How to Take Care of your Brushes

How to Care for your Brushes, by Carole Gray-Weihman

Taking good care of your brushes will pay off in the long run--they really can last a lifetime if they’re properly cared for. One thing to remember is that every brush is not created equal. A cheap brush and an expensive brush should not be handled the same way. While in the studio, storing your more expensive brushes in an airtight box and your cheap brushes upright in a jar, will remind you which is which. In your outdoor gear, use two canvas roll brush holders--one for inexpensive brushes and the other for expensive brushes. 

And as we all know, we love to collect supplies! Storing brushes for later use is risky if they're just sitting in your taboret drawer. They’re vulnerable to moth damage. Try adding a moth repellent to your brush storage containers. There’s nothing worse than losing your investment because of bugs eating up your most valuable tools. If you mistreat a cheap brush, it's no huge loss, but mistreat an expensive brush and it puts you out some money. The brush in the picture above, was not cheap... Oops!

So you've absentmindedly just grabbed the closet brush to work on your oil painting and inadvertently left it laying around in your thinner or on your palette for days at a time only to realize that was one of your best brushes. What then? In the case of the brush pictured above, 2 months had passed before I had discovered it laying around. 

This is what I did to recondition this brush along with it's equally messed up companion...

Soak Brush in Bristle Magic

Wipe Brush Dry and Test it on Soap

Bristle Magic Dip and Wipe Brush

Wipe with Olive Oil to Shape


Before and After using Bristle Magic


What NOT to do:


  • Don’t leave dirty oil paint brushes resting in a can of thinner as the solvent can eat away at the adhesive holding the bristles to the ferrule. With acrylics or watercolors, water can eventually cause the wooden handle to swell, which can also damage the ferrule.
  • Don’t wash your brushes in hot water (cool or warm is sufficient).
  • Don’t leave brushes resting on their bristles.
  • Don’t store them up tight when they’re damp as mildew can ruin the bristles.
  • Don’t ever let your paint dry on the brush.
  • Don’t store your brushes in direct sunlight.
  • Make sure that brushes aren’t resting against the tips of other brushes, or they can become deformed.
  • Avoid packing brushes up too tightly when using rolled canvas holders.

What TO do:


  • Do your best to clean the base of the bristles, it's just as important for maintaining a brush’s shape as the tip. Any paint residue that coats the bristles at their base will prevent them from coming together at the top. Gradually, your brush tip will become more and more spread apart until it no longer holds its shape.
  • Keep your brushes rolled in canvas sleeves with individual pockets for each brush, or in drawers. As long as the head is undisturbed, your brushes will do fine stored vertically or horizontally.
  • Always have ivory soap and Bristle Magic on hand. (Note: This was not a paid endorsement.)

Carole Gray-Weihman
Carole Gray-Weihman
Painter, Instructor and Founder-CEO of Plein Air Liaison, Carole loves engaging with other plein air painters, teaching and painting the landscape. She also enjoys web design and social media. You can also find her here: www.gray-weihman.com       READ MORE
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