Vaseline on brushes?

I’ve seen some artists put Vaseline on their brushes when stored.

I noticed on some brushes get sort of rubbery after cleaning with walnut oil and wiping and leaving them for a few weeks.
I cleaned them again in walnut oil and they are ok but I’m sure if I had left them longer they would have gotten pretty stiff.

When working in a painting I just wipe my brush clean, dip it in walnut oil and wipe it.  

Other brushes that I don’t use often I’ve cleaned with gamsol and wiped them dry.  

Any thoughts on these methods?


  • dencaldencal -
    edited August 2022

    I noticed on some brushes get sort of rubbery after cleaning with walnut oil and wiping and leaving them for a few weeks.
    I cleaned them again in walnut oil and they are ok but I’m sure if I had left them longer they would have gotten pretty stiff.
    Walnut oil is a drying oil. As it dries it polymerises. It is doing what it should do.
    I suggest leaving the brush head immersed in walnut oil. Or slip the dipped brush into a zip lock bag.

    Vaseline will be difficult to remove, requiring solvents that will eventually kill your brush.
    Some folks use a lick of saliva (yuk) or a rub with some hair gel to retain brush shape.
    Best is oil immersion.

    Greendl posted this nice idea.

    The rubber O rings are tap washers from plumbing supplies.

    I just fill to cover bristles with walnut oil and 2% clove oil. I place a nylon or s/steel pot scourer in the oil to agitate the pigment.


  • edited August 2022
    I dip mine in walnut oil and wrap them in Gladwrap at the end of each session. If I don't use a brush for a long time it will eventually start to get gummy as I unwrap my brushes each day and they get exposed to air. In this case I wash it in a coconut based soap/conditioner made by Langridge.  After washing, I shape the bristles and wrap them in a strip of paper towel so that they dry in shape. My brushes last a good while this way. The only reason my brushes wear out is because I poke and push with them to get the marks I want. Doing this eventually wrecks the tips of synthetic brushes. But it doesn't seem to effect natural hog bristle or sable too much. On rare occasions where I won't be painting for a week or more (such as when I've been in hospital) I dip  the brushes in walnut oil and wrap them in gladwrap and put them in the fridge. This way they never dry out because there is no exposure to oxygen and so polymerization cannot occur. You could keep them wrapped and in the fridge almost indefinitely and they wouldn't dry out. I don't use clove oil because I hate the smell but, doing as described above, I can get by without it. I wouldn't use Vaseline. You would have to wash it off each time you want to use the brush or use solvent to remove it and I don't like solvents. 
  • Yes I would avoid using Vaseline.
    A while ago I thought baby oil would be good to clean them, having seen a vid on it.
    A friend advised strongly against it as it is very difficult to remove and would get in the painting.

    I imagine Vaseline would be similar.
  • Thanks @MichaelD
    @tassieguy does the glad wrap ever get stuck to the ferrules?
  • edited August 2022
    No, @GTO, that doesn't happen. But the Gladwrap gets gummy after a while because every day I'm opening it up and the oil on it starts to dry and it does get on the ferrules and handles. To overcome this, I change the Gladwrap every few days and wipe the handles and ferrules with a paper towel every day.  It only takes a minute. That way things don't gum up and my ferules and handles stay clean. I should have mentioned that I wrap the brushes entirely, not just the bristles and ferrules.  That way no air can get in and I can leave them for many days without fear of them drying out. And I could leave them wrapped and in the fridge indefinitely. 
  • @GTO
    For the past couple of years I've been using Turpinoid Natural to clean my brushes.

    I may start buy doing a rinse in OMS but not always

    Then soak brushes in TN for a few seconds. I have a yogurt cup with out 2mm of TN at the sink. A container of warn water in the sink.

    I wear a rubber glove on my left hand and sweep the brush a few time in the palm of that hand.
    Rinse in the water, repeat 2 times.

    Test on a clean white rag or paper towel. Usually that's it.

    I beat some brushes hard and paint goes up into the ferrel. I soak those brushes longer and wipe more in the TN.

    At the end I put a dab of TN between my thumb and forefinger and lightly rub over the brushes. They hold their shape really well don't get sticky. If a brush is sticky I rub a little DMP medium into the brush before painting.

    I used to use safflower oil but found it got gummy. Years ago I used Linseed but a few brushes  got ruined.

    Turpenoid Natural - Cowan Office Supplies
    When I get a brush that was forgotten of hardened I use W&N Brush Cleaner & Restorer. Oil or Acrylic even gesso. It works great. You have to be careful with synthetic brushes. And soak only to the ferrel. It will eat the paint of the brush handle.

