I have used high quality china bristle paintbursh for various projects over the years. It was used for some exterior oil based paint, but mainly it has been used to varnish various hardwoods after they were stained (stain not applied with the brush). After every use, I clean it off with thinners, and spin it dry using a paintbrush spinner.

Recently I have noticed that the bristlse are getting stiffer and stiffer, from the base of the brushes up toward the end. I's say that the bottom half closest to the handle is completely stiff and the bristles wont move.

I tried soaking it in thinners for an extended period of time, but that did not break it down and free them up. Is there a good way to fix this brush, or has it just reached the end of it life? How do I go about preventing this, was it do to inadequate cleaning after use?

1 Answer 1


I've had some success with recovering a gummed-up brush using a paint brush comb. Soften the bristles by soaking them in thinner for a while, then use the comb to brush out loosened paint; repeat, probably several times. If the brush is really bad, you may just be better off buying a new brush.

It's hard to get a brush completely clean, so to help prevent this, I have a large glass jar with some mineral spirits in the bottom. I hang the brush from the top of the jar with wires so that the bristles are submerged (but not resting on the bottom). Seal up the jar and the brush is OK to use next time.

  • so it is ok to leave a brush in the thinners for extended periods of time? I was nervious doing it for 30 minutes!
    – mohlsen
    Oct 22, 2010 at 16:18
  • I've left one in there for months; it's probably not ideal, but it's better than having it turn into a solid block of paint or varnish.
    – Niall C.
    Oct 22, 2010 at 16:28

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