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Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes with Linseed Oil and Yardley of London Shea Butter Soap

Linseed oil is readily available in many oil painters’ studios.  Yardley London Shea Butter Soap can be purchased from  a dollar store or pound shop on the cheap.  These two ingredients make for the basis of an excellent cleaning system for cleaning oil painting brushes.

Cleaning Technique:

  1. Pour linseed oil into a bowl or jar, basically enough to cover, soak and wash the brushes in.
  2. Soak the brushes in the oil for several minutes.  If the paint is encrusted, this may take more time and a bit of pressing on the bristles may be necessary to work the oil into the brushes.  For stubborn brushes, leave to soak overnight.
  3. Pull the brushes from the oil and wrap them in a cloth to continue soaking for a few hours.
  4. Wipe off the excess oil with a cloth or paper towel.
  5. In a copper bowl(copper is used because with a bit of heat from hot running water soap will quickly soften) soften a small chunk of Yardley London’s Shea Butter soap.  This soap has just the right mix of ingredients necessary to clean and recondition a brush.  Read the label and you will be amazed at what is in it.
  6. The softened soap can be squeezed in hand like putty.  Take each brush and run the bristles into the soap in your hand and pack it in until saturated.

    I use the small leftover bars of this soap after they have been used as hand soap.

  7. Lay brushes on damp rag and cover for an hour or so to let the soap work.
  8. Rinse the brushes under running water, then place in container with warm water no more than ferrule high for a final rinse soak.  Remove after a few minutes, re-rinse under running water and hang to dry after patting out excess water.  Dry brushes with bristles down. I simply tape them on my studio desk with painters tape.

    Final Rinse Soak

    Drying brushes upside down so as not to loosen glue in ferrule.

Discussion on cleaning mechanism.

Linseed Oil is used as a thinner(medium) for oil paint in the studio.  It will soften the oil, but increase the drying time of the paint.  I use an old fashioned stainless steel lunch tray with a few dividers as a paint mixing pan(palette).  Since there is usually a bit of linseed oil left over in one of the wells after a painting session, I use this excess to clean the remaining oil paint out of the pan at the end of the painting session.  The linseed oil quickly cleans the tray.  By rubbing your brush in the remaining oil and then wiping out the excess with a paper towel after painting, your brushes will stay clean and soft on an ongoing basis.

Some artists prefer to pay top dollar for super duper refined linseed oil with a fancy label on it.  I use good old fashioned Boiled Linseed Oil from my local hardware store for around $8.00 per gallon.

Caveat: Safety Precautions:

  1. The question that may arise for some: Is linseed oil toxic to the skin?  If one has this concern, click here, read the following studies, and then one may determine that for oneself. My personal conclusion was that since cleaning brushes does not involve the consumption of Linseed Oil, the effects, if any, according my reading of these studies would be minimal if any in a short exposure period.   Again, this is one person’s opinion, not scientific certified fact.  For me, contact with Boiled Linseed Oil has not caused any skin disorders or rashes.  One may be inclined to wear gloves if one has this concern.
  2. Never store rags soaked in linseed oil in closed boxes or bags.  They build up heat and can spontaneously combust.
  3. Learn how your city prefers you to dispose of hazardous materials.  Many cities sponsor a couple of free collection days each year for such.  Store any old rags etc. in enclosed heavy duty metal storage containers with water added.  Never flush chemicals and oils down your drain as you are likely to get it right back in your own drinking water later. 

Yardley’s Shea Butter Soap is one of the best hand washing soaps around.  I use it to wash my hands after coming in contact with not only paints but varnishes, and other toxic painting chemicals.  Below is an ingredient list.  The chemicals and extracts listed in bold are the ones that clean and soften your brushes.

Chemical Fact: Water is world’s best and most widely found and used solvent!  Water is the “inert ingredient” listed in thousands of household cleaning products.

