RESOURCE:Cleaning and Tying Paintbrushes


We do not use any chemicals or agents for cleanup other than soap and water. Our brushes are cleaned in a very simple manner.

Residual paint is wiped off with a paper towel by wiping away from the ferrule. Gentle brush wiping is continued until little to no paint is seen on the paper towel. The brushes are then gently washed with soap and water and any bristle brushes are then tied in position.

In lukewarm water, brushes’ hair bundles are gently rotated onto a bar of soap until all remaining evidence of residual paint disappears. Take care to not press hard when washing against the soap as some soap remnants may become lodged in the ferrule causing damage. Rinse any remaining soap from the hair bundle.

Synthetics and Sable brushes can be gently shaped by hand and then placed upright in a minimal dust environment to dry. Bristles can be tied into position so that they maintain their shape. This is done by wetting a length of string and then wrapping it around the ferrule and hair bundle. This string should never be wrapped too tightly as it may cause the tip of the brush to flare defeating the purpose of brush tying altogether. To achieve a delicate wrap—hold one end of the wet string on the ferrule with your finger while you carefully rotate the brush. This will help to ensure you do not wrap the brush too tightly. Once wrapped, you can gently mold the shape of the brush and store upright to dry in a minimal dust environment. This practice of careful maintenance will greatly increase the lifespan of your materials.


I just stopped using oms and use oil to clean off brush and then linseed oil soap. I never did tye my brushes…I like this idea instead of using a book!

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I love the idea of using bar soap and no solvents but I am concerned about certain “toxic” pigments such as cadmiums or lead whites being washed down the drain where it might enter the waterways in some communities. I’ve done some searching online about this topic but its been hard to get a clear picture. Anyone have any insight on this?


What an excellent question. I personally work in such minute amounts that I haven’t really considered the issue before. Let me do some digging and see what I can cone up with.


I’d be curious to learn more about the impact of toxic pigments as well. As far as the brush cleaning soaps, we’ve started comparing different brands on the Brush Cleaner Particulates post.


I tried the tying off on some brushes for the first time last night. It worked beautifully. I wish I had know this long ago. This really saved some brushes from the trash can. Great idea. Thanks


So glad to hear it Diane!!! :smiley:

This was helpful to find out @AWaichulis that you just use soap for cleaning brushes. I try to use the safest non-toxic bar of soap to clean my brushes as well.

I am curious though how all of you clean your brushes during your painting sessions. For the last few years, I have used a Silicoil jar with Natural Earth Paint Eco-Solve. The only issue that I’ve found is that I’m trying to go completely away from using Eco-Solve in my painting process, and just use walnut oil. Do you think it would be good to clean my brushes with the walnut oil as I’m painting, or do you recommend something else? I know some artists just use more brushes, but I tend to find that I need to clean my brushes as I’m painting. I also use a paper towel or a cloth to wipe the paint off during a painting session.

Thanks in advance!


I just read your post and had to chime in.

Once I was married I decided to use walnut oil to clean my brushes (during painting) because I didn’t want expose my family (or myself) to turp fumes. It’s been 17 years and I still use walnut oil without any reservations. The only drawback is that walnut oil can make the paint feel more “slippery”. I mainly use walnut oil and walnut/alkyd as my medium, so I prefer the paint feel, but I could understand how some wouldn’t. Carefully drying your brushes before use will help.

For final cleaning; I use a bar of Ivory soap and the process Anthony described in this thread. It’s all non-tocic and works great!

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Thanks for your response, Slade! Okay, I’m going to try to switch to walnut oil for cleaning brushes, switching the Eco-Solve to walnut oil in my Silicoil brush cleaner.

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I have just started using this for cleaning during painting but I have to admit I mostly just use many brushes.

Its smells like heaven though and is non-toxic.

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Josh, I have a Silicoil that I would love to use again. How did it work out with the walnut oil in the Sil jar? Have you continued this process or abandoned it? Did you have to clean the S jar? If so, how?

No, I haven’t put the walnut oil in the silicoil. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m afraid that the walnut oil would thicken over time, especially if the lids open while I’m painting. I have only used Natural Earth Eco-Solve. It works very well in the silicoil, except that it’s very challenging replacing the Eco-Solve and cleaning it out, so I have to just accept dirty Eco-Solve (the paint eventually settles at the bottom).

Not sure in matters now being years later… I keep a jar of linseed oil I bought cheaply from a hardware store that is 100%. In that jar I put an upside down tin with holes punch through it to rub the brush against. I use this and a rag till there is negligible colour hitting the rag then just use soap and water. I find it much quicker than trying to clean brushes with just the soap and water.