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Expert Advice: Cleaning Paint Brushes

Painting expert Brian Santos reveals his special method for cleaning paint tools. Read more in his new book, "Painting Secrets."

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Author Brian Santos

Q. What's the best way to clean a paint brush?

Brian Santos: Taking care of brushes, rollers, and pads will save you time, energy, and money. Don't throw your tools in a bucket or sink and expect them to clean themselves; they'll be ruined, and you'll end up throwing them away and buying new ones.

A Wall Wizard knows: It's no pain to maintain. Clean your brushes every two hours while working with water-based paint and at the end of your project.

Read below for tips and my secret with fabric softener!

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You can clean water-based paint from brushes and paint pads in 10 seconds:

1. Remove excess paint from the brush or pad by scraping it with the edge of a 5-in-1 tool or the teeth of a brush-cleaning tool.

2. Mix up several gallons of this magic potion in a 5-gallon bucket: For every gallon of warm water, add 1/2 cup of fabric softener. The fabric softener is a surfactant -- it actually makes the water wetter, so it can more easily dissolve paint.

3. Dip your brush into the mixture, swish briskly through the water, and count to 10. The paint will release from the bristles and settle to the bottom of the bucket.

4. To dry your paintbrush quickly, use a paintbrush spinner to fling water from the brush. Spin the brush in a wet waste bucket. To make one, start with an empty 5-gallon plastic bucket with lid. Cut an 8-inch hole in the center of the lid. Place a plastic trash bag in the bucket and snap on the lid. The lid keeps the splatter inside the bucket; toss the bag when finished. Rub the tool dry with a small towel.

Quick Tips:

Don't clean the brush with dish soap; it will gum up the ferrule and bristles. And there's no need to rinse the tool in fresh water. The more often you clean it with the softener solution, the better it gets. Fabric softener coats the handle, ferrule, and bristles, allowing paint to flow effortlessly off the tool. Magical!

Follow the same steps for rollers and paint pads. Rollers take a little more time -- about 30 seconds -- and they might require multiple dippings.

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