you can find at most art supply stores.

One thing to keep in mind is when brushes are stored in this manner, they will collect dust. I always make sure to rinse my brushes off before I start painting because I do not want dust on my paintings.

#2. Store Brushes in a Roll

Quite often I use a canvas roll for storing clean, dry paintbrushes. These rolls are also made from other materials, including leather.

I like using the roll because it makes it easy to carry several brushes to and from painting parties. They also allow for easier storage, because they are compact.

#3. Store Brushes in a Drawer

You can also store your paint brushes in a drawer. It is important to make sure that they are placed horizontally to prevent damage to the bristles.

If they are damaged, check this guide to learn how to fix brush bristles.

How To Store Paint Brushes After A Paint And Sip Until You Can Clean Them?

As I mentioned above, brushes must be cleaned immediately before storing. This is the best way to prolong the life of your brushes.

But let’s say you just don’t have the chance to clean them immediately, there are a few different ways to handle this. I like to use Murphy’s Oil Soap, because it can be used on synthetic brushes and natural hair brushes.

All you have to do is put some of the soap in a jar. Place the brushes into the jar, and allow them to sit for a couple of days.

Give the brushes a couple of taps against the bottom of the jar, then remove them and add a bit of water to the bristles. Rub the bristles to get the soap to foam up, then wipe the soap off and rinse with clear, warm water.

Final Thoughts

I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that you always clean your paintbrushes after each painting session. Yes, I realize that there is some drinking involved in paint and sip parties, and some people may forget to clean their brushes right away.

While I wouldn’t make a habit of this, it is okay to let some paint dry on brushes, as long as they are cleaned as soon as possible. But, it is always better to get into the habit of cleaning brushes immediately after each use.

I often clean my brushes several times throughout a painting class or session. This makes it easier to get them completely clean at the end of the class.

Don’t forget to check my guide on different types of paint for canvases you can use in painting classes.

*image by Krakenimages/depositphotos