Tips for taking care of your paintbrushes

The old saying "you get what you pay for" applies to a lot of our DIY tools. Paintbrushes are no exception. When you spend money on quality paintbrushes, you want to take care of them so they will last longer. These same tips also will make them more functional. Try some or all of these tips, and keep your brushes in tiptop shape.

The old standard rule of using real hair brushes for oil-based paints and synthetic brushes for latex paints still applies. Not everybody feels that way, but I am a firm believer in this rule and I'm passing it on to you.

Most brushes will come in a good package, so save it for storing your brushes after they have been cleaned.

Before using a new brush, I like to rub it back and forth over a rough surface to loosen any bristles that might not be firmly attached. It's better they fall out now than end up in your painted surface!

Whatever thinner is recommended by your paint should be used on the bristles before they touch the paint. It helps get them ready for the main ingredient, and since you will no doubt have it handy for cleanup anyway, use it first.

When you are finished painting, put your brushes into solvent right away to start the cleaning process. Instead of plain tap water for latex, I recommend warm water with a little dishwashing liquid mixed in it.

Most people will set their brushes down into a jar or bowl to soak them. But to keep your bristles from curling in the process, attach the brush handle to a length of dowel just a little longer than the brush so that the dowel will sit on the bottom of the container, and the bristles will not.

Before your brush dries, you can use a comb to straighten the bristles. Wrap your brush in the original packaging if it is adequate, or in paper to keep the bristles straight while in storage.

Hanging your brushes by the handle is the best way to store them.

If you take good care of your brushes, they will do a good job for you for many years.

A simple way to unclog your downspout

Downspouts get clogged - it's a fact. Actually, I think it might be a rule! Well, if you are looking for a way to sidestep this problem, why not replace your downspout with a length of chain? Drain Chains actually have been around for years, and they work pretty well. The idea is that you hang a chain at the point where water drains off your roof. The water travels down the chain and, because of the links, drops will be deflected here and there. You easily can install drain chains with just a hook or a nail, and if your downspout falls off or you just get tired of clearing it, you can use drain chains with your existing guttering. Check online for some decorative rain chains, too!

Get a handle on boxes with this trick

I have to admit that I am not a minimalist. In fact, I have boxes of things stored in every closet in the house, garage and attic. The cardboard boxes far outnumber the plastic bins, probably because they are cheap and much easier to come by. The one thing I do to each one before loading it up is cut some handles into the sides to make it easier to pick up and haul around. The best way is to cut a wide "V" shape with the point facing down. When you push the flap in, it creates a super little handle on each side. It sure makes picking them up a lot easier.

Super hints

• Plans for projects often need to be enlarged, and this can present a problem. A home scanner could be used. If you don't have one, just have your local copy shop do it for you.

• My linen closet is small, so I use a guest-room closet for my tablecloths. You know I hate to iron, so I like to try to keep the tablecloths on closet rods instead of folding them. I added some tension rods to accommodate several tablecloths, and they all fit fine. There is much less ironing required when I get them out, too - thank goodness!

• A laundry room is a luxury. You probably keep the door closed when the washer and dryer are working. But this means that moisture can build up in the room. This is the perfect place for an exhaust fan, and you will greatly benefit from it, too.

Q. I love my couch, but it needs to be cleaned. How do I know if I can do it myself, or if I have to have it cleaned? I see a code on it, but I don't know what it means. Can you help?

A. A "W" means the fabric can be cleaned with water-based detergents; an "S" means you'll need to use solvents; and an "X" means that you will need to clean it just by vacuuming it. It would be smart to test any cleaning solution on the bottom, back or some other place on the couch that won't show in case it doesn't work correctly. You also could have it professionally cleaned. This often is less expensive than you think, and you usually will get pretty good results.

Q. My husband cut a piece of cardboard with a knife on top of my washing machine. The knife cut a deep gash in the finish on the top of the lid. Is there a way to fix this?

A. I think a porcelain patching paint might do the trick. The hard part is going to be matching it to your washer. When you start looking, you will find several different shades of "white" available. Most are matched to different manufacturers. You will just have to do a little shopping around. Just follow the package directions, and you should get pretty good results.

Q. I want my outdoor light fixtures to be black, not white like they are now. What kind of paint should I use?

A. Clean it really well first. You can use any exterior enamel spray paint. Mask off anything you don't want painted and spray it with two coats of paint. That ought to do it.

Reader tips

• I have a great idea. This is something we try to do year-round in our home: Whenever we buy or receive something new, we give away something old. So if you got new tools for Christmas, why not pass along your gently used tools to local charities, which can sell them or pass them along to others who could use them? It sure feels good to help, and although we all donate clothes, tools often get overlooked and make great donations.

• I used to live on a small ranch, and we used "cattle panels" for temporary enclosures. These panels are made of heavy-duty metal mesh and can be tied together or attached to "T" posts. They are fairly inexpensive and easy to handle if you have a pickup truck. I used them to make a trellis for my roses, and they work great. They don't show, are very strong and won't need to be painted.

• We had the whole family over last weekend and were all out walking around the backyard. Since it had just rained, it was a little wet. I grabbed some old bread bags and had the kids put these on their feet before putting on their shoes. This kept their feet dry even if their boots leaked. They had a blast and brought back tons of pine cones to scent for Christmas.

• I had to paint the old dresser in our bedroom after replacing the bed. As I was taking the drawers out into the garage to paint them, my husband grabbed a pencil and numbered each one and then numbered each hole in the dresser to match them back up after painting. The numbers were put on the back so they wouldn't show. This made sure each fit perfectly when we put it all back together.

• I wanted to paint my beige refrigerator. We moved it to the game room, and I wanted it to look better. We ended up painting it with some chalkboard paint. The kids love to write stuff on it, and we have had a blast taking turns decorating it when we want to change it. The chalkboard paint worked great, and it was easy to do, too.


• Baking soda isn't just for baking anymore. As a matter of fact, it can be used for all sorts of things in the shop and home. Baking soda doesn't cost very much and just about everybody has a box or two in the house, so why not use it to its full potential? We have put together a list of some of our favorite uses: "Get Cooking with Baking Soda," It's also available directly from our website at, so come on by and pick up a copy for yourself.

• Sliding barn doors are all the rage right now, and they also solve a lot of issues for doorways in certain spaces. But you don't have to use real barn-door hardware. Now you can buy attractive and very functional sliding door hardware just for these doors. A good source for this hardware can be found at You'll find several different styles to choose from.

• Repairing torn screens is a great project for the winter months. The repairs usually can be done indoors, and when completed, will be ready for that fresh air come spring. Screen Repair Sheets make it super easy to do, too. These peel-and-stick patches last a good long time and won't fall off under normal circumstances. Check for them at your hardware store or home center. For additional info, go to

Happy New Year from your friends at The Super Handyman column!

• Write to Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit online at

© 2015, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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