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Tips for Cleaning and Replacing Your Brushes
Whether you’re known for perfectly balanced pink-and-whites, natural-looking gels or one-of-a-kind nail art, there’s one tool you can’t be without—a great brush. Read up on the finer points of cleaning and replacing yours!
Cleaning and Storage
Keeping your brushes free of hardened paint or clustered acrylic begins by cleaning the brush between each use and at the end of every workday. Brush cleaner is readily available and easy to keep on your manicure table, but if it’s used during a service, it has the potential to contaminate paints, gels and acrylic product. So rather than submerging her gel brushes throughout the day, Amy Becker, nail technician and owner of Masterworks Innovations in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, gives the bristles a gentle squeeze and wipe between applications. “Simply pinch out any excess product in a clean wipe or paper towel between each use,” she says.
“Cleaning between applications and services should be just a dry wipe,” agrees Joanne Millar, head educator for en Vogue Sculptured Nail Systems in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. “At the end of the day, you clean the brush with brush cleaner.” Millar recommends wetting a pad with cleaner and then wiping down the brush with the saturated pad.
Removing all residue from your brushes is important not only to prevent product from mixing, but also to maintain the integrity of the brush itself. “You want to make sure that you get all of the gel out of your brush. If it’s exposed to UV light, the gel in the bristles will harden,” says Kristina Baune, a CND educator and nail technician at Ultimate Imagge in Redwood Falls, Minnesota.
Since cleaner can dry out the bristles of both acrylic and gel brushes, “do not submerge or soak brushes in cleaner for a long period of time,” says Jennifer Malone, marketing manager for OPI Products in North Hollywood, California.
For acrylic brushes, monomer does a good job of removing acrylic buildup and keeping bristles clean during application. Nail technician Jennie Merrill from Elite Nail Design in Columbus, Nebraska, uses only monomer on a daily basis to keep her acrylic brushes in tip-top shape. “The only time I use brush cleaner is on the rare occasion when I get dried acrylic in the brush; I use the cleaner to loosen and remove it,” she says.
To prevent fraying or disheveling the brush, reshape the bristles after cleaning them. Then, store the brush on its side or with the bristles facing up in a holder, “preferably in a dark spot that’s covered to protect the brush from dust,” Millar says. If the brush comes with a cap, allow the brush to dry for a few minutes and then cover it with the cap. You can store capless brushes in a drawer or under a towel to protect them from dust and dirt.
“I dry my brushes flat on a towel with plastic backing to absorb any excess moisture,” Baune says. “In addition to protecting brushes from dust, you want to store them in a non-airtight container or drawer.” In her salon, Baune uses a towel-lined plastic storage case with holes that allow air to circulate.
One additional concern for gel users, as Baune previously mentioned, is that gel product hardens when exposed to UV light. To prevent curing your brush between or after services, make sure the brush is not left out in an area where it could be exposed to direct or indirect sunlight.
New brushes often come with a coating or “seal” to protect the bristles. They need to be prepped to remove the coating before the first use. “Cleaning brushes for the first time is very important,” says Baune. “You’re preparing the brush for use and molding it into shape.” Manufacturers supply instructions on how to break the seal and prepare your brush for use.