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Citrus brush cleaner, who's tried it?

RonHopRonHop -
edited March 2017 in Studio & Supplies
Hello all,

I was wondering if anyone has been using citrus based solvent in their process? I know Denis has made numerous references to it. It seems to be cost prohibitive but so much kinder on the body than OMS. I know Zestit is horribly expensive. Jerry's has this which seems to cost about half as much

Chelsea Classical Studio Citrus Essence Brush Cleaner

Chelsea Classical Studio Citrus Essence Brush Cleaner

So has anyone bitten the bullet? I'm thinking of trying it for en plein air this Spring. Also trying to figure out how I will paint solvent-free for the rest of the process. Gamblin has a couple of solvent-free mediums I'm eye balling. Any thoughts?      


  • I'm a completely unreliable source of art world information and never have used the product but since the advertisement says the solvent also "MOISTURIZES" paint brushes, I would not use it to mix into oil paints for fear it may leave a residue that will not dry at the same rate as the paint film on the canvas. Wait till you have more authoritative information and advice. IMHO.
  • edited March 2017
    I know a number of members here on this site have tried it for cleaning with outstanding results. And I noticed in my hometown in Canada, there is a surge of availability of it lately with aggressive advertising indicating an abandonment of solvents altogether. But no word yet about mixing it in paint. It's not flammable!
  • Thanks guys :) My intention is for cleaning purposes only, not so much as a component in the painting.
    @Forgiveness I hadn't seen anyone make mention of it other than @dencal. I only searched the term "citrus" though
  • If Denis says use it for cleaning then you can bet your HATS that you can use it for cleaning with confidence. Lately I've been following the Carder method of just using the safflower oil + clove oil for a dip. When they really have to be cleaned I used SimpleGreen and very hot water. You have to dry them right away though.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited March 2017

    I don't suggest using citrus for brush cleaning, though I'm sure it would work well.
    Solvents, soap and water progressively deteriorates brush quality and destroys the brush structure.
    Safflower and clove is perfect as a brush dip or for part immersion storage.

    Citrus is about the only non toxic, non noxious, non flammable solvent around (other than water, and small amounts of alcohol or vinegar). As such it deserves serious consideration.

    I have a small test bottle that I will try today. Reports so far are good but the issue for us is the compatibility with the other SDM ingredients, surface appearance and archival qualities.

    Meantime, here is a useful page on using ZestIt as a paint solvent.


  • Folks

    I mixed a few drops of Zest-It (non citrus variety, it has non aromatic aliphatic hydrocarbons added) with some Art Spectrum, transparent, Indian yellow on a glass palette. A little reluctant to mix and had a thin Indian yellow wash with some globs of tube paint that stuck to the brush. Applied same to a smallish gesso panel and obtained a nice even coat. Not quite touch dry after six hours.

    I also placed a drop of the Zest-It on the glass palette with the aim of gauging drying rate and residual.
    After six hours the drop still runs on the tilted palette and appears undiminished in size.

    I will try some cadmium variety and titanium white next.


  • Thank you @dencal for the info! You truly are an asset. I was curious to use it as a cleaner alone. Even then, sparingly. My thoughts were initially to just use the brush dip to preserve wet brushes. But the what ifs started pouring into my head. And I thought it would be safe to have a cleaner around just in case.  Gamblin paints sells a safflower oil brush cleaner as well. But that just sounds like Geneva brush dip to me (I have a liter of that already).

    I do not plan on using Geneva paints for painting en plein air. I have tubes and tubes of gamblin that I'm going to use up. I was thinking of trying their solvent free gel or fluid. It is safflower and alkyd resin based with fast/moderate drying time. 

    Thank you Denis for your R&D and everyone else as well for any input you can offer :) You guys/gals rock. 
  • @dencal ; I hope I didn't dissuade you from trying the zest-it as a thinner. Did you continue your experiment?
  • @dencal - Hello! Researching as usual as I'm looking at Zest-it Solvent (Citrus Free) to replace Gamsol and Langridge's Solvent 75. Can I ask if you used Zest-It as a solvent successfully?

    I have a small bottle of Zest-It Pencil Blend (which I believe is the same as the Solvent with Citrus - just smaller bottle). I'm using it to blend wax based pencils and oil pastels - early days, and hence, why I'm doing some research to see if this is a safer alternative to Gamsol etc. There is so much conflicting information...
  • Veronica

    Yes I have used ZestIt products on a try out basis and they work fine. Nice to find a substitute for the smelly hydrocarbons.

    I have tubs of SDM premixed stock color and now also the proud owner of a basic Geneva set. So I don’t see me needing to use ZestIt anytime soon, but I know it is there as a diluent or brush cleaner.

    The other direction you might be interested in is the Gamblin Solvent Free Gel and Liquid in photo above.


  • Thanks @dencal - will check out the Gamblin Solvent Free Gel/Liquid - did not know about that one :-)

  • edited September 2018
    I have been using the lavender for the past month and absolutely love it.  I feel like I am at a spa with the beautiful aroma.  
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