The easy and effective way to clean your oil paint brushes

Many people who paint are afraid to use oil paints. They prefer to stick to acrylic or other paints because they dry so quickly and are easy to clean with water. You will often hear that the reason for this shyness is the solvents. You don’t want to be constantly exposed to the vapours of turpentine. But turpentine can in principle be avoided completely in oil painting. Neither to dilute the oil paint, nor to brush cleaning, turpentine is absolutely necessary.

Solvents for brush cleaning

A solvent is a substance that can dissolve or dilute gases, liquids or solids. In the case of oil paints, the oil – in the best case linseed oil – is the binding agent which fixes the pigments to the painting substrate by drying them firmly. A solvent has the same chemical properties as the substance to be dissolved. In the case of oils and greases, this property is the non-polarity. Water, on the other hand, is polar and we recognize that water and oil do not mix or dissolve.

Substances such as acetone or turpentine are non-polar and dissolve oils very well. This is why turpentine is often used to remove paints and varnishes, but you should avoid this in your atelier because of the health hazards that these substances pose.

Same mixes in same

In principle, you can wash your brushes with linseed oil, because linseed oil is also the material in which the color pigments adhere to your brush. This linseed oil would remove the paint from the hairs of the brush, but you would still have a certain oil film in the brush that would dry out over time. So you have to get the oil away from the brush.

How do we remove oily and greasy dirt from our hands? Exactly, we wash them with soap. And the greaser the soap is, the better it dissolves the linseed oil of the paints and can be rinsed off the brush in the sink. The most suitable soap is curd soap. Actually nothing special.

Curd Soap – a fatty soap which is capable of brush cleaning and brush care very well! Since it is so fat it dillutes your oilpaint really well and it can be rinsed off with tab water.

And this is how you do it:

After your painting session, wipe your brushes clean by holding toilet paper between thumb and index finger. Between this drag your brush through the toilet paper. Then open the faucet, moisten the curd soap with water and then rub your brush a few times over it in a circular motion. Put the soap aside and rub the brush on the inside of your hand. Rinse your brush. Do this a second time but before finally rinsing it take the brush hair between thumb and index finger and move the hair left to right, right to left, up and down, down and up so that the soap is able to go deep into the brush hair – but be careful not to overdo this! Then rinse it a final time. Wip the brush a few times to get rid of the excess water, then shape the brush hair.

This procedure should be enough to clean your brushes perfectly. If necessary do it a third time.

This procedure can also be seen in this video:

NOTE: if you are using potentially harmful pigments like lead white or cadmiums do not consider rubbing used brushes in your hands nor rinsing the brushes in the drain!