  • Sodium Tallowate – ( A true Soap)
  • Water – (Natures cleanser)
  • Sodium Palm Kernelate or Cocoz Nucifera(coconut) Oil – (Basically a Moisturizer used in soaps)
  • Glycerin – (This ingredient will make your brushes soft…..click here to read why it is used in skin care products)
  • Fragrance(Parfum) – (the smell good in a soap)
  • Tallow acid – (Helps soap remain hard)
  • Coconut acid – (another firming ingredient and makes soap lather well)
  • Petrolatum – (used as a moisturizing agent in soap)
  • Sodium choride – (helps keep soap solidified)
  • Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter Extract – (one of nature’s best moisturizers for the skin….will help soften your brush bristles)
  • Buttermilk Powder – (helps soap make a creamy lather)
  • Titanium Dioxide – (a whitener)
  • Tetrasodium Etidronate – (helps stabilize colors introduced into soap)
  • Pentaosodium Pentetate – (helps stabilize color and consistency in soap)

The photos shown above are from a brush cleaning I started yesterday.  Notice in particular the difference between the color of the bowl of fresh linseed oil and the bowl that my brushes were washed in.  The linseed oil is doing the heavy lifting in this cleaning method.  The soap is final touch and conditioner.

On a final note, I suspect if one uses a different type of oil for an oil painting medium, say sunflower oil, it is likely to work just as well.  For that matter, olive oil makes a decent brush cleaner.

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Quotations

Among the various studies of natural processes, that of light gives most pleasure to those who contemplate it.

— Leonardo Da Vinci

The Treasure of Abbot Thomas – from Ghost Stories of M.R. James

I

Verum usque in præsentem diem multa garriunt inter se Canonici de abscondito quodam istius Abbatis Thomæ thesauro, quem sæpe, quanquam adhuc incassum, quæsiverunt Steinfeldenses. Ipsum enim Thomam adhuc florida in ætate existentem ingentem auri massam circa monasterium defodisse perhibent; de quo multoties interrogatus ubi esset, cum risu respondere solitus erat: “Job, [...] Read more →

The Age of Chivalry

CHAPTER 1 – Introduction

KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS

On the decline of the Roman power, about five centuries after Christ, the countries of Northern Europe were left almost destitute of a national government. Numerous chiefs, more or less powerful, held local sway, as far as each [...] Read more →

The History of Witchcraft in England – The Beginnings

The Beginnings of English Witchcraft

It has been said by a thoughtful writer that the subject of witchcraft has hardly received that place which it deserves in the history of opinions. There has been, of course, a reason for this neglect—the fact that the belief in witchcraft is no longer [...] Read more →

Penal Methods of the Middle Ages

CHAPTER I

PENAL METHODS OF THE MIDDLE AGES

Prisons as places of detention are very ancient institutions. As soon as men had learned the way to build, in stone, as in Egypt, or with bricks, as in Mesopotamia, when kings had many-towered fortresses, and the great barons castles [...] Read more →

Country House Essays Book Now in Print

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Clarivoyance by C.W. Leadbeater

Theosophical Society, Adyar, Madras, India, 1890

CLAIRVOYANCE

by C. W. Leadbeater

Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Pub. House

[1899]

CHAPTER IX

METHODS OF DEVELOPMENT

When a men becomes convinced of the reality of the valuable [...] Read more →

Westminster Confession of Faith – 1646

CHAPTER I. Of the Holy Scripture.

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary [...] Read more →

Growing Muscadine Grapes in Tennessee

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Platform of the American Institute of Banking in 1919

Resolution adapted at the New Orleans Convention of the American Institute of Banking, October 9, 1919:

“Ours is an educational association organized for the benefit of the banking fraternity of the country and within our membership may be found on an equal basis both employees and employers; and in full appreciation [...] Read more →

Parting Words to Kate from The Sloop of War, Jamestown

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Several years ago, I purchased a small memory book entitled Album of Love from the mid 1800s.

