Paint brushes and roller sleeves can be expensive so you’ll want to get plenty of use out of them. For someone who only does the odd bit of painting and decorating a decent quality set of brushes should last for years – provided you look after them.
More often than not brushes are rendered useless when they are stored in a jar of water between jobs and forgotten about. In no time at all the water evaporates and the paint on the brushes dries as hard as nails.
You can sometimes recover brushes that haven’t been left for too long by soaking them in a solution of paint-stripper but this isn’t an ideal solution and the brushes will never be the same again.
The obvious answer then is to make sure you clean your brushes properly after each job and store them away safely until they are needed again.
However, if you are certain you’ll be using them again in a day or so there are safe ways to store brushes and rollers without having to clean them out and without doing any term long-term damage.
Water Based Paints – Bag it up!
For brushes and rollers that will be left overnight, or over the weekend, you can simply wrap them tightly in a plastic bag – ensuring there is no air trapped inside – which will prevent the paint from drying out and allowing you to simply pick up where you left off.
This method is fine when using water based paints like vinyl matt but you should take care with oil based paints as they can dry out fairly quickly even when not exposed to air – left overnight you’ll probably get away with it, but don’t leave it any longer than that.
Brushes and rollers used with spirit based paints and varnishes or two-pack epoxy paints should always be cleaned after use with the appropriate thinners as these kind of paints will dry-out regardless of what you do.
OK, you can sometimes get away with leaving the brush inside the tin of unused paint but it’s not something I’m going to recommend. Not only can it get very messy but you’ll be doing your brushes some serious long-term damage if you do.
Harris Brush Tub (from B&Q) – this plastic tub with a lid is a bit more secure than a jam jar for storing brushes in water and, at less than a fiver, a worthwhile investment.
Paint Brush Cover (from amazon.co.uk) – these plastic covers snap shut to provide an airtight seal and can be washed after use. At £3, it may be an expense too far for some – but if you’ve spent good money on brushes it’s worth protecting them.
Roller Cover (from amazon.co.uk) – if you’ve invested a few quid in some decent roller sleeves then it may be worth using one of these plastic covers? They fit all standard sleeves (up to 9″) and snap shut securely. You can even leave the sleeve on the roller frame if you want to?
Oil Based Paints – Put it in a water!
If you’ve been using conventional oil-based gloss or undercoat then it’s perfectly ok to store your brushes in a jar or can of clean water. You can do this successfully for an almost indefinite period of time provided you keep the water topped-up.
There are, however, a couple of downsides to this method – OK, three, if you forget to top the water up!
Firstly, because the weight of the brush will be resting on the end of the bristles you can soon find your brushes getting out of shape.
Secondly, the handle of your brush will slowly absorb some of the water and will swell – when the brush is eventually cleaned out and stored in a dry condition the wood will dry out and contract.
The end result of this could be that the bristles become loose and start to fall out; a professional painter needn’t worry about this because he can keep his brushes in water all of the time – an occasional user is probably better off only using this method overnight.
There are a few products on the market for storing wet paint brushes, from a couple of quid to over £50 depending on what you need.
If you do a fair bit of painting then it may be worth taking a tip from the professionals and investing in some proper kit?
The Brushmate Wet Brush Storage System (from amazon.co.uk) is a must-have for any professional painter – allowing the safe storage of brushes without having to clean them out after use.
They use a unique vapour system which prevents oil-based paints from drying out. The special fluid soaked pads used can be replaced periodically to ensure that stored brushes never dry out – so, in theory, brushes can be stored in the Brushmate indefinitely.
This 4 brush version costs from around £18 and replacement vapour pads can be bought for around £1.50. Although this is aimed at the trade user the low cost makes it a practical alternative to the simple water filled tub for a keen DIY’er.
This version costs from around £50 upwards and the top-up fluid is around £8. This might appear quite expensive but when you consider the cost of replacing brushes it’s an investment which will pay back year after year.