Oil Paints – brush cleaning made easier

Do oil paint brush-cleaning solvents make you puke? Read on for my tips on cleaning brushes after a messy oil-painting session with big brushes!

(If preamble irritates you, please jump to pics below)

When I started using oil paints after many years of acrylics I was delighted with the depth of colour and coverage (oil paint pigments go further than acrylic). The down side was drying times as I like to layer and work quickly, but it led to a new style of painting. I can switch back to acrylics sometimes but I predominantly use oil now.

The big disadvantage is the mess and stench of solvents. I quickly realised turps were impossible for me – I’m a bit sensitive to fumes. So, like many artists I looked online for solutions and discovered ‘Zest It’ – a great solvent for diluting oil paint (though it still stinks in my opinion!).

Zest It recommend you use their products for cleaning brushes. That’s ok if you don’t mind the fumes and are happy to spend a fortune on their product.

But! I discovered that cheap vegetable oil cleans off the oil paint quite easily. The issue is the heavy oiliness though. I tried washing up liquid to remove the oil, but despite using tonnes of it, the brushes never quite cleaned up.

My main tip for today is washing powder! Not gel stuff or liquid sachets (I find those a bit toxic-smelling and why buy more plastic?). No, some good old-fashioned powder in a big cardboard box works best.

Happy cleaning!

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