How to Wash Paintbrushes

Today I'm sharing some simple, yet useful, tips regarding paintbrush etiquette, including how to wash and dry paintbrushes. These tips will help your brushes last longer and maintain their shape over time.

Use a Palette Knife


Perhaps the most useful tip I have is to use a palette knife to mix your paints. I know a lot of artists use their brushes to mix paints, but it's better to use a palette knife. For starters, it helps to not waste paint. I tend to mix multiple colors at once. And instead of rinsing my brush after each color and losing all of that paint, I lose very little because the knife lets me scrape it back on my palette.

Using a palette knife also helps maintain the shape of your brush. If you use a brush to mix paint, it's easy for paint to get stuck in the bristles near the ferrule (the metal portion on the brush that holds the bristles in place). As the paint dries, it can cause the bristles to splay out, ruining the shape of the brush. Give your brushes a break and grab a palette knife the next time you need to mix up some paint.

Don't Soak Them


Another common mistake I see is artists leaving their brushes sitting in water for prolonged periods of time. While it might prevent paint from drying in the bristles, this practice is actually bad for brushes, too. By leaving them in water, the glue can break down and cause the bristles to fall out over time. Instead, give them a good rinse and set them off to the side to dry. This will help them last much longer and you won't have to pick as many bristles out of your paintings.

Leaving brushes in water can also ruin their shape. The weight of the brush pushing down on the bristles is enough to warp them, essentially leaving the brush useless. So keep your brushes in good shape by taking them out of the water once they're clean.

Give Them a Wash


When you're finished painting, it's a good idea to give your brushes a final wash with some mild soap. Rinse water gets murky quickly, and paint water can leave a residue on your brushes - even if you just rinsed them. So gather up your brushes and gently wash them in the palm of your hand with some mild soap Don't push too hard or scrub them vigorously, as that can cause the bristles to splay. Lukewarm or cool water works best, as hot water can promote paint sticking to bristles. Once the water runs clear, the brush is ready for another painting session.

Lay Flat


After your brushes are squeaky clean, lay them flat on towel to dry. It might seem unnecessary, but this prevents water from running down into the ferrule and sitting there for long periods of time. It also helps the brush dry in its original shape. After washing, I like to gently reshape my brushes and lay them on a paper towel. Once they're dry, I move them back to their storage container.

And, one final tip, don't rest your brushes on the bristles. Either store them upright, with the bristles pointing up, or flat. Again, this will keep the bristles in good shape for many paintings to come.


Taking care of brushes is really quite simple. It just takes time and a little bit of effort. But those efforts can go a long way in keeping your brushes in tip-top shape for years. And that saves money in the long run!

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Thanks for reading and happy creating!