Cleaning The Large Brushes I Use For Oil Painting


Cleaning the 2″ bristle or horsehair Landscape Brush, 1″ Landscape Brush and 1″ Oval Brush and any of the other large bristle brushes I use for oil painting is quite simple.

  • First rule: Do not use water to clean your oil painting brushes.
  • Second rule: Clean only with odorless Mineral Spirits (OMS) or odorless Turp or wonderful smelling Baby Oil.

Third rule: Put a thinner screen that is coated with plastic or similar material into a bucket no larger than a 2 lb coffee can.

Dip the brush into the thinner bucket (which has odorless thinner or OMS or Baby oil in it) to about 1″ higher than the thinner screen) and swirl your brush around until all of the paint sediments are gone.

  • If you’re using a 2″, or 1″ brush, “beat” the brush on the beater rack (refrigerator grate) inside of an old trash can until all of the cleaning solution is out of the brush. Then tape the brush down firmly onto a paper towel to get the remaining thinner residue out of the brushes.
  • For fan brushes and the filbert brush skip the “beating” and simply wipe the brush dry with a paper towel.

Once you use your landscape brushes, they become stained. You will never be able to get them perfectly clean again. Resign yourself to the fact that there is a certain amount of paint that will always be seen. Do not, repeat, do not use water to clean your oil painting brushes. The thinner becomes dirty, during the cleaning process (it has to because it is removing the paint and oil from your brushes, just like when you wash dirty clothes the water becomes dirty).

Pour dirty or used thinners into a storage container and allow the thinner to set undisturbed for a week. The solids in the thinner will settle to the bottom of the container, clearing (cleaning) the thinner at the top. Then pour the newly clear thinner into yet another container and let it set undisturbed for a week. Now you have clean thinner you can reuse to keep those landscape brushes clean.

If you’re not going to be using your landscape brushes for 2 or 3 days, then dunk them into baby oil and remove the excess using your thumb and forefinger essentially shaping the brush. Store flat until ready to use again.