There’s a right tool for every job and a large part of a beautiful paint job is choosing the correct brush. Just as there are two most common types of paints – latex (water based) or oil – there are two most common types of paint brushes – ones with either synthetic or natural bristles. For oil based paint or varnishes, choose a natural bristle brush for the best finish. For latex paints look for a nylon or polyester bristle brush. Natural bristles are hollow on the inside (just like our hair), will absorb the water in latex paints and turn limp.
TIP: Using a stain, patching compound or other hard to clean paint? Consider getting a couple of disposable brushes. Just remember to brush out any loose bristles first since throw away brushes tend to lose hairs.
Which size is right for you? For most jobs, a 2″ or 2 ½” brush is handiest but hold a couple of sizes in first to see which one is the most comfortable in your hand. Remember that if you’re painting out of a quart can, a 2 ½” is the largest size that will fit into the opening without making a mess. Also, if you’re cutting around ceilings, windows, doors, moldings or cabinets consider getting one angled brush to get closer to the edges.
A good brush is an investment so don’t forget to clean it well once you’re done with your project. Most latex paints can be cleaned with a little warm water and oil paints with paint thinner but always check the back of your paint label for any special instructions or solvents. When cleaning, avoid soaking the brush past the ferrule (the metal band that holds the bristles together). It may damage the brush and cause bristles to fall out.
TIP: Stuck with an old, stiff brush? Try brining it back to life by soaking it in hot vinegar for 30 minutes. This should soften most paint residue and restore your brush.