Don’t Want to Clean The Brush?

Gesso and Freezing Brush

Amy posted a comment on yesterday’s blog post about using gesso to prep cardstock, reminding blog readers that putting *acrylic paints down the drain can be a threat to your plumbing. (If you tend to just read the blog posts right away and don’t come back to see what comments are left, you can miss some interesting stuff!) So what do you do if you don’t want to put a lot of acrylic paint down the drain?

* UPDATE: Amy clarified in the comments below that she was specifically referring to gesso. However, acrylic gesso is a type of acrylic paint that, like other acrylic paints, hardens to  permanent coat when dry. If acrylic paint dries inside pipes and enough of it builds up, it can cause clogs. So Amy’s caution about acrylic gesso is apt for acrylic paints in general.

First, you can try to use up as much of the acrylic paint on your brush and palette as possible to minimize clean up. If you have a lot left, brush it over some extra paper, let it dry and save it for another project. In this particular case, we were talking about using gesso to prep cardstock. If you like to use gesso-prepped cardstock, you could prep a number of sheets to use in the future and then you only have to clean the brush and palette once.

Second, if you are working with acrylic paint and need to pause, remember that you can wrap the brush in plastic wrap and then put it in a Ziploc bag. This will keep it moist enough that the paint won’t dry to a hard coat while you take a break. If you don’t have time to clean it and want to use the same brush with the same paint tomorrow or next week, put the wrapped brush in the freezer. Pull it out and allow about an hour to thaw before you use it the next time. This too cuts down on cleaning chores.

Because I wanted a smooth coat of gesso with as little brush stroke texture as possible, I used an inexpensive wide flat foam brush. These things typically cost pennies at the craft store. If you use this type of brush and a throw-away palette (like plastic from packaging), you could simply throw away the brush and plastic and not need to clean a brush at all. (Obviously inexpensive foam brushes are not appropriate for all projects.)

If you do want to clean the paint brush, you’ll find directions in VSN’s “Sponge & Brush Techniques For Stampers” eArticle. The eArticle also has a link to a good quick video on brush cleaning and a couple of good online web pages on brush care and cleaning.

I poked around online this afternoon to look into the subject of properly disposing of acrylic paint rinse water. The accepted practice for dealing with it seems to be to put it in a bucket, let the water evaporate and then dispose of the solids. That keeps acrylic paint tainted water out of the drain and the environment.

Nancie, VSN

8 thoughts on “Don’t Want to Clean The Brush?

  1. Wow, never thought about that. Well, learned two things today, don’t rinse acrylic paint at your kitchen sink and don’t wash chicken and meat before you cook it. (that came from government and says it spreads the salmonella everywhere, who knew)

    1. I wouldn’t worry about it Jan, I do too. Washing a small paint brush is not the same as washing a house painting brush of roller. I think it is fine in small amounts esp when you consider the nasty chemicals that we use to clean the toilet with, a little tinge water is nothing :)

  2. Hi there. I just wanted to say, I’m the Amy who commented about GESSO down the drain. I dilute my acrylic paints with Dawn and water and rinse my brush out at my kitchen sink like most others do. It is only the gesso that I don’t do! It’s because I asked our plumber about it. I think I said just what Lindsey did, it’s only a little brush. He said okay, if you rinse that little brush 3 times a week, each time the gesso gathers in a pipe bend and over time it builds up. Gesso has chalk-like binders that make it stronger than acrylic paint and much less flexible when dry. So, for me, I don’t want to limit when I gesso (I art journal a lot) AND I don’t want to have to worry about my pipes. And I just dump the gesso water into our rock garden cuz it’s chalk rock to begin with.

    1. Hi Amy, I’m curious about this. I’m not an acrylic paint expert by any stretch; acrylic is not my main art medium. I’ve just read a lot about it and used it in my stamping over the years. But my understanding is that there is traditional gesso which is made of binder, chalk and pigment. Then there is acrylic gesso that’s only been around for the past 60 or so years. It is a form of acrylic paint but with calcium carbonate included to create the ground. Technically it’s not the same thing as traditional gesso. Part of the reason that acrylic gesso has become popular is that it is not as rigid as traditional gesso and dries flexible like acrylic paint so that it can be used on canvas without the rigidness of traditional gesso. So I’m curious if the plumber was singling out gesso because he was thinking of the traditional version or if he was indeed meaning the acrylic gesso. I’m honestly not arguing with you about this, because regardless of which version you use, I think keeping it out of your plumbing is reasonable.

      I’ve never used the traditional version of gesso, but I am cautious about acrylic paints. My home has a well and a septic system. So I’m pretty cautious about what I dump outside in my yard or down my drain. I try to minimize acrylic paint going down the drain by getting as much off the brush and tools as possible before I go anywhere near the sink, so as little as possible gets into my plumbing. From my point of view, I could probably run the water for a while to keep the wet paint moving enough so that it doesn’t sit and dry and coat the pipes, but with a septic system, it’s going to end up somewhere in the system and will eventually harden. A clogged septic system is not fun. I’m not saying that I’ve never rinsed a paint brush in the sink. But I try to minimize it.

  3. Hi….just had a thought…. Has anyone considered calling a couple of plumbers and asking their opinions about gesso and acrylic paint / drains? Maybe someone knows a plumber personally that they could ask.

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