A Great DIY Hack for Preserving an Essential Clay Tool

How to Keep Your Wax Brushes Soft and Ready for Use


Linda Arbuckle’s studio brush holder is a converted watercolor brush washer that uses a recycled plastic jar instead of the perforated tray that is typically included with the holder.

How many times have you ruined a perfectly good paintbrush by forgetting to clean it after waxing pots? If you are as forgetful as I am, you’ll want to pay attention to this post!

In this excerpt from the Ceramics Monthly archives, Linda Arbuckle shares the great DIY hack she came up with to preserve those bristles and keep her wax brush soft and ready to go at a moments notice! She even shares how she adapted this brush holder for travel! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

My majolica decoration methods require a lot of waxing. Since I’m  using the wax frequently, I prefer to leave my wax brush suspended in water so it doesn’t dry out. I’ve used spring clothespins and narrow-necked containers for travel, but really an aluminum watercolor brush washer (available at most craft supply stores) is the best. I put a recycled plastic jar in the metal holder (ditch the perforated tray), and it works great for holding wax brushes suspended, so you don’t get a bent brush tip.

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Linda Arbuckle’s brush holder for travel consists of a simple container, in this case a glass jar, and spring clothespins to hold the brushes in place so just the bristles are submerged in water.

Linda Arbuckle’s brush holder for travel consists of a simple container, in this case a glass jar, and spring clothespins to hold the brushes in place so just the bristles are submerged in water.

Over time, storing the brushes in water may loosen the glue that holds the bristles in the brush, and the clump of hair comes out of the handle (especially on bamboo brushes). If this happens, I gently wash off any debris from the wax, dry the parts, and use carpenter’s glue to fix the bristles back in the handle.

One more tip—if you do get dried wax in your brush, a laundry de-greaser (I use Shout®) can be used to gently shampoo the bristles and will take most of the wax out.

**First published in 2016.
  • Stuart G.

    I only use Dawn dish soap. It’s good for living birds and other aquatic creatures contaminated with oils etc., it’s something I trust on even the most expensive of my brushes. It has given some older brushes new life even after use with oil paints.

  • Reader L.

    Mix a good amount of dish soap in a cup of water, heat it in the microwave until very warm, like water for tea, then swish brushes thru the water until the wax is gone…rinse with clean warm water, shape the bristles if needed, done deal…Don’t leave the brush in the hot water too long as it can melt the glue that holds the bristles in the brush.

  • Christy V.

    Another tip: Before you use a brush for water soluble wax, while the brush is dry, take just a drop of dish soap and massage it into the bristles until you can feel they are not wetly soapy, but just feel like they are lightly greased. This will let you easily rinse the wax off the brush. In this way I’m able to choose any brush from my collection without ruining it. I have used a little too much soap and had very tiny bubbles in my wax job but this has never seemed to hurt the wax job.

  • I found a bunch of brushes in my community studio which were spoiled with dried wax. I used the coffee maker (without coffee!) to make a cup of hot water which melted the wax enough to squeeze it out and then washed and rinsed the rest out.

  • Subscriber T.

    Another tip to clean wax out of a bamboo brush (make sure that there are no metal attachments )…wrap the brush in a couple of paper towels & microwave for 10 – 20 seconds. Blot most of the wax off the wash in warm soapy water

  • Steven A.

    Thanks for the post. Rubbing alcohol works great for getting the dried wax out of your brush. It also works fairly well to get the wax drips off your bisque ware. Just scrub the spot with a cloth and alcohol until the drip is no longer evident.

  • Susan P.

    What a.simple solution. I’ve had a brush holder for years and stopped using it when I switched to water based paints because it corroded so easily. I can’t believe I never thought of using a plastic container to line it. I’ll definitely be using it now! Thank you, Linda!

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