Care of Decorating Tools

Decorating tools, as opposed to more general DIY tools, are beginning to become more disposable, but good quality tools can be made to last a lifetime if they are looked after. By decorating tools we’re thinking of paint brushes, rollers and trays, kettle, wallpapering brushes, that sort of thing.

The biggest problem is of course getting paint and glue out of all of these tools. There are two groups of products used in decorating as far as household DIY is concerned – those that are water soluble and those that aren’t.

Water Soluble Glues and Paints

With water soluble paints such as emulsion, and wallpaper pastes then the cleaning after a day’s decorating can be done in water. If you aren’t going to be using the brushes for a while they should be thoroughly cleaned of all paint residue. This involves scraping of as much of the excess as possible with a stick, then running the brushes or rollers in water until all the paint is dissolved out.

The final wash can be with a mild soap solution but make sure that is rinsed out thoroughly too. Then they should be combed out and left to dry in a warm place. Once dry (because damp bristle brushes can attract mildew) the brushes should be wrapped in greaseproof paper before being put away. Rollers and paint trays should be treated in a similar way.

Solvent-Based Paints and Varnishes

With paints that aren’t water soluble, like most gloss or woodwork paints, the process is the same but you will need to use turps (turpentine substitute) or white spirit to break down the paint rather than water. There are newer gloss paints on the market that can be cleaned in water and others that won’t work with turps or white spirit. The latter you will need to clean with the product which is recommended for thinning them. If in doubt then there’s always cleaning instructions on the tin.

These overall guidelines can be applied for cleaning paint off most of the other decorating tools that you might use. Paint kettles, roller trays and the various tools used to mix paint and glue before application can all be cleaned in the same way.

Overnight Care for Brushes

But if you are painting over a weekend you might not want to clean all those brushes and rollers off for just one night, if you are going to be starting again in the morning. There is a practice that is generally frowned upon in the trade but will work for a short period, overnight for example, which is to suspend the brushes and rollers in water.

Note the use of the word ‘suspend’ there, it means that leaving brushes standing on their bristles in a jam jar of water is not the right thing to do. This will cause the brush bristles to curve and make it very hard to use. With cheap brushes this may loosen the bristles so that you spend the following day constantly picking them out of your fresh paint.

Proper Care

The way to do this properly is to drill holes in the handles of the brushes, if they don’t have them already, and put sticks or wires through so that the brushes dangle, supported on the lip of the jar. Then fill the jar with water until just the bristles are submerged.

Make sure you wipe the excess off first through, then in the morning wipe the water off onto a rag and you’re ready to go. Rollers can be submerged vertically in a bucket of water.

Quality Wins Over Price

There’s a temptation to buy cheap brushes for decorating and then throw them away when you’re done, but buying the best you can afford and looking after them will give a better quality finish.