It is important to learn how to clean and store your paintbrushes properly. When you do so, it keeps your brushes in like-new condition for a longer time. As an artist, you need to be ready to paint whenever the mood strikes.
It is worth noting that our guide is for artists rather than home decorators. Many of the same principles apply to storage if you are looking for a brush to decorate your home, but our article focuses on acrylics, watercolors, and brushes for art uses.
How to Store Paint Brushes
Properly storing paint brushes is an important part of their care. Below are a few tips on how to store your paint brushes:
- Store with bristles up. If you’re storing your brushes vertically, make sure that the bristles are stored facing up. When your bristles are stored facing down, you can cause damage to the bristles, reducing the lifespan of your brush. Alternatively, you can store your brushes horizontally.
- Store dry. Your bristles should be completely dry before storing your brushes, especially if you’re going to store them in an airtight space.
- Transport in airtight containers. If you’re moving your brushes, place completely dry brushes in plastic food storage bags or containers.
- Store hog brushes in airtight containers. Once your hog brushes are clean and dry, store them in airtight containers to prevent moth damage. For more information on how to clean hog brushes specifically, this article is helpful.
With these tips for brush storage in mind, you can choose how you want to store your brushes. Some artists fill a jar with marbles and store their brushes handle down in the jar. This and other upright options can be good if you have a designated workspace in your home or studio.
Other artists store their paintbrushes in a container or case to keep them protected from environmental elements. Whatever storage method you use, it’s important that brushes are stored clean and dry.
Why You Need to Take Care of Your Paint Brushes (& What Happens if You Don’t)
When you take care of your brushes, you’re able to keep using them over a longer period of time. It costs a lot of money to replace brushes, especially if you purchase high-quality ones. Poorly maintained brushes also fail to function as well as new or well-maintained brushes.
What happens when you don’t take care of your brushes? Here are just a few things that can happen to your brushes:
- They can get frayed or crusty. If you don’t clean your brushes between uses, they can become frayed or have crusted on paint, making them less useful for creating art. While old or damaged brushes can still be used to mix paint colors, frayed or crusty brushes will be harder to paint with.
- They can lose bristles. You should never pull on the bristles because you can lose them over time. When cleaning your brushes, you should shake off the water instead of squeezing it off. This prevents damage to the bristles.
- They may need to be replaced. Replacing brushes can be costly. Additionally, saying “goodbye” to your favorite brush can be hard. Keep your brushes longer by taking good care of them.
Over time, your brushes may become tinted with color. This tinting is a natural process that occurs when you use darker colors. As long as your brush water runs clear after cleaning, you can still use discolored brushes for painting.
How to Clean Paint Brushes before Storing
You should always clean your brushes immediately after painting. If you’re painting for a long period of time, you may even want to clean your brushes in the middle of your session as well.
When you’re ready to clean your brushes, follow these steps:
- At your workstation and as you paint, put your brushes between a paper towel or washcloth and gently squeeze out excess paint. Swish your brush in a cup of water to get rid of excess paint.
- Shake out the water or gently pat your brush against your towel to dry. The bulk of the paint should be removed this way. You should use this method to remove paint from your brushes regularly as you work.
- After you’re done painting, take your brushes to be more thoroughly cleaned. Rinse each brush with a small stream of lukewarm water. Gentle massage the brush’s bristles to get out any leftover paint.
- Use soap to clean the bristles. Whether you use paint-specific soap or regular hand soap, add the soap to the bristles and gently massage it into them. While hand soap can work for brushes, you should avoid using dish soap, as its ingredients can be hard on delicate bristles.
- Rinse the soap out of the bristles. Make sure all of the soap and soap residue are out.
If there is any paint left, rinse the brush and try to gently work the paint off of the brush’s bristles with your fingers.
- After all of the paint is removed, shake out the excess water. Squeezing your bristles can cause damage to your brush, so you should shake the water out instead of squeezing it.
- Reshape your brush’s bristles with your fingers. Bristles can be reshaped with warm water and your fingers later, but it is best to leave them reshaped and ready right after you clean them.
- Let your brushes air dry. It is best to allow them to dry horizontally. Place them on a towel and allow them to dry completely before storing them.
The video below gives you a super visual guide to what it takes to clean your brushes.
Best Brush Cleaner for Artists
The Pencil Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver is incredibly helpful. This product can help you remove paint from brushes while conditioning the fibers. This helps your brush last longer.
While you shouldn’t allow your brushes to dry with paint in them, this product can help remove old paint as well. It can make even old brushes look and feel new.
To use, rinse your brush under warm water. Swirl the brush in a container of water and cleaner until the cleaner bubbles and lathers. Rinse your brush under fresh water and repeat as needed. For old or dried on paint, you may need to repeat the process several times.
Top Tips for Storing Your Paint Brushes and Art Supplies
When looking for information on how to store your paintbrushes or other art supplies, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the advice out there. Here are our top tips for storing your paint brushes:
- Don’t store your brushes in liquid. It may be tempting to put your brushes bristle down in water, solvent, or some other liquid. However, this can cause damage to your brushes. When you leave your brushes in water, the metal on them can rust and the wood can swell.
- Store your brushes bristle up. If you’re storing your brushes vertically, make sure that the bristle side is pointing up. You can store brushes in a jar or on a designated stand as long as you have the handle side down. When you store your brushes with the bristles facing down, you can damage or distort the bristles and reduce the longevity of your brushes.
- Store your brushes horizontally in a container or on a work surface. Another way to prevent damage to bristles is to store paintbrushes horizontally in a container like a case. You can purchase plastic containers to hold your brushes or put them in a brush roll. Brush rolls are usually made out of canvas and are designed to keep your brushes save and organized. If you don’t have a container to store your brushes, you can also lay them flat across your work surface.
- Make sure your paintbrushes are clean and dry before storing. After painting, it may be tempting to just leave your brushes with paint on them. However, it’s important that you make sure your brushes are clean and dry before you store them. Carefully clean your brushes, then leave them to dry horizontally on a towel before storing. This is especially important if you’re storing them in an airtight container. You should never put wet or damp brushes in an airtight container.
- Do what works for you. Some artists like storage options like brush rolls or designated containers, while others may be happy with a mason jar on their desk. What matters is that you store your paintbrushes in a way that keeps them safe, organized, and ready for use.
If you’re trying to organize your work area, look into options at local craft stores or online. Even if you think you work well in a messy workspace, a clean work area can help prepare you for your next artistic endeavor.
Most organization experts recommend that everything should have a place to be put away when not in use. Otherwise, it is likely that your brushes will become damaged.