    It's not cheap.
  • Thanks @tassieguy @KingstonFineArt
    Here are the brushes that I use.  They are a rag tag bunch.  I have a few Da Vinci maestro kolinsky brushes.
    But I have found that I favor some cheaper brands.  Like the clear handled Royal and Langnickle MSGE 170-6 and that silver handled one they make in the Zen series 2331
    They don’t splay a hold up well.
    Ive hard the yellow handled 1/2 inch Loew Cornwall 275 China brush for three years and it holds up well.
    And I use some cheap script brushes. (The orange handled ones)
    This first photo dies what the Da Vinci brush looks like now.  The second photo shows all the other brushes.

  • edited August 2022
    I've taken to using liners and very fluid paint for fine detail but, overall, your brushes look a lot like mine, @GTO - ragtag bunch. I've also taken to trimming flayed brushes with a razor. But the flaying only seems to happen with the synthetics and not the natural fibers. The natural fibers wear down faster but seem to keep their shape longer. 
  • @tassieguy I tell myself that I will some day get a set of sizes 2, 4 and 6, three of each and dedicate one of each size to black, white and the third to everything else.  So nine brushes, a couple liners, a few scripts and a couple China blending brushes would make for a good kit.
  • Yes, I'm the same, @GTO.  But over the years, as I've been leaning and trying new things, I've acquired this ragtag set of brushes that sort of do the job. Eventually, I'll rationalize the system based on what I've learned about which brushes are best. I'm leaning heavily in favour of natural fibers for basic brushes. Even though they wear out more quickly they don't seem to spay as badly as the synthetics which don't like being pushed and poked on the canvas. 
  • Suez said:
    I was surprised to read Rembrandt never washed his brushes and kept them in a tilted trough filled with a few inches of linseed oil. No mention how often he changed out his oil.

    In addition to finding this method was not a new innovation I also found out that turpentine wasn’t used at all, in artist’s studios, before the 18th century. Spike lavender was used to thin paint.

    ? Any link to any evidence regarding spike lavender use? Or the benefits and drawbacks? 

    Here is what MITRA has to state about it:
    Solvents-and-Diluents.pdf (
  • @GTO: I think not using vaseline is good. I think cleaning out the paint, dipping in oil (linseed, walnut, etc.), wrapping and storing in a refrigerator are all good practices. I clean, dip in oil on a tilted tray, and cover with foil. Its not as good as wrapping in plastic, but its easier for me. This will last, unchilled, for a week. Then the oil will start to oxidize, so I got to clean the brushes with soap and water, and start all over again. 

    I also think that eventually a brush will wear out. There are so many different good ways to go about this. 

    From your photos, it seems that you use both hair and bristle brushes. So do I, but I am evolving to almost always just using the bristle brushes.  Do you have any trends in your brush usage?
  • Hey @Desertsky I’m not an expert on brushes so I’m not sure what you mean by hair vs bristle brushes.  When I look at brushes I can tell if it’s sable or synthetic.  I’ve also seen some hog bristle? But those seem so stiff. I have a couple that seem as soft as cat hair?  But I don’t really know what they are made of.

  • @Desertsky I noticed the MITRA link points out that clove is discouraged as a way to minimize drying time.  
  • @GTO -  about brushes... These comments are about the natural ones. Synthetic brushes will fall into the same hair and bristle categories, based on how soft or bristly they are. I have a preference for natural brushes, as the synthetics don't perform the same way and I have ruined some cleaning with Gamsol. $$$ Grrrr. 

    I think of (natural) hair brushes as those made from squirrel, mongoose, sable, camel, etc. They are soft and used a lot in watercolor.

    Bristle brushes, again, the natural ones, are made from hog bristles. There may be other animals, but I don't know of any. 

    There are some natural brushes that fall into the middle, such as goat hair. Asian traditional paint brushes are made of a variety of materials we Westerners don't see often.

