Reconditioning Battered Brushes

Proper care of brushes is part of hobby organization that can fall by the wayside.

A lack of organization creeps up on me.  Over the course of the month I've happily whiled away at my hobby station with the "working area" gradually diminishing to a point where I was hard-pressed to find purchase for anything but my hands and the model I was painting at the time.  It begins innocently enough with a couple of paint pots I'm working at, a couple brushes I'm switching between and then a detritus of model parts, partial paper clips, you get the idea.I took some time to do a bit of hobby maintenance as a result.  The usual putting things back where they belong but I decided I'd do a bit of premature Spring cleaning on my brush collection.

Usual Suspects:  Note the accumulation of gunk at the base of the bristles
With proper care and maintenance brushes can enjoy a long and productive life.  I try to keep my brushes clean and usually have a bar of brush soap on hand when I'm painting.  This is usually enough to keep points on detail brushes in good order but dry brushes and stippling brushes usually have harder lives and benefit from a good cleaning occasionally.  In the case of all my brushes the bit I tend to neglect is the point where the bristles are gathered up under the ferule.  Build up of paint in this area can be the cause of splaying that ruins the point of the brush.
To the rescue
For a deep cleaning I start by immersing the brush in acrylic paint cleaner.  I stow it in a glass jar because the stuff eats plastic like a boss.  If you use this stuff I'd suggest doing so it a well ventilated area becuae it has a strong odour.  The heads of the brushes and the lower part of the ferule should be in the solution; if you dip the stem it will strip the paint from the handle.  To keep the brushes in place I use a piece of foamcore with a paper face;  I used to used to use rubber bands but they were fiddly and the fumes from the cleaner damaged them.  Once the brushes have sat for 15 minutes remove them and stroke them across a piece of paper towel to remove the paint fouling.  If there is still buildup on the brush you can repeat the process.  Once I'm happy with the appearance of the brush I rinse it because that stuff is pretty nasty.
Even a stippling brush can be recovered

Afterwards I condition the brush with some brush soap, shaper or both depending on the type and state of the brush.  Soap and shaper both condition the hairs of a brush and keeping them supple and extending their life.  Brush shaper is helpful if a brush is not coming to a point as nicely as it had been.  I usually lett a brush sit with soap in it for an hour just to let the lather work into it.  If I am repairing a point with shaper I let the brush sit overnight.  A brush that has sat in shaper will be rigid once it dries so water it down before using it again.
A lather soap is good for the health of brush hairs

I use Winsor and Newton Brush Cleaner and Restorer, Masterson's Brush Soap and Mona Lisa Brush Shaper.  I haven't used other similar products but found these each did what they are supposed to quite nicely.   Hurray.  Now that I've got my brushes cleaned up nice I can't blame my mistakes on my shoddy tools.
GW Tank Brush:  One of my favorites.  Still works like a charm.