How to clean shellac

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How to clean shellac

Store a shellac brush short term by hanging it in some denatured alcohol. Store the brush long term by washing it in half-and-half household ammonia and water, then soap and water, then shake it out and wrap it in paper to dry.

I know that a lot of readers use shellac for finishing. Of all finishes, shellac is probably the easiest to use when it comes to cleaning and storing brushes because shellac dissolves easily in denatured alcohol and household ammonia. Here are some suggestions of ways to clean and store shellac brushes.

If you plan to use the brush again within a day or two, say to apply an additional coat of shellac, simply hang it in some denatured alcohol. The easy way to do this is with a dowel rod or stick running through the hole in the handle to keep the bristles from becoming bent at the bottom of the container. You may need to drill a new hole closer to the bristles unless you’re using a tall container. Just before using the brush again, shake it out to remove most of the alcohol.

You don’t need to completely cover the bristles with the alcohol because it will wick up the bristles.

If you don’t intend to use the brush again soon, but will always use it with shellac, dip the brush into denatured alcohol and press it to the bottom of the container several times to remove most of the shellac. Then shake out the brush and wrap it in the holder it came in or in paper with a rubber band or masking tape to secure the paper. You could skip the alcohol dip, but this will cause the next step to take longer.

Before the next use, soak the brush in alcohol to dissolve the shellac and soften the bristles. Then shake the brush out to remove most of the alcohol so you don’t over-thin the shellac during the first few brush strokes.

The downside of this method is that you have to wait for the bristles to soften before using the brush, and this could take awhile unless most of the shellac has already been removed with alcohol.

If you don’t intend on using the brush again for several days, or if you may want to use it with a different finish, you can clean the brush faster and more thoroughly by dipping it in about half household ammonia and water. Again, press the brush several times against the bottom of the container to be more effective. Then wash the brush with soap and water to remove any remaining shellac and residue ammonia. Finally, wrap the brush in its original holder or paper, and store the brush in a drawer or hang it on a hook.

The downside of this method is that it will take several days for the water to dry out of the brush, so you won’t be able to use it right away with any finish except a water-based finish, or the finish may blush (turn milky white).

I typically use the ammonia-and-water method unless I plan on using the brush again within the next couple of days, in which case I simply hang the brush in a jar with a little denatured alcohol.

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The primary consideration for maintaining a shellac finish is that temperature control must be maintained. Aside from that, a shellac finish can be cleaned or retouched at will, without fear of compromising the finish or causing water stains. This article will offer some key pointers on how to maintain a shellac finish, and how to avoid the few possible problems that you are likely to encounter.

The Versatility of Shellac

As a wall primer, shellac is one of the most dependable coatings. It has unique properties that allow it to bond to all types of materials. Compared to other types of sealant, shellac is tolerant to all but the harshest chemicals, and is resistant to stains and scratches, making it excellent as a finish for furniture and other natural wood applications.

Shellac Is Waterproof

Shellac is waterproof. Over time, however, the resistance to moisture declines, perhaps due to accumulated moisture. To prevent this, it is advised that a furniture sealer such as Murphy’s Oil is applied at least twice a year. Additional coats of shellac can be added periodically, but doing so reduces any antique value the item may have had. Unless new repairs make it a necessity, it is very rare for shellac to need to be removed and reapplied. Some causes for doing so include proximity to high heat, severe water damage, and exposure to harsh chemicals.

Shellac Has a Low Heat Threshold

Shellac does not stand up well to high heat. At temperatures as low as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, shellac may begin cracking, and by 130 degrees, the finish will begin flaking. This makes shellac less suitable for the extreme southern and southwestern United States, due to a reduced durability. In actuality, shellac is used all over the world, and in every temperate zone, but it lasts longer in some areas than others. Since continuous 120 degree heat is rare and equally harmful to living things, this heat threshold tends to be ignored by people who use shellac finishes.

Shellac Can Be Retouched

If you insist on touching up the shellac finish on a piece of furniture, use a piece of 220 grit sandpaper, and very lightly sand all exposed surfaces. This creates tiny grooves and pits that the shellac will be able to bind with. When the sanding is complete, wipe down the surface with a damp cloth.

Shellac Cleans Easily

Shellac is cleaned using a damp cloth and light cleaning agents, such as ordinary dish soap, or even anti-bacterial soaps. It takes furniture polish, but should not be directly exposed to standing water or the finish is likely to cloud or stain. For all practical purposes, shellac does not require any special care or maintenance. Part of its very beauty is the simple elegance and lack of upkeep.

Shellac Is Chemically Sensitive

Because of the sensitivity of shellac to harsh chemicals, it is important that you never try to clean a shellac finish with anything stronger than a mild dish detergent. Bleach, ammonia, and other household chemical will leave stains or water spots, and some chemicals will do far worse, actually destroying the finish you are trying to preserve.

