As a general rule, when it comes to art I make a conscious effort to take special care of all of my tools. Among the many, I find that I use my paint brushes quite frequently, and have to make sure that I keep them clean. I’ve never used a brush cleaner before because I work in acrylics and can do a decent job of cleaning my brushes solely with water and paper towels. However, over time I have noticed a buildup of paint at the base of some of my favorite brushes.
Since I started working in a framing and art supply store again I have been exposed to many supplies that could be, and seem quite useful to artists. I recently came across a product called Brush Cleaner and Restorer made by Winsor and Newton. I finally decided to buy myself a bottle to see how well this product works.
The product claims to completely clean dried acrylics, oils, and alkyds with no damage to the brush head or loss of fibers. The product also claims to be non-toxic, biodegradable, water soluble, non-flammable, non-abrasive, and with low vapor. I would have liked to buy a smaller container since I was trying it for the first time, but none were available. So I purchased a sixteen fluid ounce bottle for 12.99 retail. Your local arts and crafts supply store should carry it, or you can find a local retailer online. I bought this bottle at Aaron Brothers.
For my experiment I took the two brushes that I use the most to clean with the brush cleaner. All of my brushes I use with acrylic paint. I do my best to keep my brushes clean immediately after using them, however over time paint stays at the base of the brush creating a slight buildup. The brushes on the left have been stained with paint for over a year.
I found a nice area outside to work, then I took a water bottle and cut off the bottom half to hold the brush cleaner. Any type of container for cleaning a brush is acceptable. For the purpose of safety I keep these separate from containers that I would actually use for drinking. Next I poured a generous amount of cleaner into the container, approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup. Finally, I took one brush at a time and submerged it in the liquid.
Almost immediately, paint from the brush began to stain the liquid. This was a good sign that the paint was starting to come off the brush. I added both brushes to the liquid and pressed them along the bottom of the container to work as much of the paint out as possible.
Since there was a lot of paint caked at the base of the brush I knew that this process might take a lot longer than a few minutes. I would periodically let the brushes rest in the container to allow the cleaner to absorb into the stubborn areas. The intructions also mention that for caked acrylics to allow the brushes to soak for a period of 24 hours. On a personal note, I avoid leaving brushes in any kind of liquid filled container for very long periods because the bristles of the brush will lose their original shape. Sometimes this ruins the brush.
As you can see on the left, the cleaner is pretty saturated with old paint that has come off of the brush. I also found that the particles wedged in the bristles were very loose and could be worked out with my finger. I suppose to get an extra clean brush I could have left them in the cleaner longer but I was satisfied with the result.
I took the brushes inside and washed them thoroughly with soap and water. After rinsing out all of the soap I patted them dry with a paper towel. The results were pretty surprising! As you can see there is a huge difference in the appearance of the brushes.
IMPORTANT: Over the course of the time that I was using the cleaner I did notice the smell of the cleaner so be sure to work in an open area. Also, be sure to store the bottle upright in a clean dry place away from children’s reach. If your cleaner does spill be sure to clean it right away since it does have the tendency to saturate into anything that might be in the immediate area such as cloth, and paper towels. Finally, if the cleaner is exposed to finished surfaces for long periods of time it will corrode the surface, so be sure to use this very carefully.
Overall, I was very happy with this product and would highly recommend it for brushes that you’re not quite ready to get rid of but need a good cleaning.
Water is still the best brush cleaner that you can find, so take precautions from the getgo when it comes to your tools! I hope this was helpful!
Keep an eye out for new work at www.luciaperez.info