Much like scrap books of today, these books were used to keep [...] Read more →

Historic authenticity of the Spanish SAN FELIPE of 1690

Model of San Felipe

Reprinted from FineModelShips.com with the kind permission of Dr. Michael Czytko

The SAN FELIPE is one of the most favoured ships among the ship model builders. The model is elegant, very beautifully designed, and makes a decorative piece of art to be displayed at home or in [...] Read more →

The Late Rev. H.M. Scarth

H. M. Scarth, Rector of Wrington

By the death of Mr. Scarth on the 5th of April, at Tangier, where he had gone for his health’s sake, the familiar form of an old and much valued Member of the Institute has passed away. Harry Mengden Scarth was bron at Staindrop in Durham, [...] Read more →

Classic Restoration of a Spring Tied Upholstered Chair

This video by AT Restoration is the best hands on video I have run across on the basics of classic upholstery. Watch a master at work. Simply amazing.

Tools:

Round needles: https://amzn.to/2S9IhrP Double pointed hand needle: https://amzn.to/3bDmWPp Hand tools: https://amzn.to/2Rytirc Staple gun (for beginner): https://amzn.to/2JZs3x1 Compressor for pneumatic [...] Read more →

A History of the Use of Arsenicals in Man

The arsenicals (compounds which contain the heavy metal element arsenic, As) have a long history of use in man – with both benevolent and malevolent intent. The name ‘arsenic’ is derived from the Greek word ‘arsenikon’ which means ‘potent'”. As early as 2000 BC, arsenic trioxide, obtained from smelting copper, was used [...] Read more →

Books Condemned to be Burnt

BOOKS CONDEMNED TO BE BURNT.

By

JAMES ANSON FARRER,

LONDON

ELLIOT STOCK, 62, PATERNOSTER ROW

1892

———-

WHEN did books first come to be burnt in England by the common hangman, and what was [...] Read more →

U.S. Plant Variety Protection Act – Full Text

UNITED STATES PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION ACT

TITLE I – PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION OFFICE Chapter Section 1. Organization and Publications . 1 2. Legal Provisions as to the Plant Variety Protection Office . 21 3. Plant Variety Protection Fees . 31

CHAPTER 1.-ORGANIZATION AND PUBLICATIONS Section 1. Establishment.2 There is [...] Read more →

The Master of Hounds

Photo Caption: The Marquis of Zetland, KC, PC – otherwise known as Lawrence Dundas Son of: John Charles Dundas and: Margaret Matilda Talbot born: Friday 16 August 1844 died: Monday 11 March 1929 at Aske Hall Occupation: M.P. for Richmond Viceroy of Ireland Vice Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Lord – in – Waiting [...] Read more →

Here’s Many a Year to You

” Here’s many a year to you ! Sportsmen who’ve ridden life straight. Here’s all good cheer to you ! Luck to you early and late.

Here’s to the best of you ! You with the blood and the nerve. Here’s to the rest of you ! What of a weak moment’s swerve ? [...] Read more →

The Hunt Saboteur

The Hunt Saboteur is a national disgrace barking out loud, black mask on her face get those dogs off, get them off she did yell until a swift kick from me mare her voice it did quell and sent the Hunt Saboteur scurrying up vale to the full cry of hounds drowning out her [...] Read more →

The Billesden Coplow Run

Smith, Charles Loraine; The Billesdon Coplow Run, Leicestershire

*note – Billesdon and Billesden have both been used to name the hunt.

BILLESDEN COPLOW POEM

[From “Reminiscences of the late Thomas Assheton Smith, Esq”]

The run celebrated in the following verses took place on the 24th of February, 1800, [...] Read more →

The Kalmar War

The Kalmar War

From The Historian’s History of the World (In 25 Volumes) by Henry Smith William L.L.D. – Vol. XVI.(Scandinavia) Pg. 308-310

The northern part of the Scandinavian peninsula, as already noticed, had been peopled from the remotest times by nomadic tribes called Finns or Cwenas by the Norwegians and Lapps [...] Read more →