If you want to paint the wall or furniture, you will not find a better option than Shellac Brush because this brush is made for color. But it isn’t easy to clean that why many people avoid this brush.

Many people mistakenly use acid on the brush or dip it in water, but after a while, it gets damaged and repurchases a new brush.

Today I will show you how to clean shellac brush, and this way, you can keep your brush like new and use it for a long time.

Please read my article to know more.

How To Clean Shellac Brush – Step by Step

1. Wash it in a soap water

If a lot of color stick on the brush after painting, then spin it first. And if the colors are a bit dry or sticky, use a thinner screwdriver to remove the colors.

Then use some soap or detergent in a bucket or bowl and mix well. Take enough water that the brush can sink well.

Then dip the brush in water and try to remove the colors by hand lightly. If the color is hard, soak it for 20 minutes, it will soften the color, and your work will be a little easier.

Change the water repeatedly if necessary. When the color is clear after washing in this way, take the brush out of the water, spin it a little and shake off the water completely.

Try to get rid of water as much as possible; use a dry cloth if necessary.

2. Dip into thinner

After washing the color, pour some thinner into a bowl and dip the brush well in it. This will soften the hard fibers of your brush. Soak the brush for 10 minutes in this manner.

After 10 minutes, lightly lift the brush and spin it. Try to remove the entire thinner from the brush.

After removing the thinner, lightly separate the fibers of the brush with your hands. Make sure the fibers do not stick together. Try to separate as much as possible.

If the brush’s fibers do not feel soft after this, dip it in the thinner again. And repeat this whole procedure.

3. How to store

When the brush’s fibers become soft, wrap it in a piece of cardboard or hard paper and tie it using a thread on top.

Shellac Brushes should be kept in a dry place at all times, due to which the fiber in it never gets damaged or sticky.

If these brushes are unused for a long time, their fibers become a bit stiff, so when you use them again, open the paper and lightly dip it into the thinner.

This will soften the fibers and help you to do smooth work. Also, for this reason, it will be much more convenient to clean.

Never do these things with a Shellac Brush

Never dip them into hot water after painting. Dipping them in hot water will make them stickier, and once they are sticky, it will be much harder to remove the color from the brush.

These brushes are usually made of synthetic fibers, which can cause the fibers to melt in hot water, causing the brush to be damaged and unsuitable for later use.

Never use acid. This will burn your brush’s fiber. These brushes are usually made of nylon or polyester to burn with acid, and the fibers stick together. As a result, your brush may be damaged.

Do not immerse in thinner for too long. You can usually soak it for 10 or 20 minutes. But if you dip it for a long time, the brush is likely to be damaged.

And if you need to keep dipping for a long time, then remove a certain time of period, and after a while dip it again; this process, your brush will be fine.

Do not hit the brush with any hard substance. This can cause the brush’s base to become loose; if once occurred, it will be useless. So try to spread the colors gently by hand.

Final word

Many people mistakenly clean the brush in the wrong way and need to replace the brush in a short time, which means they have to buy a new brush again and again.

Today, I have given you the method to use one brush for a long time easily. This is one of the Best Way to Clean a Shellac Brush.

How to clean shellac

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How to clean shellac

I use shellac on furniture, and as most of you probably know, it’s not necessary to clean a brush that’s been used for shellac. You just let it dry hard, then re-dissolve the shellac in the brush before the next use by putting it in some alcohol prior to use.

I this possible with shellac based primers?


How to clean shellac

I assume you are referring to BIN.

I have a friend who painted professionally and used to occasionally clean them in Spic N Span

Usually, though— just used a cheap china bristle chip brush or old rollers and through them away afterwards.

How to clean shellac

I dont think you can re-disolve the shellac based paint like you can plain shellac.

Probably has to do with the pigment in the paint.

I don’t think that it would be any different.But it might be a bit slower.BTW amonia and water does a great job of cleaning up fresh brushes.And I think if you would let it soak it would work on old ones also.But it might take a while of soaking, working, and rinsing, and repeat to get the buildup out of th but of the brush..
Hey every group has to have one. And I have been elected to be the one. I should make that my tagline.

How to clean shellac

never tried just letting it dry. I use my Purdy brushes even for the BIN primer because the chips lose too many bristles. So I always clean my brushes with denatured alcohol after using BIN. Sometimes I use a little hand cleaner worked into the bristles and rinsed with water after the alcohol cleaning.

How to clean shellac

Bill is right about this. You can do it but it makes the process much slower. The pigment gets really built up in the butt of the brush, and it’s very hard to get rid of once it has hardened. Just bite the bullet and have a coffee can of denatured alcohol there where you wash the major part of the primer out and then finish it off with hot hot water and dish soap. I just did it last night priming up some built ins I made for my study.
Cleaning rollers and brushes is just one of those jobs that is a necessary evil. you hate doing but it has to be done. I have many good Purdy brushes that are hardened with paints and finishes when i was too much in a rush to clean. I keep thinking that one day I’ll buy a gallon of brush cleaner and just let them soak.

