How to clean your brushes

A great video on ways to keep those brushes in tip top condition by the excellent Alex Tzavaras



  • Thanks for sharing this video.
  • He mentions using baby oil (about 5 mins in), I had seen that suggested in another video a few months back and had started to use it. An artist friend advised against it saying "it's a non-drying oil - if it gets in your paint at all it won't ever ever dry".  So I stopped using it.
  • My method of cleaning oil brushes is to use baby oil. Using baby oil has more advantages than it looks. First, even if you leave the brush out in the open for a long time, the leftover baby oil in the bristles might keep it from drying. Second, having a clean brush on hand can help.
  • @mimirichman

    Not a good idea to use baby oil.

    See my post above yours
  • edited October 2021
    Rosemary and co make the best brushes I have used. 
    Best advice I hear is to avoid non drying oils like baby oils - agree with Michael. You don't want that in your painting.
  • BarryCBarryC -
    edited November 2021
    Interestingly I was just looking on YouTube on this subject last night and came across Andrew Tischler video “The best brushes for oil painting and how to clean them.” The cleaning part starts at 8:45. No baby oil but does use a brush restore product for longer term storage or restoring them. Sorry, I do t know how to capture a videos link in YouTube.
  • @BarryC
    I was confused about posting videos for ages too but you simply just paste the link into the comment box and voila...

    I set the video to start at 8:45 but don't think you can specify start times in embedded videos?
  • Everyone has a different approach.  
    I've been using Gamsol to clean my brushes lately and I noticed that a recent painting has bit of broken hog bristles in the paint.  I think that what has happened is that the Gamsol took all the conditioning oil out of the bristles.  I make a brush cleaning soap that is super-fatted so that it conditions the natural bristles, but I haven't been using it lately.

    So, I now think that Rosemary's advice to NOT use these sorts of solvents is good advice.  

    When I use brush dip, I never have this problem.  Also, when I take the time to use my homemade brush soap, I don't have this problem.  

    Going back to brush dip.

  • I agree about not using solvents to clean brushes. I wrecked an entire set of Rosemary's brushes that way. Fortunately I was able to partially restore them by using a special brush soup/ conditioner. These days, I never hardly ever wash brushes. I just dip them in walnut oil and wrap them in plastic kitchen wrap. They never dry out and stay in good condition. And it saves so much time. 
  • Rob

    brush soup/ conditioner.

    OK. So a hearty tomato, or was it beef and vegetables?

    Denis :)

  • @tassieguy what's the special soap/ conditioner?
  • edited November 2021
    Lol, @dencal, I was thinking of soup because I'm on a week long vegetable soup diet. You could probably add the cleaner to your soup,  - it's non-toxic. Based on coconut oil. 

    Hi, @Abstraction. I use the Langridge product. Langridge is an Aussie brand. Their cleaner is great stuff. Any store that stocks Langridge oil paints will have it.  Cleans and conditions. 

    A solvent free, non-toxic hand and brush cleaner for safely removing oil and acrylic paint.
    Work into the brush bristles and wash under running water to remove paint.
    Even dried paint can be removed by soaking brushes in Safe-Clean-up overnight.

  • edited November 2021
    Thanks @tassieguy. I actually had a phone conversation with David from Langridge a couple of weeks ago. I was curious about their use of safflower in white thinking they wouldn't bother to respond, and he called me and spoke for about 20-25 minutes. Really impressed, and the quality of their paints is superb.
    Evidence from Golden and others is that safflower produces significantly more brilliant whites and blues - notwithstanding less yellowing later on as well. I don't know if you've seen those studies? But it is a semi-drying oil, so doesn't form quite the same bond. The upshot is, its best use is in final layers. So I was asking him about this. He agrees with all this - they are a distributor for Golden (Williamsburg acrylics) in Australia and work closely with them. He thought the effect on the paint film with safflower was not critical, but they are considering making a linseed version of the white as well later.
    He was talking about how he spends so much time creating the 'recipe' for each paint - to get the feel right, the precise colour and texture. He paints with them until he's satisfied.
  • edited November 2021
    No worries,  @Abstraction

    When I first started painting, Geneva paints were not available in Oz.  I tried a few brands, some of them not so good,  and then discovered Langridge. I've been using them now for five years and they are the best paints I've ever used. Chock full of pigment and no fillers or extenders.  I've never had a problem with the titanium white even though it's uses safflower oil. Because it is so thick and viscous I need to thin it down with walnut oil to get the flow I need. It dries to a very strong film. If they do bring a white out with linseed I'll try that but I'm happy with the current formulation. 

    I read a story somewhere ( or was it a video I saw?) about him and the Langridge paint-making process. I got the feel that they really take pride in the high quality of their paints. And their range of colours is great.  I have no financial interest in the company, and I don't want to come across as a salesman for them, but I don't believe their is a better paint on the market. And the great thing is that it's made here in Oz. 