    MITRA counsels against using additives to retard drying because they see the excesses of enthusiastic amateurs all the time. (If you want to read of amazing experiments with materials and processes, read through the Oil Paint forum some weekend. Seldom does this stuff end well for the painting.) I remember a discussion of Mr. Carder's use of clove oil coming up somewhere - either at MITRA or here. The observation was made that Mr. Carder uses such a small amount that it does not hurt the paint. Also, Mr. Carder had his use of clove oil verified as not hurting the paint before he manufactured and advertised his product. I think his products are very good - like his advice :)
  • @Desertsky thanks for the explanation on the brushes.  I avoid the ones that are natural hair for watercolor.  I’m finding that taklon synthetics and the royal langnickle and zen work well for me.
  • edited August 2022
    @Desertsky, what you said about ruining synthetic brushes by washing in Gamsol reflects my own experience. After washing synthetic brushes in OMS they went haywire. I never wash brushes in solvent now and they last much longer. I prefer the natural hair brushes because they don't seem to splay as much with rough use. Synthetics don't respond well when they are pushed and poked at the canvas. They soon become splayed and useless. But I've noticed this doesn't happen so much with natural hair brushes and hog bristle. I must have a look on MITARA to see if they have anything on this topic. But they probably won't because it's not about conservation.
  • @Tassieguy - MITRA, especially the resources section, is not mainly or only focused on art conservation. Much good information about materials and processes to create oil paintings which will be robust and well-constructed. I don't agree with everything there, but almost all of it and it is my first choice for educating myself about materials and processes. Some members of the panel of experts are conservators, and so they write with experience about the things they see go wrong. 
  • Thanks, @Desertsky. I've only had a quick look around but I can see that MITRA is a very useful resource.
  • @tassieguy...havent read the comments 
    In oz there's an Australian product made from a range of oils that cleans, maintains and preserves also recovers stiff bound up brushes
    I love it...if you want I can be less lazy and put a name/photo up here
  • I may already have it Judith. Is it made by Langridge? On the rare occasions where I wash brushes I use  their brush soap/conditioner. It  does a great job. It will clean just about anything. I swear by it.  I use their paints, too.  :)
  • I use alkyd oil paints so cleaning my brushes is a must.  I have found Murphy's Oil Soap does a fantastic job.  I swish in OMS and wipe off with paper towels until there is little or no pigment left on the towel. Then use Murphy's Soap and warm water, scrubbing each brush in the palm of my hand and rinsing with warm water.  It always amazes me how much paint is still actually left in the brush.  Once rinsed, I shape the bristles and lie flat to dry.  You can also use Murphy's to remove dried paint.  Just pour some into a container, use plastic wrap with a hole in the top, lash the brushes together, then suspend in the soap for 24-48 hours.  Works like a charm.  They are good as new.  The ingredients in this soap are also 99% all natural and it leaves your brushes conditioned.  

  • edited September 2022

    I also use Murphy its a great product and natural. I leave my brushes in soak in one of these mini decorating paint trays.

    The advantages I find are that as one part is raised (left in photo) it means there is a slant so the brushes can be left in the soap at the other end. I can also leave a good few in there at once.

  • edited September 2022
    Good idea, @MichaelD. I'm going to try leaving my brushes in a paint tray like that with walnut oil in the lower section. If it works well I won't have to wrap the brushes in Glad Wrap when I finish work every day. I might just put a Glad Wrap cover over the tray. The Glad Wrap won't touch the oil and so won't get gummy and so won't need changing every week or so like I do now. Anything to save time cleaning brushes which is the most tedious chore in the universe.
  • @tassieguy,
     Good stuff Rob,
    I got the idea from another artist a few years ago, but only recently implemented it myself.

    Yes the bigger usual size tray would of course fit more brushes and perhaps the handles so you could gladly glad wrap it over  :)
  • tassieguy said:
    Good idea, @MichaelD. I'm going to try leaving my brushes in a paint tray like that with walnut oil in the lower section. If it works well I won't have to wrap the brushes in Glad Wrap when I finish work every day. I might just put a Glad Wrap cover over the tray. The Glad Wrap won't touch the oil and so won't get gummy and so won't need changing every week or so like I do now. Anything to save time cleaning brushes which is the most tedious chore in the universe.
    what about the brush wipe that Mark told us about ...I use that all the time I can have the brushes inactive for a week or so at a time...only have to wipe once a week

  • dencaldencal -
    edited September 2022

    Can’t believe it was two years ago I posted this….

    Just to tie up some loose ends here, let me say I have about 300 brushes of all shapes, lengths and fibre types. In ten years of casual painting, using pull or dab type strokes, I have never had to throw a brush away. All three hundred odd remain in good condition and fit for purpose. It is a rare occasion that a loose bristle / hair  ends up in my paint. I put this down to oil immersion and oil cleaning and no soap or solvent use.

    Four brush rotting things happen when soap, water or solvents get under the ferrule.

