How to Not Wash Brushes

I hate washing brushes. Hate may not even be a strong enough word, but let’s just say that I’ve known to ruin brushes simply because I don’t want to wash them.

It sounds a little wasteful but when you consider that it might take a half hour or more to get a properly cleaned brush, (I’m looking at you synthetics!) the time spent washing a handful of brushes can really eat up your day. (And take time away from painting.)

I’ve tried all sorts of soaps, brush cleaners, automatic brush cleaners, solvents (which I hate), and bribing small children (gets expensive and you have to redo it anyway). So, I was grateful to run across some advice by Virgil Elliott in an article (also in his book Traditional Oil Painting) a few years back about how to never wash a brush.

He recommended using an old coffee can with plastic lid. You just pour an inch or two of linseed or walnut oil in the bottom, and put X shaped holes in the lid, and then you push the handles up through the bottom of the lid and suspend the bristles of the brushes in the oil.

But not being a coffee drinker, I started looking for something else. I was in a craft store and I ran across the SoHo Art Brush Carousel, and I knew I had found the solution. SoHo recommends you use thinner in the bottom and only keep the brushes in there overnight, but I thought oil would be a much better and longer lasting solution.

SoHo Art Brush Carousel
Closed Brush Carousel with brushes suspended in oil.

I went home a tried it out. Weeks went by and I never had to wash a brush! I loved it so much I went and bought another Brush Carousel.

SoHo Art Brush Carousel Open
Open Brush Carousel with brushes suspended in oil.

So far I haven’t had any problems with a single brush or oil painting and I’ve left some brushes in the oil for over nine months. You probably should change the oil more often than I do, but I live in a very dry area and I haven’t had a problem with the oil going rancid. If you have very expensive brushes I recommend this method at your own risk, but I do use Kolinsky Sables and I haven’t had a problem with them.

SoHo Art Brush Carousel Top View
Top view of Brush Carousel showing brushes held by black plastic ring.

P.S. I’m not affiliated with SoHo Corporation in any way, I just like the product.

Brush Carousel at Misterart

Virgil Elliott Atelier