Sunday, 3 July 2011

Solvent Free Brush Cleaning

I suffer from very severe asthma and solvents really affect my breathing.  It took me a while to figure out why I was so ill at university where the studios were always full of fumes.  

I spent a lot of time in the printmaking studios and they too used solvents for cleaning up.   Once I began to figure out that inhaling vast amount of solvents every day was affecting my health I did a little research and discovered that some printmaking studios in Australia were pioneering a green method of using no solvents at all.  They just cleaned up with vegetable oil and soap and water!

It didn't take me long to realise that the same could be applied to oil painting as well.  

So now I paint almost entirely without solvents.  I do miss them slightly, in fact I love the smell of proper turps and used to love using a turpsy wash to establish the first layers, but it is well worth not using solvents to be able to paint in oils again after thinking I couldn't.

Having said all that, I do take solvents out with me when I do plein air painting because I hardly breathe any in out in the open.

But how do I clean my brushes, you may ask?

First of all, I wipe most of the paint off my brushes onto old phone book pages.

Then I wash the brush in one of those cleaning tanks filled with cheap linseed oil.  

I use proper artists linseed for moistening the paints if absolutely necessary.  Mostly, it isn't necessary and I use the paints straight from the tube.

After washing in the tank and wiping the excess oil off on paper towels or rags, the brushes are ready to be used again.

During the painting process I use a set of brushes for dark and another for light and most of the washing gets done at the end of the painting session.

To clean the brushes properly at the end, I put them through the tank, wipe off the excess oil onto a rag or paper towel, then plonk the brushes in a jar of Daler Rowney Water Washable Brush Cleaner or just simple liquid soap which I keep in a jar with a metal sink filter at the bottom to work the bristles.

I think the DW Cleaner is liquid soap and some kind of oil and that is what I will replace it with when it is all gone.  

The brushes are perfectly clean after this process and once dried they are ready for use the next day.

My lungs are happy, my brushes are happy and I am happy.


Martin Pate said...

I recently started using walnut oil for the majority of my painting medium. I still use a little turp for washes and cleaning. Walnut oil is available in some grocery stores.

Prerana Kulkarni said...

Thanks Rolina for your recent comment on my blog. I liked your article about cleaning brushes... much needed! I used walnut oil until last year, but cleaning brushes was an issue and specially using clean brush during the painting became a problem since there was always a residue of unwanted color on the brush. I am using palette knife for painting since beginning of this year which eliminated all the brush issues.

Crista Forest said...

Have you tried water mixable oils in recent years? I know when they were first introduced years ago they were horrible gummy gunk. But they've come a long way since then. I switched to entirely water-mixables a few years ago and haven't looked back. I use Royal Talens Cobra water mixable oils and love them! They have a wonderful smooth creamy texture, and they clean up easy with just soap and water. No solvents ever!

Rolina said...

Thanks everyone for your great suggestions - they are much appreciated!