    The linen cord rots.
    The resin holding the fibres deep in the ferrule dissolves.
    The ferrule corrodes adding rust stain to all your values.
    The wooden handle will swell and shrink splitting and loosening the ferrule.


    The benefits of oil immersion are…

    * no cleaning required outside of a quick swish and a paper towel dry.
    * brushes ready to go instantly.
    * pack up is drop the brush in the oil.
    * 2% clove in walnut oil means no gummy residue or rancidity and very little aromatics.
    * brushes last forever in good order, with care.
    * oil is recyclable, pigment settles and oil can be poured off and pigment cleaned.


  • edited September 2022

    A good while back I used to use The Master brush cleaner but I found that very harsh and was advised against it by a friend.

    Do you think that Murphys, which is formulated with water, coconut and plant derived ingredients, with 2% synthetic ingredients, would rot brushes  ?
  • dencaldencal -
    edited September 2022

    Aint used Master or Murphy’s. Suspect that it would take longer to rot than soap, water and solvents.
    However, in chemical terms these products rely on saponification to dissolve paint. That is the conversion of fat (coconut) by alkaline extracts (plant derived) to make soap. The synthetics would be petroleum based solvents. So the same brush rotting components are used in Masters and Murphys.

    If on the rare occasion, a brush rolls away under my easel for a week or two, I can rescue it with hydrogen peroxide or citrus paint stripper, then back into the oil bath. So all the bases are covered.

  • edited September 2022

    Ok thanks Denis,

    I best leave the Murphys for clean up of palette etc.

    I use M Graham alkyds medium, would there be a problem using that for the brush clean, as I happen to have large bottle ?

    Or does it need to be pure walnut ?
  • MichaelD

    Can I suggest a razor scraper and some alcohol for a glass palette cleanup?

    The M Graham stuff is mostly walnut. The alkyd (modified soy or linseed oil) will accelerate drying and will work against any open time advantage from clove and Venice turpentine (DMP SDM).

    By all means use it up and get some value from it. Just be aware of the contradictory components and avoid cross contamination.

  • Thank you for the advice Denis 

  • To clean a brush so I can use it right away for a different color, I dip it in Mark's recipe for slow-dry medium, work the bristles back and forth to loosen the pigment, blot on a clean paper towel, and repeat until I can't see any more pigment working out of the bristles.  Then I repeat the process, using mineral spirits.
     If I'm not planning to use a brush again any time soon, I next rinse it several times in a small jar with a half inch of mineral spirits, dry it, and rinse it again in second jar with fresh mineral spirits. (When the mineral spirits in the 2nd jar shows any cloudiness done, I pour it into the first jar.  After pigments in the first jar settle out, I pour off the clear mineral spirits, clean out the pigments, and return the clear mineral spirits to the first jar.)
    If I just need to protect the brush from drying out for a few days, I dip it in Mark's recipe for brush dip.

  • edited September 2022


    To correct myself, I have been using Murphys if I want too do a big clean up of brushes that have become a bit stubborn, but generally I use Gamsol (I know you advised the peroxide and will try this o the difficult ones).

    I gave it a go the other day of cleaning them in the alkyd walnut oil it was fine for the brushes I generally paint with, but I have several synthetic mongoose which are lovely to blend with, they are so soft.

    They need to be dry when I use them, leaving them in the walnut meant I couldn’t use them as usual, as no matter how much I tried to dry them off they still had the heaviness of being oily.

    Cleaning them in Gamsol works a treat, so I guess I could stick with that for those brushes and use walnut for the others.
  • MichaelD

    Use what works for you. I am only one opinion in a stormy sea of prejudice and bias.
    Remember, we invented weather forecasters to make economists look good.
    There are lots of solutions to lots of problems and we all handle the workflow differently.

  • @dencal

    Indeed squire.

    And you dont need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

  • GTOGTO -
    edited September 2022
    @dencal I am consider placing my brushes in this little trough that I made where my brushes can lay at a slow angle in walnut oil with 2% clove. Similar to what @MichaelD showed.  The oil will most likely bathe the ferrules.  Do you see any problems going this route?  Should I enclose this in a plastic bag, like a freezer bag?  What do you think?

