think twice before you pop that trashcan lid, and consider these tips for caring for and salvaging your favorite brushes.

How to Bring Brushes Back to Life?

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Motley Muse

1. Clean, Clean And Clean Again

Ever started painting on a brand new white canvas only to have your masterpiece prematurely ruined by a sneaky bit of paint lurking in the depths of your brushes bristles?! Well we have and we can tell you it’s not pleasant! Avoid instances like this by giving your brush a really good clean and then when you’re happy that it’s pristine, CLEAN IT TWO MORE TIMES!! Paint is really tricky to remove from the bristles of brushes, so wash them in warm soapy water two times (but be gentle!) and then one final time in warm clear water. Et voila! You’re ready to create the next Mona Lisa!
“Repeat the washing and rinsing process until the soap and water runs clear. Keep your water warm, but not hot, as hot water may cause any remaining paint to clot.” - Winsor & Newton
“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.” - Craftsy
“Grab a glass cup and fill it about 1-2 inches deep with distilled white vinegar. Heat it in the microwave for 1-1.5 minutes then submerge your nasty paintbrushes into it… Take some dish soap (Dawn, Palmolive, etc.) and rinse off the brushes in warm soapy water.” - Crafty Morning
“If the ferrell gets gummed up, I was told that you can soak your brushes in rubbing alcohol for a couple of days and that will solve the problem.” - Carol McIntyre
Motley Muse
2. Condition Your Brushes
This might sound crazy, especially if you’re like me and barely condition you’re own hair, but every month you should give your brushes a little extra TLC and soak them in hair conditioner. Place your beloved brushes in the conditioner for ten minutes, rinse off in warm water and sculpt them into the shape they were when your first bought them. This really works and not only will your brushes look and feel brand new, they will also live long, healthy lives.
“Soaking your brushes in fabric softener periodically will help restore softness and pliability to their bristles, keeping them from becoming brittle and breaking off.” - Paint Nite
“Soak oil paint-covered brushes for 5-10 minutes in baby oil (yes, baby oil). This gets a lot of paint and medium off before washing thoroughly with mild soap and warm water. “ - Teri Granger Martin
“After washing with dish soap and water I finish the job as a usual rule with olive oil! You fight oil base with oil! Won't believe how much oil paint is removed from what I thought was a clean brush! The olive oil keeps the bristles soft as well!”
3. Store Your Brushes Correctly
Brushes can lose their shape very quickly, especially when they are left to dry in the wrong position. Always store your brushes in an upright position and NEVER EVER leave them facing downwards in water or turps overnight.
“Remove all excess paint with a soft rag or paper towel. Never let your brush rest on its head. There are many accessories available that will suspend your brush.” - Princeton Artist Brush Co.
“No matter what works for you, ensure that you reshape your brushes to the way they first looked when you bought them before you let them dry.” - Rosemary and Co
4. Give Them A Hair Cut
Ok maybe not a hair cut, more like a trim. When your older brushes are looking a bit worse for wear try cutting off stray bristles. If they really are on their last legs try reshaping them, chopping off the top bristles and giving a more defined shape to the bristles nearest the brush handle.
“If you have a painting project in mind, but the only paintbrushes you have are old, hard, and frayed, don’t go through the trouble of buying new ones. Revive old acrylic brushes with hair gel instead! Coat frayed bristles with any hair gel to mend the tips, then wash and soak them in fabric softener. They’ll be good as new!” - Paint Nite
5. Use The Correct Brush The Correct Way
Using the wrong paintbrush for the wrong job can damage the bristles. When painting large areas use bigger, thick bristled brushes, don’t be tempted to use a smaller more delicate ones as they’ll get damaged. When applying paint don’t ‘push’ paint into the canvas or splay the bristles around the canvas to spread paint, this will also cause damage.
“You can use vegetable oil for cleaning a palette and dish soap and water for brushes. Just don’t let them sit in the water—it will ruin them. But, if they do lose shape, you can stick them in boiling water for a few seconds and they will reshape.” - Lori McNee, Fine Art Tips
“The most important thing to remember with regard to caring for your acrylic brushes is not to let the paint dry following use, as the paint is not soluble in this state and will produce a plastic-like dried texture.” - Winsor & Newton
*Tips may work differently for acrylic and oil paint brushes. Make sure you double check any recommendations with the type of brush and paint you are using, as it varies with paint types.
Challenge:  Using these techniques bring your old brushes back to life.

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