Brushes are an essential part of any painter’s toolkit, but they can be difficult to maintain at times. As the paint dries, it hardens on the brush’s bristles, making it difficult to use. Luckily, there are many different ways to soften brushes so you can continue painting immediately after applying your final coat of paint! Learn more about the best ways to soften brushes and how you can use them in your next project.
How to soften paint brushes
1- Use fabric softener
It’s one of my favorite tricks for softening brushes. Just like with clothing, fabric softener works by creating a layer of soap around paintbrushes, helping to break up any dried acrylic and keep your brush from drying out. Pour some fabric softener into a plastic container and place your brushes in it so that they’re completely submerged. Leave them there for around 24 hours. The longer you leave, the softer they’ll get—just don’t forget about them! Afterward, rinse them thoroughly under running water.
2- Place your brushes in hot water
There are many ways you can warm your brushes up, but placing them in hot water is by far one of the best. Bring a pot of water to a boil, place your brushes inside and let them soak for 5-10 minutes. This will help soften and break down hard paint buildup that makes it difficult for paintbrushes to hold onto the color.
3- Soak your brushes in vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is a useful substitute for expensive solvent-based softening products. Soak your brushes in a small cup of vegetable oil and let them sit for about 20 minutes. Use a paintbrush comb to remove excess oil, and you’re all set! Vegetable oil can also be used as a lubricant on tools such as screwdrivers and crowbars. A thin layer of vegetable oil applied over metal before usage will increase tool longevity.
4- Leave your brush bristles down on concrete
When your paintbrush bristles are down on concrete, it forces all of the water out of them. This is a good way to dry them out if you’re in a pinch, but it doesn’t work miracles. Your paintbrush will still have some stiffness once you pick it up again—in fact, leave your brush bristles down on concrete overnight and they may not return to their normal state at all.
5- Wet an old toothbrush and bend it into the shape of a spoon
Put some water on your old toothbrush, and with a pair of scissors cut off any plastic bristles. Place it in an empty container and bend it into a spoon shape. That’s your brush! Use dish soap for oil-based paint, or use water for acrylics or latex paint. Dipping it in will make your brushes soft again, but keep in mind that there is some risk involved.
6- Use Vinegar for softening paint brushes
Vinegar can work well for softening paint brushes. You may want to try adding a cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar with a cup of warm water, then letting your brush soak for about 15 minutes.
7- Add glycerin soap flakes to boiling water
Glycerin soap will soften paint brushes and prevent them from drying out quickly. Just add a small amount of glycerin soap flakes (or liquid glycerin if you don’t have flakes) to a pot of boiling water. Let your brushes soak in it for about an hour before using. Keep adding fresh hot water as needed to keep your brush from floating away. After an hour, get them out and let them air-dry overnight.
8- Steam them (skip this if you use latex!)
This is the most effective method if you have a clothing steamer, as it’s much safer than boiling water. You can also use a pot of boiling water, but try not to let your brushes get too close to direct heat for too long. If you don’t have a steamer or pot, soak your brushes in hot water mixed with baby shampoo for about 15 minutes. Rinse them well and hang them upside down from a hook until they dry fully.
Softening paint brushes is easy, and you can do it in a matter of minutes. With the knowledge here, you can ensure your brushes are ready for use and that you don’t get the dreaded brush hairs falling out when you use it. So don’t wait any longer, get to softening your paint brushes today!