For water-based (latex) paint
Put enough warm water into a container to fully cover the brush bristles. Add a little liquid dish washing detergent. Don't use too large a container as you will be refilling it with clean soapy water several times.
Dip and swirl the brush in the water working the soapy water into the bristles. Pour out the dirty water (see below for disposal recommendations) and replace with clean soapy water. Repeat until the brush is clean. Spin or flick the brush by hand or with a mechanical spinner to remove the water. (You can buy mechanical spinners at most hardware stores.)
For oil-based paints
First, determine which solvent is right for the painting product you are using. (The information can be found on the paint can.) Rule of thumb: use mineral spirits or paint thinner for oil-based paints, stains and varnishes. Use alcohol for shellacs. Pour enough solvent into a container to fully cover the brush bristles. Don't use too large a container as you will be refilling it several times. Dip and swirl the brush in the solvent, working it into the bristles. Repeat the process with clean solvent until the bristles are clean. Spin or flick the brush by hand or with a mechanical spinner to remove the solvent.
After you've cleaned the brush
Once the brush is clean, we recommend combing the bristles to remove any dried paint and to reshape the brush. This will help to keep the heel of the brush from filling with hardened paint. Combing the brush is particularly important if you use a brush spinner as the bristles can become tangled. You can find brush combs at most hardware and paint stores. Our favorite is a comb we once bought to comb the loose hair out of our cat's fur.
After you have cleaned the brush, let it dry handing on a peg or nail. You can also place it on a flat surface. When the brush is dry, put the protective jacket back on brush. This will help to retain the proper shape.
What to do with the dirty water or solvent
Pouring paint solvents and water/latex paint mixtures down the drain could damage your septic system and is prohibited by most municipal sewage authorities. Don't despair, there is a simple solution. Pour water-based cleaning solutions in a large container and set it where the water can evaporate. I use a plastic bucket. Once the water has evaporated, you can peel off the latex residue and dispose of it. Pour dirty paint thinner into a large (I use a one gallon plastic bottle) container and let the paint sediment settle. Once it has settled, you can decant the clean solvent and re-use it. Dispose of the solids when the bottle gets full.
Do's and Don'ts
· We recommend dedicating a brush to either water-based or solvent-based paints. Synthetic bristle brushes can be used for either application, but don't last or clean-up well if they alternate between water- and solvent-based applications.
· Always store your brush in the jacket that it came with.
· Don't let brushes stand in a solvent container. It will deform the brush.
· When cleaning a brush, don't jam the bristles into the bottom of the solvent container. That will force paint solids into the heel of the brush where they are difficult to remove.
If you have a suggestion or tip for cleaning brushes, send us and e-mail and we'll try it out in our laboratory. If it works, we'll pass it along.