Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Cleaning Brushes, Part 2
Last week we took a look at one of my least favorite activities: cleaning brushes. This week we'll take a look at something I like even less: cleaning brushes that have been neglected and allowed to harden.

If the finish on a brush has been allowed to harden, you'll need to take more drastic action to clean it than the cleaning routine we covered in last week's tip. I usually try banging the hardened brush on my workbench a few times, but that technique rarely works. So in these situations, I soak the brush in a brush cleaner. The products in our finishing cabinet include Klean-Strip's Brush and Roller Cleaner or Behlen's Klex Brush Cleaner. Your local hardware store will offer several brands.

These cleaners will soften just about any finish because they contain so many different solvents like petroleum distillates for oil-based paints and varnishes, acetones and ketones for lacquers, alcohol for shellac, and for good measure methylene chloride, the main ingredient in most paint strippers.

To recondition a hard brush, hang it overnight from a wire in a can or jar of brush cleaner. The level of the cleaner in the can or jar should reach up to the point where the bristles join the metal ferrule.

To use a small can or jar, drill a hanging hole in the brush handle just above the ferrule. Then push a piece of heavy wire or coat hanger through the hole. The wire should be long enough to extend over the opening of the jar or can.
After the brush has soaked overnight, clean it out with a brush comb and more cleaner (as the solvent), and then soap and water (see last week's tip -- #67).
One of the worst things you can do when cleaning or storing a brush is to place it in a can of solvent with the bristles resting on the bottom of the can. The bristles can become permanently bent from the weight of the brush handle.

To help the brush hold its shape and keep clean while it's drying and during storage, wrap it up in brown paper from a grocery bag. To do this, cut a piece of paper that's a couple times longer and three or four times wider than the bristles. Roll the bristles in the paper, and then fold the excess length up against the side of the bristles. Place a rubber band around the brush to keep the paper in place.

Finally, hang the brush from a nail so the bristles face down.

Go to Tip #69
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