September 17, 2012
So you finally finished with that paint job around the house, and it looks pretty good. The only problem now is the clean-up. How are you going to get all those paint covered brushes clean? Soak them in gasoline? Put them in the washing machine? Just throw them out? Or is it back to the store to by cleaners and thinners?
Latex-based paint dominates the market, and odds are it’s the kind of paint you’re familiar with using around your home or office. The great thing about latex paint is that it will bond to walls, fences, houses, and any other paintable surface you can think of, provided it has enough time to cure. This essentially means that while the paint is still wet, it’s easily removed with a clean, damp rag. Oil based paints, on the other hand, will require solvents or cleaners, so what follows here is just some friendly advice for cleaning a brush that’s been used in regular old latex-based paint.
The first step to successfully cleaning a brush that’s been exposed to latex-based paint is to make sure the brush stays wet with paint throughout the duration of its use. Don’t every leave a wet paintbrush out to dry, because that dried paint will be considerably more difficult to get off the brush. When you need to set your brush aside for a minute, leave it sitting in your paint bucket. Another strategy is to dunk the brush and then leave it resting flat on a paint can lid.
When you’re absolutely certain your project is finished, i.e., you don’t need to use the brush any longer, take it the nearest sink to rinse it out. Basement sinks—commonly referred to as “muck-tubs”—are ideal, but any household sink will do the trick. So long as the paint is still wet, it’ll slide right down the drain without sticking to porcelain or stainless steel sink-bed.
Turn the faucet on, running lukewarm water, and hold the brush at a forty-five degree angle so that the bristle tips are touching the bottom of the sink basin, directly under the faucet stream. In a gentle, repetitive motion, push the brush up and down under the running water, pushing and pulling the bristles together and apart. This motion, combined with the running water, will help the bristles shed themselves of any wet paint. Total cleaning time could take anywhere from five to ten minutes, so expect to put in a little sweat. You’ll know the brush is clean when clear water runs out from the bristles as you push it up and down. Remember not to be too forceful, though—you only want to bend the bristles in a natural direction. Too much force can unnaturally bend, and sometimes break, the brush hairs. For especially stubborn paint in your brush, a little bit of steel wool or a small wire brush can work wonders, but this too takes a gentle touch. Coax the paint out of the brush; too much muscle will send some of the brush down the drain with the paint.
So remember: keep your brushes wet while painting, and take them right to the sink when finished for a cleaning. Put the clean brush in a dry place to air out. You can even spin the handle between your palms, using circular force to “throw” excess water off the clean brush. It’s how the pros do it, each and every time.