How often do you replace your brush? Fiona finds out.

I know paint brushes don’t last forever, but until recently, I wasn’t sure how often I should be replacing them.

Are they like toothbrushes - with a recommended three month turn-over? Or are they more like hair brushes - that could become family heirlooms (if you’re into sentimentally handing down particles of your own scalp)?

Answering this question is difficult because there are so many variables: Type of brush, type of paint, what you paint on, how often you paint, how vigorously you paint, how well you clean your brushes…

A brush’s life-span is going to vary considerably between painters and - like choosing fried food from the corner store - it comes down to learned experience and how much of a gut ache you’re prepared to put up with.

Over my three years of regular painting, I’ve added to my brush collection, but have never thrown any away. When a brush gets too bushy for detailed work, I’ll put it on the backbench and use it for under-painting or general surface coverage painting.

But just when do you make that call? Sometimes a paint brush looks passable, but as you get into the nitty gritty parts of a painting, it starts to become a liability. Instead of laying the paint down in a smooth, even stroke, it creates multiple little paint lines - like a cat trying to finger paint with its claws out. Not pretty.


Or you go to place a clean spot of paint down and some curly stray bristles create a fly-spotted effect around the perimeter of your stroke. Even more not pretty.

Here’s my discovery and handout tip: If a brush is even close to reaching this point, it’s time to move it to the back bench.


Yes, you can still make it work, but the frustration and gut-ache experienced while painting (and the ensuing end result) does not justify avoiding the hassle of replacing the brush.

And as a bonus hand out tip: Maybe don’t bequest your hairbrushes - it’s icky and frankly, a little bit creepy.