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How to restore artists' brush bristles

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choochoo_baloo14/12/2020 00:44:25
270 forum posts
57 photos

I have used some expensive artists brushes, on and off for years for touch up work with machinery enamel for my tools.

Can anyone recommend how to restore the bristles shape, since it's gradually splayed. See photo.

(In the early days I probably wasn't as thorough cleaning...)

In case relevant, brushes are Daler-Rowney dark-tipped synthetic filaments and black shadow aluminium ferrule. Designed for acrylic paint apparently.

Thank you.


Ady114/12/2020 01:26:08
4900 forum posts
726 photos

I used to wrap a small elastic band around wayward paint brushes

Pero14/12/2020 03:22:19
147 forum posts

The problem is residual gunk ( aka paint pigment particles ) which gets into the base of the bristles and forces them apart. Hard to prevent even with very thorough cleaning.

A clean with a strong solvent before wrapping or tying the bristles to shape will help to prolong life, however I generally treat brushes as a consumable item which will eventually pass their use-by date. The initial cost of the brush is often the critical factor here.

On non-critical jobs I often use el-cheapo brushes and discard after one use - the cost of the solvent to clean them properly often exceeding the cost of the brush ( unless of course you are using water-based paints ).

Incidentally for brush washing I use the three jar system. First jar for the initial clean, then into the second and finally the third for the final wash. When the solvent in the first jar becomes too dirty it is discarded and the jar washed. Jar 2 then is promoted to jar 1 and jar 3 to jar 2. The newly clean jar is filled with clean solvent and becomes jar 3. This hopefully results in minimal particulate matter being present in the final wash.


Ignatz14/12/2020 03:51:01
158 forum posts
98 photos


I have shared this same annoyance.

Over time the pigments in the paint gradually collect between the individual bristles at the base of the brush essentially 'fattening' the area and causing the the bristles to splay outwards. The result of this is that the brush will no longer come to a usable point. This is a real shame and brings many an expensive brush to the end (often prematurely) of its useful life.

Ordinary cleaning right after use is a good practice, but even so the gradual buildup of pigment at the base of the brush is very difficult to remove effectively.

The only real 'cure' I've ever found for this condition is the use of an ultrasonic cleaner. The ultrasonic waves get in and vibrate the bristles in a way that is impossible with ordinary cleaning. I've seen trapped pigment at the base of brushes literally seem to 'boil' out of hiding from between the bristles.

Using the correct thinner and/or cleaner is an absolute must. Also note that some types of dried paint paint formulations (acrylics in particular) don't really like to dissolve in this manner. Very frustrating.

Also note that this is not always an absolute cure. Some brushes after sitting for a long time in that splayed out condition may refuse to work properly again, even when relieved of some or all of this trapped pigment.

The question is whether or not it pays to purchase the ultrasonic cleaner. If we are only talking about two or three inexpensive brushes the answer may be 'no'. On the other hand, if you are investing in and using artist-grade, sable brushes then an occasional deep-cleaning in an ultrasonic cleaner can extend their useful life resulting in a considerable savings over time.

not done it yet14/12/2020 07:51:26
6504 forum posts
20 photos

My wife says “get some new ones and look after them better. Buy the right ones for the job. Not be so ‘heavy handed’ when using them”. Those were only suggestions as to the problem as user details were not forthcoming.

Both she, and her late mother, are/were artists for many a year. Her mother was a particularly good one. My wife suggests getting care advice from the art shop when new brushes are acquired.

Neil Wyatt14/12/2020 12:12:25
18888 forum posts
734 photos
80 articles

If you want inexpensive brushes that seem to last and work well, consider 'Royal and Langnickel' - I get these from 'The Range' and find them perfectly acceptable and I like Dalker ones.


Mike Hurley14/12/2020 12:28:51
246 forum posts
74 photos

Try soaking them in distilled white vinegar for a couple of hours. Then manually 'point' them with your fingers and let them dry. No guarantee, but sometimes works for me. Mike

old mart14/12/2020 16:09:38
3487 forum posts
213 photos

N D I Y' s wife has the perfectly concise answer.

Grindstone Cowboy14/12/2020 16:46:55
789 forum posts
61 photos

This video by Windsor & Newton on brush cleaning may be informative.

And be thankful it's not one of these brushes


Derek Lane14/12/2020 16:55:27
616 forum posts
123 photos

With all my brushes I tend to never dip more than the tip in the paint this reduces the risk of build up of paint at the top. I then clean in the correct solution for the paint type and finish by washing them with a strong dish washer solution like Fairy liquid rinse and let dry after shaping with fingers.

But to your solution give the brush a soak in the relevant cleaning agent for the paint type and then go to the last bit I put above.

I have had many of my brushes for quite a few years by following the above

Bazyle14/12/2020 17:12:44
6168 forum posts
222 photos

This is rather like the recent 'how to make toast' cooking program. Like someone over five years old need to be told that it is better to clean it after use.

If it has been used with acrylic find a scrap of whatever that has been used with that paint and well dried. Try your solvent on that because if it has no effect it isn't going to cean your brush post drying. If you find a functioning solvent beware that it doesn't destroy the glue holding the bristles together inside the ferule.
If the paint is dried to a brittle rather than piable plastic state it can help to roll the fibres to crush and break the material build up.

paul rushmer14/12/2020 19:38:40
86 forum posts
11 photos

We have found this product very good, "The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver" Its like a soap lather and work in and massage between fingers, may take severial goes with patence a solid brush can be restored. Its avalible from good art suppliers or Amazon.


Andy Stopford14/12/2020 20:08:50
126 forum posts
17 photos

I agree with the above, always clean brushes thoroughly, and don't expect them to last forever (though you can of course demote them to less exacting duties). For both artistic and other purposes, the synthetic ones are excellent now, and cheaper than sable or whatever.

I'm just posting really, to add that acrylic usually succumbs to meths -you could probably also use IPA (no, not the beer, you drink that whilst the brush is soaking).

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