Art Blog

The Artist’s Studio: 5 Tips for Caring for Your Brushes

You might have noticed that some paint brushes are very expensive! Most of the time the reason is that they are of very high quality, and worth the investment. But a good brush is only worth it if you can get the most use out of it. If you treat your expensive paint brushes just like your inexpensive ones, you are wasting your investment.

Here are five tips to help you care for and extend the life of your brushes.

Cartoon of Paint Brush with Green Paint

1. Clean your brush immediately after using it.

When you are having an artistic moment, it may be tempting to leave a dirty brush to sit for a while while you grab another one to complete your masterpiece. Resist! Especially in the case of painting with acrylics, forgetting to clean a brush often means buying a new one.

And while it’s true that painting with oils, the paint will take longer to dry on the brush than acrylics or watercolors, the longer one sits out, the more thoroughly you’ll need to clean it. After too many sessions of neglect and non-thorough cleanings, an oil brush too will be ready for the trash bin.

Cartoon of Brush Being Washed out with Shampoo

2. Between painting sessions, clean your brushes with brush cleaner, soapy water or shampoo.

When you know you’ll be putting your brushes away for a while, a simple rinse in water (or mineral spirits for oils) isn’t good enough. Work brush soap or shampoo into the bristles of the brush all the way down to the ferrule, and rinse thoroughly with lukewarm to cool water until no trace of paint or suds are left. Some folks use dishwashing liquid and even ammonia-based glass cleaner for particularly stubborn water-soluble paints.

3. Do your best to clean the base of the bristles.

The area near the ferrule is often the hardest to clean, but it’s actually 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.

Cartoon of Paintbrush in Water, Large "NO!" Symbol in Front

4. Never store your brushes vertically in water or solvent.

There are a few good reasons not to do this. The pressure on the brush can permanently misshape the bristles, bending them or spreading them out so they no longer come to a point. If they are left too long to rest on the bristles, most brushes will never regain their original shape.

The other reason not to do this has to do with the the ferrule. If you are working in oils, the solvents you use to clean your brush could also eat away at the glue inside the ferrule holding the bristles to the handle. With acrylics or watercolors, water can eventually cause the wooden handle to swell or crack, also potentially damaging the ferrule.

If you’ve ever picked up a brush from a jar of cloudy solvent or water only to find a handle without a ferrule or bristles, you know what I’m talking about.

5. Store clean brushes vertically head-side-up or horizontally.

Make sure that brushes aren’t resting against the tips of other brushes, or they can become deformed. Many artists keep their brushes rolled in canvas sleeves with individual pockets for each brush, or in drawers. As long the head is undisturbed, a brush should be fine stored vertically with the head up or horizontally. Avoid packing them up too tightly.

Be sure to take a look at our paint brush primer to learn more about the anatomy of a paintbrush bush and the six main types of brushes available.

If you take good care of your brushes, they should last you for many paintings. What is your best advice for caring for your paint brushes?



thank you for writing this up! While I do in fact practice these techniques for my brushes, this is a helpful reminder!


clean your brushes with Murphy’s oil soap, it’s sold in every department and most grocery stores. I’ve been using it for a few years now, I’ll never use anything else. It will clean brushes you thought were beyond help.

Christina E Tuttle

Does this work for oils as well.?
If not what is the best way to clean oils

Karen Rowland

sounds odd but for oils and oil enamels, spray carburetor cleaner works really well and then I wash them in dawn afterwards

Dianne W. Ballesty

I can become quite obsessive about reclaiming brushes. One trick I use is to repoint to bristles using heavy body hair gel and then wrap the point with sewing thread. Once it is dry the brush will be repointed. However, if it has been overly damaged it will not retain it’s new point.


This is GREAT. Thank you! I have now restored and repointed a large number of brushes utilizing old clear hair gel found buried in the back of my cabinet and thread. I’m thrilled not to have to buy more brushes, new fangled solutions and other products. This WORKED!!

Michele Simpson

I have been using these methods since high school and still have some of the same brushes I had then. They are in really good shape and I’m 65 years old!


