Brush Despair

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Brush Despair

From Virgil Elliott

Published before 2005


Timothy Tyler wrote: But what does the silicoil do to your paintings the next day when you use them? Thats'a question I always ask for all the brush care products. The paintings Must matter more than the brushes.

Tim, Brad, et al.

I've used Silicoil, and came to suspect it was mostly kerosene, or perhaps all kerosene. Old-time sign painters use kerosene to clean their brushes, because it leaves a very small amount of non-volatile oil behind after the volatile components have evaporated, which acts as a conditioner, soaking into the brush hairs. I've used kerosene for brush cleaning at the end of the day, as it works just as well as Silicoil and is less expensive, but I follow that with a rinse in mineral spirits and/or soap and water, to remove the oil residue left behind by the kerosene. And yes, vegetable oils are indeed emulsified in soap-and-water, more easily than automotive grease and oil are. I have salvaged many old brushes that had dried paint on them twenty years old and older, by cleaning them out with soap and water, leaving the lather on after each rinsing and re-lathering, repeating for as many days as it takes to get it all out.

Brad, if there is still damar on your bristles, I suggest soaking them in turpentine for a day, then in Weber's Turpenoid Natural, which is citrus peel solvent and linseed oil, and then do the soap-and-water cleaning. Turpenoid Natural is a very strong solvent that will eat dried varnish and oil paint two hundred years old. I don't recommend it for anything but cleaning brushes. While I'm working, I usually use different brushes for different colors instead of cleaning brushes to change colors, but when I do need to clean a brush in the heat of battle, I just use safflower oil or walnut oil, two containers, sequentially, and a rag.

Virgil Elliott