If you’re reading this, chances are you’re no stranger to the joy of painting. We all know there’s something profoundly satisfying about brushstrokes against canvas, the array of colors, and the intricate details that bring your artistic vision to life. But before you embark on your next masterpiece, let’s talk about a humble hero in your studio: your paintbrush.

Just as you wouldn’t expect your favorite sweater to remain pristine without a little TLC, your brushes deserve some love too! Cleaning, maintaining, and understanding the nuances of your brushes can extend their lifespan, enhance your creative process, and - most importantly - save you $$$ and extra trips to the art supply store.

So, let’s dive into the art of caring for your brushes over time. In this article, 12 painters from the Create! community share their best tips and tricks to keep your paintbrushes in tip-top shape. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just dipping your toes into the world of fine art, we’re sure you’ll find a bit of wisdom that resonates with you.

Lauren Marie:“On really stubborn brushes, I soak in rubbing alcohol, rinse and soak in hot water if I think the glue can handle it. I dry mine horizontally so water doesn't go down into the brush and sit and cause issues with glue, rot, rust, etc.”

Ana Sneeringer:“When my brushes are all dry from oils and hard to wash with brush soap, I soak them in lavandin (hybrid of lavender) essential oil. It also cleans so well dry paint on your painting palette and it can be used as thinner for the paint. This oil goes a long way and keeps your brushes soft.”

Colleen A. Critcher:“You can reshape your brushes by first pouring hot water over them. Then swirl the brush lightly in a brush restorer and pinch them back to their proper shape. Then let them dry flat. Good as new!”

Denice Hobbs Davis:“I use mostly acrylics & I have found that hot water, Dawn dish soap & a cheap makeup brush cleaner does the trick every single time!”

Ellen Holleman:“I’ve made it into a habit to always clean my brushes at the end of each working day; it’s definitely the best to preserve your brushes but I think it’s also a great way to wrap up my day. I have a poem hanging above the sink where I clean my brushes which helps me to turn this into a small meditative and inspirational moment. The bonus is having clean brushes to start with the following day.

I first soak them in linseed oil soap and I reuse my paper towels to wring out most paint residue. Then one more linseed oil soap bath and I end up cleaning with an ordinary dish soap until there’s really no paint left. Leave them to dry lying down, never put them upright to dry!”

Margot Dermody:“My favorite product is Pink Soap (Speedball). I love love the smell, texture, and color. Cleans oils, acrylics, and watercolor paints.”

Joann Renner:“I clean my oil painting brushes after every session. After an initial rinse in turpentine, I wash them in warm water and either "The Masters" brush cleaner or a conditioning hand soap if I am out of the first one. I also like to dip them in lard oil after cleaning as a conditioner.”

Jennifer Faye:“I’ll comment as a watercolorist. Every once in a while, you can give them a little soap clean in addition to water rinsing. If you are new to watercolors and have the synthetic brushes that are white, the paint will dye them. This is normal. The brushes are clean when the water runs clear.”

Paulina Ree:“An art instructor also recommended for us to wrap paper around the brushes on the bristles for them to keep shape as they are drying but I have not done it in a while and I can see my brushes are feeling the need for extra love.”

Liz D’Amelio:“More of a behavioral tip but I am so forgetful when it comes to brush cleaning & having a studio "clean-up song" helps me build a routine that includes cleaning brushes regularly!”

@lisaannsugimoto:This artist suggests always making sure you’re using the right type of brushes for your chosen medium: i.e., watercolor brushes for watercolor paints.

And if you know you’re a procrastinator when it comes to cleaning your brushes you could always do the following:

Cindy Ruskin:“Since I’ve destroyed so many brushes by not washing them immediately, I’ve switched to using really cheap brushes that I don’t mind losing.”

Thanks so much for reading! If you would like to join a supportive, empowering collective of women artists where you can swap tips like this in the membership Facebook group, check out The Art Queens.