Cleaning with Murphey’s Oil Soap is the best option I have found .It’s natural with no chemicals, removes the oil wonderfully. I have been careful not to leave my brushes upside down too long so that the ferrules won’t rust.abstract canvas prints

Sarah hughes

If you like non chemical items especially cleaning products, email me. I am an online customer. And they have cleaning supplies and more without the chemicals in them! 😉


I just went and bought a pack of 6 paint brushes for £15. I’m not so good at storing them, and I don’t use them very often. I end up drawing loads more, anyway, I really end up forgetting how to store them, they’re acrylic ones. If you do these will they affect different sorts of brushes? Like different color and makes.

Robert Lopez

I use ivory soap, really works great, but I paint in acrylics.


Laundry soap or dishwashing liquid is equally as good.

Robert Lopez

I use ivory soap, really works great, but I paint in acrylics.

Linda Stewart

I like this post very much! I love painting and I have a few portraits but of course I am not a real artist, I just draw because it makes me feel happy. Thanks a lot for sharing all the ways I should maintain my brushes. Regards!Camberwell Carpet Cleaners Ltd.
Linda Stewart


To store brushes after cleaning, drive a small brad nail into the ferrule and bend it over at a right angle, then you can hang it, bristles down, over any lip, bucket or jar to dry without hairs bending over.
Also soaking the bristles for an hour in a budget hair conditioner greatly softens old bristles. Be sure to rinse well afterward. The old conditioner can be wiped off and reused. Trim off any wayward hairs with a pair of scissors and your brushes will last way longer.

Jeanne B.

One correction: store DRY brushes bristles up. When drying brushes, either lay flat in such a way that the bristles are flying free in the air, or hang them bristles-DOWN.

The way a brush is constructed, the bristles are secured to the base of a wooden handle with a metal ferrule. If wet, just-cleaned brushes are left to dry in a jar with the bristles pointing up, moisture will drain downward, pooling at the base of the bristles within the ferrule where the bristles meet the handle wood. This can cause the wood to rot, and the ferrule to become loose, resulting in a broken brush.

Hanging brushes bristles down wicks the moisture away from the wooden handle base and allows it to drain off, thus your brushes stay in good shape and will last a lifetime.

So the proper steps are:
1. Wipe off excess paint with a lint-free rag (blue Scott shop towels are good for this).
2. Dip into fresh, clean solvent (turpenoid).
3. Swish solvent-covered brush around in your palm to loosen paint.
4. Use fingernails to separate bristles and massage out any paint particles.
5. Swish brush on a bar of hand soap or brush cleaning soap, then swish around in palm to remove solvent and remaining paint.
6. Rinse well in warm water.
7. Gently squeeze out excess water.
8. Blot with a fresh lint-free rag.
9. Use fingers to reshape brush.
10. Hang upside down (bristles down) or lay horizontally to dry.
11. Store upright or horizontally.

Also, to make for easier cleanup, always “season” brushes (except those used for drybrush blending) with a little painting medium at the beginning of the session, and wipe off excess before using.


Could someone please tell me a way to soften my brushes. A lot of them are stiff and will not bend or flow easily on the canvas. I paint with acrylics. Been paining for 30+ years. But I do not know how to properly care for my brushes.

Thanks Kathy


I’ve found that, a very convenient way to store my modeling paint brushes, is to stand them, brushes up, in a block of Styrofoam. Use any Styrofoam that you may find in appliances packaging or TV packaging. They are extremely easy to replace when they wear out.

Libby Bankston

I stand mine in a block of styrofoam, also. Use the sides of the block to store toothpicks, straight pins,

Carl H.

There’s a better way than this, one without all the chemicals. Try the Paint Piranha at It’s got teeth that pull off the paint and keep the brush healthy and straight, no chemicals needed.


