Cleaning oil paint brushes without solvents

Many of my students who would like to work with oil paint, are concerned about the toxicity of solvents. And you’re right to be! Here’s a new video for you, showing you how I clean my brushes without nasty solvents.

There’s no need to soak or wash your brushes in terpenoids or mineral spirits. It’s bad for your health, and it’s bad for your brushes! Even odor less or low-toxic varieties are not necessary at all. Just some oil, a bar of soap and a cloth with a bit of texture is what you need. Don’t forget; it’s just oil we’re dealing with here! You wash oily pots and pans, stains and bird poop (yeah that happened…) from your hair without solvents. 

Here are a few tips from the video:

  • Oil dissolves oil: rinse your paint brushes in a bit of linseed oil to release the paint.
  • Wipe off as much as you can on a paper towel.
  • BE VERY AWARE: oil soaked rags or towels can spontaneously combust. Oil dries by oxidation and that process creates heat. When that heat can’t release itself it will combust. Don’t put oil soaked rag in a garbage container or a pile of stuff. Store them in a fireproof container with a lid, like a pot or pan, until you can dispose of them.
  • Oil needs a certain amount of soap. So repeat the process of rubbing on soap, then rubbing on the cloth.
  • I use a crocheted square I made once. You can use an old wash cloth or something. It helps release the paint if the surface has a bit of texture.
  • Don’t use your nails to rub out paint between the hairs. After a few days your nail beds will quite literally disintegrate. Trust me. I tried.

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