Paint Brush Care: How To Rescue a Petrified Brush

Don't throw away expensive paintbrushes—they can be saved!

Paintbrushes full of dried paint or varnish don't have to be discarded. Done properly, a good soak in brush cleaner can restore the bristles to almost-new condition.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Reviving a fossilized paintbrush

Whether it’s caked with dried paint or varnish, a crusty paintbrush can be restored to like-new condition. Here’s how: Pick up a can of brush cleaner at a paint or hardware store and pour some into a glass or metal container. Drill a 1/8-in. hole through the brush so you can suspend it on a stiff wire. The brush cleaner gives off nasty, flammable vapors, so cover the container with a plastic bag and set it in the garage or outside, out of reach of children and pets. After the brush has been soaking for a day or two, most of the paint will drop off it. Then pour brush cleaner in another container and slosh the brush around to wash out the remaining paint. Let both containers sit overnight. The paint sludge will settle to the bottom, so you can pour most of the brush cleaner back into the can, ready to rescue another brush.

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Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Brush cleaner
  • Glass jar