Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to Make the World's Sexiest Brush Rinser

Posted by: Kate

Say hello to my brush rinser:
Hay guyz!
I never used to use much Gamsol while painting.  I would go through about a teaspoon a day while painting, and then use a little more at the end of the day to wipe my brushes clean before soaping up.  I never needed a rinser.  Instead I would grab a new clean brush when necessary.  It wasn't unusual to have twenty dirty brushes at the end of a day.  But I was modelling for Tara Juneau last year and I noticed she uses her brush rinser more than Bob Ross himself.  Now, I love Tara's paintings.  Therefore, I decided to make a brush rinser so that I could make like Tara and Bob Ross it up.  My paintings still don't look like hers, but I like to imagine I look as glamorous as she does when I use it.  I use it constantly while working and sometimes get away with as few as two dirty brushes a day.

Why not buy one?  Most brush cleaners I've seen only have about an inch of room underneath the grill, and then about five or six inches of unusable space up top.  That's stupid.  I want to fill that nasty jar full of toxic gunk and not have to get myself a new one for several years.

I used an old mayo jar the first time around and it was a headache to get the grill in.  I recommend you get yourself a sturdy tupperware with a screw lid.  No snap lids and NO GLASS.  This isn't a BPA-free snack hour at the local Pre-K.  You want something sturdy and smash-proof.

Cut out a square of 1/4 inch avian steel mesh.

Mark off the height of your "shelf" on an old plastic bottle.

Cut up that bottle and stick it in your rinse jar.  I like to cut out a couple little teeth that will stick up through the grill to keep it from shifting around too much.

Now push the grill down over top.  Fill up with mineral spirits to about half an inch above the lowest part of the grill and get ready to rock and roll.  Stay sexy, readers.

Addendum:  Now I know you all collectively lost your heads when we discussed how to make panels but didn't give a detailed list of every aluminum composite provider in North America so that you could all quickly look up your nearest provider.  Avian mesh is also challenging to find.  You will want to find someone who breeds birds (Craigslist is a good place to start).  These handy folk make their own cages and have scrap avian mesh lying around, theoretically.  Or you could get some half-inch chicken wire, which is probably easier to find, but I like the quarter inch aviary stuff pictured above best.  Or, cannibalize an old mesh strainer (50 cents at Goodwill) or ask your local hardware store if they have something appropriate.  I don't know.  You're all brilliant and smart and resourceful.  When you figure something out, share the results in the comments so that others can benefit from your smarts.

And, heeey, did you notice we now have bylines?  Thanks Amanda for suggesting that.  When you've been sharing a toothbrush with someone for seven years you forget that other people actually view you as separate beings, and that they might want to know which half of the borg is narrating a post.

UPDATE 2017: I've noticed that certain brands of tupperware distort after coming in contact with either the solvent or the oil in the paint (not entirely sure which is the source of the problem.  I think oil).  My attempts to use Ziploc scew lid tupperwares resulted in brush rinsers that couldn't be screwed shut after their first few weeks of life (didn't stop me from using them for two years!)  I've now gone back to using mayo and peanut butter jars.


  1. Awesome. Glad to see your byline, and I like the no-glass idea. I'm still on the fence about rinsing with solvent vs. rinsing with vegetable oil. In my studio right now, it's solvent. In my mentor's studio (which is strictly solvent free) it's vegetable oil.

  2. I used to use oil to clean my brushes before soaping up. Works nicely, but all those oily paper towels made me worried about spontaneous combustion. I wonder if a brush rinser full of oil would work. It would take forever for the particulates to settle out, no? That would make it hard to rinse twenty brushes rapidly in succession.

  3. I don't see quite how you are using this. Like Ms. Teicher I have both veg oil and OMS but I have about an inch of solvent above the grid.
    With such a small layer of solvent in this photo it seems to me that you are risking excess wear on the brush against the avian mesh?
    Thank you

    1. Sorry, should have said half an inch in my post. Correction made. I like a lower level of OMS and my brushes have worn fine after a year of use, but do whatever you like.

  4. Thank you
    Great blog and paintings

  5. Several years ago (like 25), I had a similar set up using that rather course screen-like wire mesh, and to tell the truth, that wire ate my brushes (bristles) faster than a hog slurps slop. I finally found some squat cans, like salmon comes in, ate the salmon, and pounded the top of the cans somewhat round. Also, they are smaller in diameter than the container holding the OMS. I use two wash cans, trading off each day. Now, when I swish my brush against the upturned salmon can, they no longer lose bristles to the sharp wire. My brushes last a lot longer, now. I'm not trying to be a spoiler, but offer an alternate solution if you find your brush bristles disappearing too soon.

    1. Great suggestion. Personally, my brushes have been doing fine with the mesh, to my surprise. I try to be gentle, and I do purchase higher quality brushes, and now and then I moisturize the bristles with some hair conditioner. My worst brush-eating nemesis is the coarse duck canvas you find at art supply shops. I completely destroyed a dozen new bristle brushes in two weeks working on that stuff.

  6. use window screen in aluminum or 1/4" hardware cloth, both work great in place of the avian mesh