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GLAZED OVER: How to clean your brushes in minutes

I hope my simple checklists based on practical application will help any newcomers to oil painting. If nothing else, they serve as a useful revision tool for me!

How I loathed cleaning brushes until I came across this excellent advice from Mark Carder at He advises pulling your dirty brush through a paper towel (just once) at the end of a painting session then dipping it into a “brush dip” and storing it flat until next use. Then pull it through a paper towel again.

To make the "brush dip”, mix together 500ml of artist-grade safflower oil and 10ml (i.e. 2%) of pure clove leaf or clove bud oil (though I use a basic clove oil from Boots, £2.99). Store it in an air-tight bottle and decant into smaller jars as needed.

It’s best to re-dip every 7-14 days…I love the smell of cloves so that’s no hardship. But all oils will dry out in time so at some point you will need to brave the fumes and mineral spirits for a deep clean.

If you’re working with slow drying paint and using your brushes the next day, there’s no need to dip them.

A dipped brush will not be completely clean, but most of the time adding a little “dirt” to a mix will not matter. For pure colours like black, work your brush into the colour and pull it through a paper towel before using it.

If you’re very disciplined (I’m not!) keep separate brushes for the darkest and lightest colours. I carefully labelled an old wine rack to separate my brushes by size and type but ended up with all the brushes lying across the top in no particular order dripping oil on to the floor.

Colour swatches help me to plan my palette...more about that in a future post

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