  • Do you even need the clove oil if you have them submerged in a large bath of walnut oil wouldn't only the outside skin over?
  • edited September 2022
    @GTO, I'm doing exactly that now. I have one of those paint trays that are used for holding paint when you are using a roller to paint your house.  My brushes fit nicely into it and only the bristles and a bit of the ferrules are submerged in walnut oil. When I'm done painting for the day, I just wipe my brushes and put them in the tray, cover it with an old plastic lid I had lying around, and I'm done cleaning up. It's so quick and I'm ready to go again next day. No more Glad Wrap. Next day, I Just wipe of the excess oil and start painting. It's great.  I have @MichaelD to thank for this idea.  I can have 20 or more brushes in use at the same time so I needed something that would hold at least that many brushes. Those paint trays are perfect.  :)
  • @GTO and @tassieguy

    Glad to have been of help


  • @Richard_P I am thinking the clove will kelp keep the oil from skinning over.  
  • Got it @tassieguy. Anything to make cleanup easier.
    BTW @Richard_P @MichaelD and Rob, I am switching Tom using paper towels to paper napkins.  I think tearing a sheet off the towel roll is adding to the dust problem.  With paper napkins I won’t have to tear a sheet off. 
  • edited September 2022
    The intent of vaseline was to maintain shape post cleaning which I used to do in the distant past. Or sometimes when I used soap bars to clean I used to occasionally leave a slight trace of soap to hold its shape.  ;) I noticed zero negative effects on my paintings but I have abandoned both practices. Better brushes (Rosemary & Co) have helped. Prior to finding better fine brushes I don't know how much I spent on fine brushes that didn't last. I kept going for tinier brushes rather than better points, which also allows you to do fine details with brushes that actually hold enough paint!! Otherwise back and forth to your palette and lose your place.
    To maintain shape now I'm sure I do the same as most others -
    * I wash every time I paint. When I don't want to I actually say to myself, 'Zen and the art of washing brushes' and it somehow helps the tedium by making it seem like a meditative discipline. I'm not into Zen at all, it just sounds good. I created a rare good habit in my life in the process.
    * Good habits in brush use while painting with bristle direction - no scrubbing motion, etc. Not getting paint into the ferrule and protecting the ferrule from solvent or water when cleaning to not compromise the binding of the bristles.
    * Shape it after that final rinse if it isn't in shape.
    * If out of shape for finer brushes - i mean it looks really stuffed - the hot water trick. Dip in cup of very hot water briefly. Good brushes tend to go back into shape because the natural curve of the bristles was placed correctly. Cheap brushes might have natural curve in any direction and have been gummed into shape.
    * There is a wrap in paper to shape as it dries trick as well I haven't used yet.
    I find even with Rosemary & Co that good and bad brushes reveal themselves quite quickly after a few uses. Some lose their shape quickly, others seem to want to stay put. 95% of this brand are good in my experience.
  • GTO
    @dencal I am consider placing my brushes in this little trough that I made where my brushes can lay at a slow angle in walnut oil with 2% clove. Similar to what @MichaelD showed.  The oil will most likely bathe the ferrules.  Do you see any problems going this route?  Should I enclose this in a plastic bag, like a freezer bag?  What do you think?
    Problems are:
    # premature oxidation of the walnut oil due to the large surface area exposure
    # danger of spills and oil splash on work or equipment
    # accumulation of dust / insects
    # rapid evaporation of the volatile clove oil, creating condition for gummy residue as the oil sets up

    The best set up is the jar arrangement proposed by Greendl and pictured above.
    Takes only a few minutes to make, No/little cost. Lasts forever. Brushes happy.


  • Those are good points @dencal.
    I decided to go that route.  I started using these.

    When I get around to using the script brushes I’ll add oil to that jar.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited September 2022

    Great work. Looks good.

    Suggest a stainless steel or nylon pot scourer immersed in the jar oil to act as device to agitate the paint off the bristles.

    This pack is $0.89c.

  • @dencal I’ve been wiping the brush before I put it in the jar.  The scourer pads look like a good solution to clean further.  The stainless steel can on the table has oil in it that I use for further cleaning.  Using that might keep the oil in the jars cleaner.  I’m trying to use the jars just to keep the brushes supple and in shape between sessions.
  • @dencal and @GTO, how do you attach the little "o" rings to the lid of the jar? I'd like to try this. The paint tray works well but I think the jars would work even better.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited September 2022

    The “o” rings are attached to the brushes as a semi permanent feature.
    Best idea is to buy several boxes of assorted rubber rings to snug fit the varying diameters of brush handles. The ring can be adjusted up or down to suit changing oil levels.
    Syneco 3 - 22mm O Rings Assorted Set - 225 Pieces
    This set from Bunnings plumbing section of 225 for $8.

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