Cleaning Your Finishing Brushes
by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher
If you have looked at high quality brushes such as ox-hair and
china bristle for varnishing/lacquering or enameling and nylon/polyester brushes for latex paints,
the prices may surprise you. Ox-hair brushes are the softest, most supple and are a natural bristle
which is the best to use with varnishes and oil based paints and stain. Nylon or nylon/polyester
brushes are best used with latex paints and water based finishes. Keeping these tools CLEAN is the
key to a great job and longevity of the tool itself. Here are some tips to help you keep your
finishing brushes clean:
For all brushes used with water based materials, simply wash out as much material as you can
with warm water. Next rub the wet brush on a bar of hand soap (Ivory works great) for a minute
or two and then rub the brush in a circular motion in the palm of your hand adding a little water
as you go. It should begin to lather fairly quickly.
Now, gently squeeze the lather towards the end of the bristles and look for any
discoloration. If the lather shows NO signs of discoloration and the soap is completely white,
rinse the brush again and you are done. If the lather isn't one hundred percent white repeat
until all traces of color are completely gone. Wrap the brush in newspaper and hang to dry.
For all oil based materials first dip the brush in lacquer thinner. Mineral spirits will
work but in my experience, lacquer thinner works best. Then repeat the steps above until the
lather is COMPLETELY white. Rinse with water and wrap with newspaper and hang to dry.
For latex brushes with material that will not wash out place the brush in a container of
Denatured Alcohol and cover for a day or two. This will liquify the remaining material and then
the brush can be washed.
For oils place the brush in a methylene chloride based stripper and cover for a couple of
days. This will loosen the material from the brush and then it can be washed.
Always be sure to keep repeating the process until the lather is completely white and devoid
of ALL color.
Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood
Finishing the Finish
, April 13, 2011
Visit Highland Woodworking's Online
, Apr 30, 2011
Antiques Show and Tell
, May 14, 2011
French Polish Workshop
, May 18, 2011
Wood Finishing Supplies Department
Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at