I am really quite frustrated with my brushes, being a miniature model painter I tend to only use very small brushes from a X3 000 up to maybe a three. I always buy top end brushes such as Winsor & Newton No.7 series but even though I am very carefull with them I am only getting about six months before there done, not all bent and full of paint but it seems they are having bristle loss with many bristles snapping off and I just don’t know why! I only use acrylic paints. I’d love to know what I am doing wrong. This evening I noticed my favourite brush (a W7N size 1) was looking a bit thin so i got out my magnifying glass and had a closer look, there were many broken stems close to the ferrule. Why are my bristles breaking like this, like I said I never leave them with paint on them and often wash during use to prevent any build up drying on the bristles. I regularly use Masters brush cleaner and always make sure they are dry before storing them away. If I was told that six months was the normal life for an active brush then okay that would be fine but many of my fellow hobbyists inform me that their brushes last them for years before needing replaced. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. 🙂

Marc Clamage

I suspect it’s the Masters Brush Cleaner, which seems to have some sort of grit in it to aid in cleaning. Lose ten bristles off a big brush–no big deal. Lose ten bristles off a tiny little brush–disaster! Try plain ol’ soap–I used Ivory myself.

Marc Clamage

I have a jar of incredibly filthy turpentine I never bother to change–just add a little more turp when it becomes too goo-like. Squeeze as much paint out of the brushes with a paper towel, rinse in turp, then repeat. Next, take the brushes to the sink. Using no warmer than lukewarm water (hot water melts the glue in the ferrule), lather up the bristles with Ivory soap (cheap, odorless, no additives) being careful to work the soap all the way down to the ferrule. Rinse and repeat until you are absolutely certain the brush is clean. Then do it one more time.

If a brush becomes malformed due to being stood on its bristles or just regular wear and tear, after cleaning the brush soap it up and let it sit until the soap starts to harden. Squeeze the bristles into the proper shape, let it dry thoroughly, then rinse the brush out. The original shape will be restored.

Rench guy

Apply Vaseline to natural hair brushes before storage. Should keep hair from drying out and breaking.


I started to paint small model soldiers and needed this info. Apparently there is info in internet for everything 🙂

Thank you

John Ferrell

I like that you said that we might be tempted to leave a dirty brush if we are trying to finish our art. If I was going to use paint brushes then I would want to make sure that it was in good condition. It might be a good idea to get tips for brush care from a professional painter.

Parris Young

No matter how careful I am, paint accumulates right at the farrel. This spreads the brush, nearly fatally. I like to hang the brushes for short time in paint stripper. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? If you leave the brush in the stripper too long paint will even come off the brush handle. If you use paint stripper be certain not to leave the brush lying on the bottom. Only leave the tip of the brush hanging in the fluid. The liquefying paint we run down the brush and into the fluid. This will clean the brush fairly well and then the soap water and swishing it in your palm will take out the rest of the stripper and paint particles.
When I was a sign writer (endangered craft) we used brush oil to store Fitch brushes between uses; this kept our brushes supple and softer. I’ve been looking for brush oil for a while now and it is not on the market. The idea of using heavy body hair gel maybe my answer.
Thank you for posting your article.


I went to sign painting school years ago. The teacher told us to use natural hair brushes. To clean those brushes in turpentine and store them in a watertight plastic box with motor oil..Sounds icky but it works. This method keeps your brushes wet. We used sign paint which is still a lead-based paint toxic… Now for using latex or acrylic paints, we would clean the brushes with liquid soap, any kind will do. Now storing these brushes we would put them in a plastic box just like for oil paints, only instead of oil, we would store them in liquid soap. This keeps your brushes wet at all times. This method increases the life of your brush because it never has a chance to dry out.. You take your fingers and shape the wet brush and store it in the box laying flat..Never use acrylic brushes for oil, or oil brushes for acrylic don’t mix them…This method saved me money and kept my brushes for a long time ..good brushes are expensive. But they were finally stolen.

Komal Verma

I use same brushes for oils or acrylic thanku for ur info sir , my main problem is I want pointed brushes for subtle outlines no brush I can use for long after 10-20 washes the brush seems no use..what to do pl help

Helen B. Good

WOW! That is super helpful for me and my kidlets

Dik F Liu

@ Jeanne B. >Hanging brushes bristles down wicks the moisture away from the wooden handle base and allows it to drain off, thus your brushes stay in good shape and will last a lifetime.<

Unfortunately, no. Because of capillary action – that liquid flows against gravity toward a narrower space – the moisture will gather at the ferrule even if you hang the brushes with its bristles side down.


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