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Brushmate – the pros and cons

Listed under Blog, Equipment, mypaintbrush.co.uk, products Posted Oct 03 2013

Brushes are a painter’s most important tool, and whether you are a pro painter, a jobbing builder or a DIY painting enthusiast, the Brush Mate has long been the most useful piece of equipment you can have to keep oil paint bushes in perfect condition.

The fluid that keeps brushes so supple in a Brushmate comes with a hazard warning and pongs a bit, but this system has been universally adopted in the UK trade, and is currently viewed as the most convenient brush care solution for busy painters and DIY with good brushes in oil paint.

The new Store and Go gel system looks like it could slowly cement its place in all decorators’ tool kit, as it is able to store oil and water-based paint brushes in the same container, long term, and the gel seems to be a rather benign product.

In the meantime, though, the Brushmate is out there and here are some pros and cons of the well known vapour box system in use, based on my own hands-on experience.

Brushmate 20

A set of 20 brushes could cost £200 or more to replace, and you would think that a solution to keep them in good condition and reduce cleaning time (and money) would be snapped up in an instant, but…

Price was the biggest reason for most professional painters to resist change when they came out in the 90’s. Nowadays the run to £58 + VAT so, it isn’t cheap to buy, but I think the economics speak for themself – it pays for itself in no time.

For example, even charging yourself out at £10 an hour, and only cleaning a couple of oil paint brushes twice a week, that costs about £5 in labour and white spirit / turpentine. That’s not to mention the hassle of disposing of dirty turps or finding somewhere suitable on site or worse, in a customer’s home, to wash the brush clean.

But if you keep a set of brushes in primer and undercoat in the Brushmate, they are always ready for you to paint with, and reduce brush cleaning chores to topcoat colour changes only.

Store brushes in water for free
Many painters would prefer to keep their oil brushes in water, but in my opinion, that has so many practical downsides and is not cost effective.

1) You always have to wipe the water off the bristles onto newspaper before you start painting. This is a waste of time and creates another opportunity to get paint everywhere.

2) Any water droplets left behind on the bristles after wiping on paper will affect the life of the paint, especially on outside work ie the first sign of sun will evaporate the “mixed in” water droplets in the paint and cause the layer to bubble.

3) It is not good for the brush to be sat on its bristles. Also, over time, a bed of scuzzy paint develops in the bottom of the kettle, or worse, brushes get contaminated by being stored alongside brushes in different colours.

4) Water containers spill! How many times has the kettle full of water spilled over in the back of the van as you go flying round a bend? Paint brushes fall out of kettles completely, or bristles are no longer totally submerged under water and by the morning they have gone partially or totally hard…

On the plus side, water is a safe product compared to the fluid in a Brushmate.

The Brushmate is a secure container which also presents a very professional image to customers especially when the painters walk on to a job.

Brushmate 4+

This container is ideal for kitchen painters and decorators who keep one set of white brushes and another set for colours. Also builders and carpenters in a hurry, and DIY where you have an ongoing project and don;t want to be cleaning your oil primer brush out every evening after an hour or to of painting.
How many times do you hear builders and carpenters say they use disposable brushes and acrylic primer because a) throwing away a cheap brush is cheaper than cleaning a brush, and acrylic is good because it is quick-drying? Having followed behind their primed woodwork, my answer to that is, buy a decent paint brush, use quick-drying oil or waterborne premium primer for a better start to a better paint finish. The Trade 4+ Brushmate will store 4 or 5 decent brushes, and you never need to clean your primer brush. Plus you will be always ready to take a brush and apply a good fast coat of primer!

Brushmate 4+ is cheap for DIY enthusiasts

DIY enthusiasts seem to think that cheap or disposable brushes are the most convenient and cost-effective way to do a bit of painting around the house. I beg to differ and many DIY readers have asked, “Where do I get a decent brush from?”

In my experience, disposable equals poor quality bristles, which either shed or splay or are coarse and leave a bad finish. Also disposable equals convenient, and convenient equals expensive in the long run.

Interestingly, an expensive but good brush well looked after, and kept in a Brushmate is far more convenient and cheaper than a brush used in acrylic paint and thrown away.

I suggest that any painter, builder, or homeowner with painting projects on the horizon, should go buy Hamilton Perfection Pioneer Spirit or Corona Morro brushes for oil based finish paint, or Red Feather or Rembrandt or Adorn for oil primers, and a Brushmate and enjoy painting without the inconvenience of cleaning!

The good people at Brushmate offer further information to help you make up your mind.

As I said at the start, the Brushmate is pretty much a universal piece of kit for most UK professionals, however, with the 2010 VOC regulations obviously taking effect and less polluting alternative paints taking a hold, it can only be a matter of time before eyes turn on sundries and the composition of items like caulk, which has some rather interesting products in it, and Brushmate fluid.

There are common sense precautions for use: always keep the lid on tight and only open it long enough to take a brush out. Don’t inhale or drink the fluid; wash your hands before eating or drinking; wearing plastic disposable gloves while painting, never hurt.

Brush mate for water based paint

Here is some further information, which includes a link to the 21st century alternative to the Brushmate, the Store and Go!, an environmentally friendly gel for oil and water based brushes.

And a very interesting twist – I read on Painters Pitstop that a sharp painter has put the Store and Go gel in a Brushmate 4. That has potential.

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7 comments to “Brushmate – the pros and cons”

  1. C montague

    Can you put the gel in a brushmate 20

  2. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    I have seen it suggested on PPS. I see no reason why not, it is a sealed container.

  3. gary

    Fantastic bit of kit but I have found the lids to warp and then the liquid doesn’t last very long.

  4. Anonymous

    Paintbox tips over, always needs cleaned, brushes fall down, threw out more brushes cause they went hard or bristles split

  5. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Thanks Anonymous. They are quite fiddly to load and unload and if it tips over, so will the fluid that kept the brushes soft.

    A user friendly alternative is the Go!Paint gel brush keepers.

  6. Miles Newby

    I have always enjoyed the ease of picking out a ready touse brush from the trade 20. Especially useful when a quick touch up might be needed when everything has been packed away. The colour is still live on the tip of the brush.
    However the old metal lids were far superior for retaining the vapour and didn’t invite sitting on like the chunky plastic lid now on offer.I replaced one plastic lid because it had bowed and was leaking vapour. Within a short time the new lid also changed shape without standing or sitting on it.After shouting at everyone to keep off it I now reckon its the vapour affecting it from inside. Great kit but expensive upkeep.The old all metal box was best but mine was stolen by clued up thief.

  7. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    You had a clued up thief, I once experienced a clued up vandal. Broke into the site, painted all sorts of nasty wordage on the walls and ripped the wick out my Paintmate leaving everything inside untouched. That really hurt!

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