I am often shocked to see the state of artists’ brushes. How can a fine thing be made with a damaged tool? Treat the hair as you treat your own. You do not need strong brush cleaner for water-based mediums.

  • Use a piece of kitchen paper to squeeze out excess wet paint from each brush.
  • Dip each brush into a jar of strong brush cleaner. Briefly work it into the palm of your hand to break down the oil.
  • Stand a dry brush in brush cleaner for no longer than a couple of minutes. On dryish brushes, you can use your thumbnail to ease out the oil.
  • Next, wet the brush in a jar containing water and a drop of washing-up liquid. Work up a lather with it on a bar of soap or similar. Pound the soapy brush into the palm of your hand. You are trying to get the pigment particles from inside the ferrule to stop hairs splaying. Do not over-bend bristles. Never run your nail hard down the bristles: this will flatten the hairs on one side, making them splay outwards. Instead, gently use a thumbnail to work out any stubborn paint from the ferrule. Keep an eye out for any dry paint sticking to the hairs near the tip – clean this off gently with a fingernail.
  • Wash cleaned brushes as soon as you can under the cold tap to remove the soap from handles and ferrule. Very hot water ruins hair.
  • You can apply hair conditioner to each brush at this point.
  • Refill the jar with clean water only. Wash each brush vigorously for 20 seconds.
  • Wash the bundle under the cold tap again. Shake the water out of the bundle.
  • Immediately squeeze the remaining water from ferrule to tip with a tea towel.
  • Suck each brush into shape and tidy further with your fingers. This is very important. Your brush should be absolutely clean – no poisons. Your best sticky saliva (having the flu or a cup of coffee helps) reforms the hairs, making them dry hard.
  • Do not leave brushes wetted with water. It will ruin them.