Wargaming Tradecraft: Cleaning Your Brushes


Cleaning Your Brushes

Sometimes brushes just get stiff and unwieldy. Other times it's due to dried paint or other things dried in the bristles. Usually this will be stuff missed during cleaning at the base where the bristles attach to the handle, but sometimes because you may have forgotten to clean your brush.

Don't fret, because all is not lost! Take a jaunt down to your local art store and look for some brush cleaner. You might also find it at hobby or surplus stores. I haven't found much difference in brands and there's plenty to choose from - you'll probably be limited to what's available. You could even try dish soaps and plastic friendly model strippers, but it won't work as well as real stuff.

You're also going to need a plastic surface, preferably with a rim. An old paint lid works great.

  • Dip
    1. Dip your bristles into the cleaner, just past the metal, and then remove it.
      Don't dip past the metal - I've found some cleaners will even eat the paint off the handle of your brush, leaving you to get tacky paint all over your hands.
      Always remove the brush after dipping - don't soak it in the cleaner. It might eat right through what holds the bristles in place.
    2. With the brush out of the cleaner, let it sit for a few minutes so that the cleaner on the brush will start it's job.
      As you repeat steps, you'll probably want to let it sit less. A brief soak helps to loosen things at first, but motion will help more to get the last of it out.
  • Step 1 - Swirl
    This loosens up whatever's stuck in the bristles.
    1. Swirl just the tip of the brush on your plastic surface.
    2. As the bristles become more pliable, widen the swirls and apply more pressure so that more of the bristles are bending. Think of it as painting large ovals.
    3. Turn the brush as you do to apply pressure from different angles.
  • Clean
    1. Wipe the brush on a wet paper towel. You'll notice some colour comes off.
      *Don't dip the brush in your normal water pot, to ensure the cleaner doesn't mix in.
  • Dip
  • Step 2 - Brush
    This will work the cleaner deeper into the brush and start applying pressure into where the bristles attach to the handle.
    1. On your plastic surface, wipe the brush back and forth as if your were painting long lines.
    2. As the bristles become more pliable, apply more pressure.
    3. Turn the brush as you do to apply pressure from different angles.
  • Clean and Dip
  • Step 3 - Scrape
    This will clean off the outside stuff that's caked onto the bristles.
    1. Being careful to not abuse the bristles, brush the bristles against the corner of the rim of your plastic surface. Place the top of the bristles where it connects to the handle against the rim and pull the brush along the rim to the tip
      A smooth but rough surface is also good for rubbing along the outside of the brush. Sand paper would be too rough, but some plastic containers have ridges. A textured gel could also create a good surface to rub the brush along.
    2. Repeat, turning the brush to rub each side along the rim.
  • Clean
  • Repeat all the steps above as necessary.
    • If you notice one working better than the others, stick with it a few times. You'll probably find the brush will quickly give off colour, but will take some repetition to get rid of all the stiffness.
  • Thoroughly clean the brush with water and wipe on a paper towel.
    • You don't want to leave anything behind to continue eating away at the brush.

They won't be good as new, but they'll certainly be usable.
This can slowly eat at the glue holding the bristles in - sometimes you can only clean a brush so many times.


  1. Awesome. I'm new to the hobby and it great to get tips like this every once in a while. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the input. The focus of this blog is to provide not only advanced tricks but also to cover the basics that tend to be overlooked.


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