How to clean your oil painting brushes using Zest-it Brush Cleaner
Cleaning your Oil Painting Brushes
If you keep your brushes clean, especially at the ferrule end,
they will last much longer and perform well. You have paid good
money for the best quality brushes, but it is very easy to ruin them, if
they are not looked after properly. Brushes need to be cleaned after
each painting session, a good routine will pay dividends.
To make cleaning easier, remove as much paint as possible with kitchen towel.
Wash the brush in Zest-it Oil Paint Dilutant and Brush Cleaner to remove all of the paint from the bristles. A wash pot with a cleaning screen in the bottom, is the simplest way to thoroughly clean your brush.
The screen opens up the centre bristles and allows the Zest-it to penetrate right up to the ferrule end. It's particularly important to remove all traces of paint from this area because paint allowed to dry in the ferrule is the fastest ruination of a brush. Having cleaned the brush. Dry on kitchen towel.
To further protect your smaller brushes, it's a
good idea to give them an extra cleaning 'treat'. After cleaning with Zest-it Oil Paint Dilutant and Brush Cleaner, dip the brush into lukewarm water, then pull the bristles across a bar of household soap or use the Zest-it Artist Hand Soap,
work the bristles in the palm of your hand, rinse the brush and repeat until a lather is formed, repeat this until the lather is clean and not showing any trace of colour, rinse well. Many customers tell us they use the Artists Hand Soap on their brushes as well as their hands as it keeps both conditioned.
Staining of Oil Painting Brushes
Some oil paint pigments can stain the bristle tips of Hog hair brushes, these bristles are very pale coloured natural hair and will therefore take on dyes and pigment stains. The pale colour means the staining shows up more, the staining will not harm the brush, they just looks well used.
Once clean, you can then rinse, dry, and shape the brush, then leave to dry naturally. You can of course shape the bristles of the brush with clean lather still in it and leave to dry naturally. This is useful if you have any 'rogue' bristles that need to be brought back into line, the
lather holds them in place. Make sure you remove the dry lather before using the brush again.
Dried paint in Brushes
If you have any brushes that do have dried paint at the ferrule end, you can breath life back into them with Zest-it Brush Cleaner and oil Paint Dilutant.
Soak the brush well in Zest-it and work it into the bristles at the ferrule, pull the brush back and forth vigorously across the palm of your hand to help loosen the paint, rinse in Zest-it and repeat. You may need to do
this a number of time if the dried paint has been there a while. Dry the brush, but don't wash with water, leave it like this for a couple of days, then repeat with the Zest-it Brush Cleaner.
It takes time for the Zest-it to penetrate the dried paint clinging to the bristles, it is not an aggressive cleaner so patience is rewarded. The citrus oil content of Zest-it helps to keep the natural bristle/hair in good condition. Other types of solvent especially turpentine and white spirit are know to 'leech out' the oil
content of the filaments, causing them to go brittle, dry and then break over time.
Re-using Zest-it Brush Cleaner
It's a good idea to save the Zest-it you have washed the brush in, allow to stand overnight, decant off the clear liquid, leaving the paint 'sludge' behind. The decanted liquid can be re-used for brush washing, it has a long active life and can be used many times over for cleaning your brushes.
You may find a brush that's past it's best can be put to good use in other ways, it may be useful for stippling, foliage or it may make a particular type of mark, it's always as well to make sure it's past redemption before throwing it in the bin.
One major don't. Don't leave the brush standing on it's bristles in any jam jars or containers you are using, the bristles will bend and another brush will be ruined.
Jacqui Blackman © 1999
All the Zest-it products and a good selection of Pro Arte Oil painting brushes can be found in our online shops at or
J and T's Art and Calligraphy
Update 2011, we have a new brush cleaner called "Washaway". You can use this product to clean your brushes and then wash them under the tap.
Put some Zest-it Washaway into a seperate container, wash your brushes in the Washaway, because of the soap content your can then give a final rinse under the tap. Label your container for futher use, your brushes can be washed many times in the product, it's gentle on brush hair and kind to the environment.
Its is very efficient and economical, a small bottle will last a long time. To read more about it click Zest-it Washaway. Washaway is not for use in diluting oil and wax based products.
Types of Brushes Zest-it products