As an artist the most valuable tools, other than your own two hands, are your paintbrushes. I always recommend artists invest in high quality brushes, as these provide better strokes and have greater longevity. However, without proper cleaning even the best quality brushes will not last long. Oil paint is infamous for clinging to bristles and being incredibly difficult to remove. Hot soapy water simply will not work like it does for acrylic or watercolour painting.
Here is a quick guide to help you clean your oil paintbrushes. It is not complex but it is necessary.
Paper towels / newspaper
Some old cups or mugs
Oil paint brush cleaner (my recommendation is Chroma Brush Cleaner)
Things to avoid:
Wire paint combs
Step 1: Rid your paintbrush of as much excess oil paint as possible
So, you have finished your painting session and have a bunch of used brushes with a bunch of excess paint on the bristles. I will assume you also have some leftover oil / paint thinner medium already in an old mug or whatever you like to use.
I will take the brushes individually and rinse them through the remaining medium (it does not matter if the medium is dirtied). Then take the brushes and gently wipe any excess paint off with a paper towel. Just keep going back and forth between the medium and the paper towel until most of the excess paint has been removed. You will not be able to get all the paint so don’t worry about that.
Step 2: Breaking down any remaining oil paint from the brushes
Many people would stop at step 1. However unfortunately for them, the brushes will be ruined within a day. That is because there would still a huge amount of paint in between the bristles. The only way we can remove this paint is with paint thinner or a oil paintbrush cleaner.
Once product I have recently become aware of is:
It is amazing. It completely breaks down the paint even better than turpentine.
So what I will do is head over to the sink and fill it with some warm, soapy water. I will take another old mug and put a small amount of the cleaner in it. Then I will take each individual brush and rinse it through the cleaning product then since it through the hot water. I will basically go back and forth and then incorporate some paper towel wipes until there is no more residual paint leaking from the brushes.
Step 3: Finishing up your cleaning process
Once each of your brushes have been thoroughly cleaning, you should use your fingers to mould them back into shape. I will then take a clean rag and wrap it around all the brushes. This will absorb any moisture.
Now as an optional finisher, you can add a conditional to your brushes to keep them in a really great condition. I personally do not bother with this step but if I had very expensive brushes I would consider it.
Once your brushes have dried and are all clean, you should place them safely back into storage. When storing your brushes, make sure the bristles are not folded or interfered with.
I will also mention that some of the cleaning products used are very toxic, so you may want to consider using gloves. Be sure to keep all the products out of reach of children.