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How to Stop Your Oil Paint Brushes from Shedding

Dec 26, 2023

In our daily work, we often receive emails from customers asking why their oil paintbrushes start shedding hair after only a few uses. Shedding in artist brushes isn't always a product issue. Many times, it's due to a lack of proper maintenance, leading to frequent replacements, which is wasteful. There are specific ways to care for oil paintbrushes, so let's look at how to maintain them properly.

Oil painting brushes consist of three main parts: the handle, the metal ferrule, and the bristles. The manufacturing process of these brushes involves first inserting the treated bristles into the ferrule, then securing them with adhesive, and finally attaching the assembled head to the handle. The quality of an oil painting brush primarily depends on its bristles. Proper maintenance can significantly extend the brush's lifespan. After use, it is crucial to clean the brush promptly to prevent the paint from drying on the bristles. If the brush is not used for an extended period, it should be thoroughly cleaned and stored wrapped in paper.

Assembling the Brush Head of a Paint Brush

The Proper Way to Maintain Oil Painting Brushes

(1) If the brushes are not to be used for a short period, you can first wipe off the residual paint with a cloth or paper, and then clean them with turpentine before drying. It's important to avoid soaking the brushes in turpentine for extended periods, as it can neutralize the glue at the base of the bristles, leading to shedding.

(2) When cleaning used brushes with turpentine, it's advisable to prepare two containers of turpentine for washing. The first container is for initial cleaning to remove the bulk of the paint residue from the brush; the second is for a more thorough second cleaning. It's best to use airtight stainless steel Brush Washers for this process, as all cleaning solvents are volatile. Moreover, specialized brush-cleaning Brush Washers are designed specifically for this task and can clean the brushes more effectively.

The Method for Thorough Cleaning

(1) After cleaning with turpentine, dip the brush in clean water or warm water and rub it on soap (Note: Do not use boiling water, as it can damage the brush's metal ferrule).

(2) Squeeze the bristles with your fingers or roll them in your palm (Using a sponge with an abrasive surface yields better results).

(3) Repeat the process until the soap suds turn white.

(4) Rinse thoroughly with clean water, straighten the bristles, and wrap the brush tip with a slightly stiff paper for storage until next use.

Other Important Considerations for Maintaining Paint Brushes

When cleaning brushes, apply moderate pressure to avoid damaging the bristles. The soap used must be a mild alkaline soap (there are specialized brush cleaning soaps available) to prevent the bristles from hardening. Never use paint thinner as it can make the bristles brittle by stripping away their natural oils. Shortened oil painting brushes are often discarded, but if you heat the metal ferrule over a flame and slightly pull out the bristles without altering their shape, you can extend the life of the brush. This method is not only economical but also interesting.

If the brush has not been used for a long time and the paint has dried, you can first soak it in hot water overnight (ensuring the water level does not exceed the base of the bristles), and then clean it with turpentine.

It's essential to remember to clean the brush after each use. By following the maintenance steps described above, your oil painting brushes can last significantly longer and accompany you on your artistic journey for an extended period.