How to Keep Paint Brushes From Drying Out

Some would say that paintbrushes are just as important as the paint you’re using. 

That’s why proper care for your paintbrushes is important. With proper care and maintenance, you can increase the longevity and performance of your brushes. Otherwise, you may find yourself constantly needing to buy new paintbrushes. 

One way to take proper care of your brushes is to keep them from drying out between coats and overnight (if you plan to continue using them the next day).

In this post, let’s learn how to keep paintbrushes from drying out.


Tightly wrapping your brushes in plastic wrap creates an air-tight seal that will prevent them from drying out. Otherwise, the paint will harden and make your brushes stiff. 

How to Keep a Paint Brush From Drying Out DURING Painting

During the painting process, you might take short and long breaks from time to time. For example, it could be that you’re waiting for the first coat of paint to dry. Or you’re taking a quick break to eat lunch. No matter the case, you must make sure that the paintbrush you’re using doesn’t dry out during your breaks.

When Taking a Short Break

If you’re only taking a very short break (15 minutes tops), you can simply dip the bottom one-third of your paint brush’s bristles in the paint and leave it there. This will do two things: it will prevent the paintbrush from drying out, and it will load paint onto the brush, allowing you to quickly get back to painting after your break.

Related: Removing Milk Paint: A Brief Tutorial

When Taking a Long Break (waiting between coats of paint)

If you’re taking a longer break though, such as when waiting for the coat of paint to dry, just leaving your brush in the paint won’t cut it. First, load your paintbrush with a thick coat of paint. This will keep the brush moist, preventing it from drying out.

Next, wrap the entire head of the brush in plastic wrap or plastic bag.

It’s important to create a tight seal so that air does not come into contact with the bristles. This can be done by using masking tape or rubber bands at the neck of the brush to create a tight seal.

You can also use a ziplock bag. Place your paintbrush in the ziplock bag. Remove the air from the bag by squeezing it with your hands or rolling it. Then, close the ziplock bag.

Related: How to Clean Brushes with Mineral Spirits

How to Keep a Paint Brush From Drying Out AFTER Painting 

If you plan to use your paintbrush the next day (or within 2 to 3 days), you don’t necessarily need to clean it. Rather, you can store your paint-soaked brush.

The storage process is practically the same as outlined previously. Place your paintbrush in an airtight bag (such as a ziplock sandwich bag), and seal the bag tightly, making sure that no air gets in. Place the bag in the fridge until you need to use it again.

If you don’t have any upcoming painting projects after you’re done with your current one, then it’s time to clean and store your paintbrush.

Make sure to clean your brush before the paint has a chance to dry. Remove any remaining paint on the brush by running it along the rim of the paint can, and then brushing in a crisscross pattern across one or more sheets of old newspaper or scratch paper.

If you used your brush to apply water-based paint, then use water and dish soap to thoroughly clean it. Rinse your paintbrush with soap and water until there is no trace of paint left. 

If your brush was used to apply oil-based paint, use mineral spirits to clean it. Learn more about how to clean brushes with mineral spirits here.

After you’re done cleaning your brush, dab a towel on it to dry it. Reshape its bristles by hand or with a brush comb if the bristles have been frayed or bent. Next, let your brush fully dry out in a well-ventilated area for a day or two.

Once the brush has fully dried, wrap the head of the brush with heavy paper to protect the bristles. Tie the heavy paper around the head of the brush with a rubber band or string. Then, store it for later use. 

Why Maintaining Your Paint Brush is Important

Great quality paintbrushes aren’t cheap. Replacing them every so often will be a big hit to your wallet. That’s why you want to squeeze out as much value as you can from them. And for you to do that, you need to properly care for and maintain your paint brushes.

Decent paint brushes shouldn’t be treated as disposables to be thrown away after a successful paint job. They’re tools that will accompany you throughout numerous projects if you take the time and steps to properly care for them. You can expect your brush to last years with proper maintenance.



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