It’s times like this where your owner will have to make a serious decision
- try and rescue the brush by soaking it and washing it with the hope it doesn’t become knackered bey0nd use
- resign it to glue or drybrushing duty
- throw it in the bin.
For most people the hassle of trying to clean a brush isn’t worth it, however as more and more people are using better quality sable brushes there is understandably a reluctance to just retire it from normal service, especially as a good quality Kolinsky Sable brush will cost anything from £5 up to £15.
After many years of using hand soap to try and clean and condition brushes I finally took the plunge and purchased some specialist brush cleaner in the form of “The Masters” Brush Cleaner and Preserver. I bought the smallest pot I could find from a reseller on eBay* for £4.98.
The soap arrives in a plastic screw topped pot (as you can see in the picture above) and is a solid white soap that is set into the pot. It doesn’t smell bad either which is a bit positive 😉 On the back are some straight forward instructions. To summarise you wash your brush out as best you can, then rub is onto the soap, leave it a little while and then rinse that off. For oil brushes you can leave the soap on for a while and then rinse it off later.
OK, the instructions seem quite straight forward so how would it actually work? Well I had around ten brushes that had received various amounts of abuse including a couple that had been used for oil paints. I spent probably three-quarters of an hour in the kitchen cleaning them and the overall results were really positive. Four brushes have been resigned to the “below par” pot where months of mis-use have resulted in them no longer able to maintain a point. The two brushes used for oil paints came out brilliantly – no more oil staining on them! The other four were sufficiently recovered that they’re back with my normal usage with no visible gak at the base of the brushes.
Since them I’ve taken a couple of the brushes I use a lot and managed to condition them, this is quite simply that once they’d been cleaned, I lathered up the bristles with the soap and left them until my next painting session and I’ll admit that it has made a difference. The brush seems to behave more like a brand new brush out the packet.
On first opinion, it would be easy to say that my test with ten brushes had a 20% failure rate, that’s not strictly true – it technically had a 60% success rate. Considering I cleaned around £50 worth of brushes (probably a little more) £5 to recover 6 brushes is a pretty reasonable cost saving.
Money saving aside I wish I’d purchased The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver sooner than I did, in fact I wish I’d bought it when I got my first sable brush. The difference it makes to the brush is really surprising, if you don’t use it I’m sure you’ve had the scenario where all of a sudden your brush splits into two separate bits and whatever you do it just won’t stay as a single point. Once you start regular conditioning with this soap you eliminate this problem. Additionally the brush just seems to flow better.
* Upon going to look for this reseller it would appear that they’ve decided to stop trading – which is typical…