    So if anyone in Oz is not using them already, I can honestly recommend them. However, if you are used to the leveling properties of Geneva (also a very good brand) and like it, you should know that you won't get that with Langridge without adding quite a lot of medium. The medium is already added to Geneva which makes it easy. But I like absolute control of the amount of medium, and I love texture, so I stick with Langridge. 

    And the Safe-clean-up works a treat.  :)
  • @tassieguy
    I went to Langridge's website and found that they are stocked at Jackson's Art in England.  Jackson's has good shipping to the USA and I use them for other  items that are hard to get here.

    The Langridge website also says that they are stocked in the USA by Soho Art out of New York, but I could find them on the Soho website.  

    JAckson's has a good writeup on the Langridge solvent and the Clean-Up at 
    Langridge Solvent 75 and Safe-Clean-Up - Jackson's Art Blog (

  • That's great, @mstrick. If you're thinking of trying something new then give them a try if you can get hold of them where you are. I'm sure they won't disappoint.  :)
  • edited November 2021
    Thanks @tassieguy @mstrick96 for the heads up about the Langridge safe clean up. I will definitely invest in some.

    Glad I can get it here in UK, I buy my panels form Jacksons too so thats handy.


  • edited November 2021
    I use dishwasher liquid soap, soak the brushes in that for 24 hours. Then I wash them in the sink. Mostly takes 2-3 rinses to make the brushes workable. I make them dry before use.
    While painting if I need to clean a brush, then I soak in linseed and it disintegrates the paint and then I wipe with a tissue for another pure color (mostly white). I do not care whether my brushes look white or not.
  • So I gave Murphy Oil Soap a try yesterday after a session. 

    It actually cleans better and faster then OMS!

    I simply dipped the brush into the soap, and none of the paint transferred to the soap. I swirled the brush in the palm of my hand. After about 10 seconds all the paint was out onto my palm. I rinsed and repeated as a check, and saw no more paint.

    this morning all brush were soft.
  • @BarryC great idea!  I haven't tried Murphy's for regular cleaning.  Only for brushes that hve gotten stiff. 
    The Murphy's acts as a conditioner too.  It's sold for cleaning and conditioning wood furniture.  
  • edited November 2021
    Hey folks,
    why not try just regular oil soap bars?
    I bought 3 bars for about £10, will probably do me for at least a year (pretty much sure more that a year).
    I'm using an olive oil soap bar and so far it does wonders.
    It leaves the bristles really soft and they still look like new.
    I've bought "the masters" brush cleaner, it did a really good job with the brushes, the olive oil soap is just as good.
    The trick is oil based cleaners.
  • @Marinos_88, I did the Murphy’s soap because that was what I was reading at the time. Rosemary and Co also recommended it. The cost was $14 for 32 oz, and already in liquid form. But you are right in that the trick is being oil based. Super surprised of well it worked.
  • @Marinos_88, and @BarryC, I make my own soap for brush cleaning, but had only used Murphy's for resurrecting brushes that had dried paint. I've never tried an olive oil based soap, but have looked at some recipes for making it.

    My home made brush soap recipe produces a bar soap that I think works better than the Master's brush cleaner.  I'm sure the olive oil bar soap would work well too because it is excellent at conditioning.  The key for brush care is to use a soap calculator to come up with oils to add to the olive oil that wil add good cleaning.  Soap made with olive oil by itself conditions beautifully, but doesn't clean well. 

    Tonight, however, I tried the Murphy's Oil Soap for cleaning my brushes after my painting session!  Worked great!  I wiped the paint out of my brushes and then dipped them in the Murphy's and worked it in.  It dissolved the remaining paint easily and the paint and soap rinsed right out!  Much easier and faster than using Gamsol of Turpenoid!  The only thing easier is using Mark's Brush Dip!

    I think Murphy's Oil Soap might have replaced my homemade brush cleaner soap for regular brush cleaning!

    I'll do some more testing witht he Murphy's, but right now, that looks like a great way to do my regular brush cleaning.  
  • I was trained by a sign painter to NEVER wash out brushes. NEVER! He would rinse with turpentine and then dip them in motor oil and leave them until next time.  When ready to use again he just rinsed again in turpentine and started painting.  I modified the process a bit with Marvels Mystery oil. It will never dry and and cleans out quickly.  The motor oil seemed to work just as well and has less smell.  Not that there is much smell with the Marvel's.  I never wash out brushes. They wear out before they will ever dry out.
  • @tfloraditch, that sounds like a similar approach as Mark's brush dip.  I've also heard of people using baby oil and mineral oil. 

    I think I'm more comfortable using Mark's brush dip instead of motor oil or any of the others though.  With motor oil, I would be worried about getting a non-siccative oil in the paint and causing delamination.  

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