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The Super Handyman: Taking care of paintbrushes

The old saying “you get what you pay for” applies to a lot of our DIY tools. Paintbrushes are no exception. When you spend money on quality paintbrushes, you want to take care of them so they will last longer. These same tips also will make them more functional. Try some or all of these tips, and keep your brushes in tip-top shape.

The old standard rule of using real hair brushes for oil-based paints and synthetic brushes for latex paints still applies. Not everybody feels that way, but I am a firm believer in this rule and I’m passing it on to you.

Most brushes will come in a good package, so save it for storing your brushes after they have been cleaned.

Before using a new brush, I like to rub it back and forth over a rough surface to loosen any bristles that might not be firmly attached. It’s better they fall out now than end up in your painted surface!

Whatever thinner is recommended by your paint should be used on the bristles before they touch the paint. It helps get them ready for the main ingredient, and since you will no doubt have it handy for cleanup anyway, use it first.

When you are finished painting, put your brushes into solvent right away to start the cleaning process. Instead of plain tap water for latex, I recommend warm water with a little dishwashing liquid mixed in it.

Most people will set their brushes down into a jar or bowl to soak them. But to keep your bristles from curling in the process, attach the brush handle to a length of dowel just a little longer than the brush so that the dowel will sit on the bottom of the container, and the bristles will not.

Before your brush dries, you can use a comb to straighten the bristles. Wrap your brush in the original packaging if it is adequate, or in paper to keep the bristles straight while in storage.

Hanging your brushes by the handle is the best way to store them.

If you take good care of your brushes, they will do a good job for you for many years.


Q: I want my outdoor light fixtures to be black, not white like they are now. What kind of paint should I use? – H.J.

A: Clean it really well first. You can use any exterior enamel spray paint. Mask off anything you don’t want painted and spray it with two coats of paint. That ought to do it.


Baking soda isn’t just for baking anymore. As a matter of fact, it can be used for all sorts of things in the shop and home. Baking soda doesn’t cost very much and just about everybody has a box or two in the house, so why not use it to its full potential? We have put together a list of some of our favorite uses. If you would like a copy of our list “Get Cooking with Baking Soda,” just send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Super Handyman in care of the newspaper, and we’ll get a copy out to you right away. It’s also available directly from our website at, so come on by and pick up a copy for yourself.

Happy New Year from your friends at The Super Handyman column!

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