How to clean shellac

I wouldn’t use you very best brush to apply BIN, but I can vouch that ammonia works just as well as alcohol to clean your brushes of the stuff..and it’s a whole lot cheaper. Hell, I love ammonia. Use that crap for everything. Try it; you’ll be a believer too.

If you happen to read the back of the label of the shellac based BIN. it will tell you to use either denatured alcohol or use ammonia in place of. as others have already noted, either cleaner works equally well. At work, we sometimes cut the handle a bit short on our brushes and leave the brush inside the can between uses. but after a while, the brush still starts to clog.

Find out how to clean 78 RPM records. The shellac material needs to be treated completely differently to vinyl.

To clean 78 RPM records, you must employ a slightly different technique. The cleaning fluid used to clean vinyl records contains alcohol which is not suitable to clean 78 RPM records as it will eat in to the shellac.

Cleaning 78 RPM records is a good thing to do as soon as they are obtained. These ancient discs will surely have a great build up of grime that will inhibit playback performance. People are often astounded by what happens when they clean their 78s, as many had assumed it was simply age related wear that could not be improved upon.

The Good News: It’s Much Easier to Clean 78 RPM Records Than Vinyl

It is much easier to obtain the materials required to clean 78 RPM records as almost all homes will stock the required materials already!

How to clean shellac

There are various methods of cleaning 78s, and some are better than others.

The best way is by using a mixture of detergent and water. Simply add a few drops of detergent to a small bucket, fill it with lukewarm water and you have your cleaning solution ready to go.

Then, you can use an old toothbrush to trace along the record to clean out the grooves. I recommend moving around the record in a clockwise direction as this is the same direction your stylus will travel in when tracking the record.

The benefit of using a toothbrush is you will keep your label safely dry.

The Drying Process

After the scrubbing, simply rinse underneath running lukewarm water. Don’t run the tap at full blast – a gentle flow will do.

After the record is cleaned, pat dry with a microfibre towel or chamois. I have not had much success with bathroom towels as they tend to shed lint on to the record, causing the opposite of the intended cleaning effect.

After the record is superficially cleaned, the record can be left to completely dry. Putting freshly clean 78 RPM records in a dish drying rack is a clever way to go about the drying process.

I use Zinsers de-waxed shellac for both brushing and spraying purposes. When I am done, I rinse the brush with denatured alcohol to dissolve all of the shellac, but by morning, they are hard as a rock. I then just re-soak the brush and spin it out. What is a good cleaning method to keep the brush from stiffening?

I have also gone through about 3 siphon fed detail guns I use to apply stains and sealers, but it is getting to the point where I won’t run de-waxed shellac through my gun because I can’t clean it properly.

I am a new construction residential painter, so using HVLP is still pretty new to me. In the past I have always applied my clears and stains with an airless pump, but even at real low pressure with a fine tip, it’s just too much. I have learned a lot from talking to auto body painters and wood finishers about the use of HVLP as well as just experimenting all the time, but it’s the gun care and maintenance that is getting me. For now I use a 4hp 13 gallon air compressor to spray stains and sealers and it works beautifully. My only problem is that I think I need to start using some kind of oil and water dryer because I get small water droplets every so often that shoot out of the gun and onto the surface I am finishing. Not only that, for the first year I owned my compressor, I did not know that I had to drain the tank after every use. What a surprise when I finally did.

I’m only 20 years old and I want to gain as much knowledge as possible on everything that has to do with wood finishing because it is hard to find people nowadays in my field that actually know about the materials they are using.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor P:
On brushes, why bother cleaning them if all you use them for is shellac? I grew up in an old-timey shop and we never bothered cleaning shellac brushes. Just hang them and let them dry where they can’t get all dusty. Big jars are great for this. Poke a hole in the top, stick the handle through it, and then stick a nail or something through the hole on the brush handle to suspend the brush. Next time you need that brush, soak it in denatured alcohol for a bit and wipe it off.

From contributor K:
I clean my gun with ammonia and water and then run alcohol through it. And I use a dedicated gun for shellac. You might also look into Target’s water based shellac, as it is supposed to clean up easily.

From contributor P:
I use the Target shellac a lot and it does clean up easy. Plain water will clean up the gun if you spray half a cup through right after. I take the air cap off and soak it in water for a few minutes immediately after spraying and it cleans up with a soft nylon brush. If you let the stuff dry, it’s a bit harder to get off.

From contributor G:
The mysteries of finishing can be daunting, but time spent browsing the Finishing Forum Knowledge Base will answer most of your questions, including “why does lacquer turn yellow?”. You will also find the titles of the finishing bibles that are recommended reading. For now, why are you using all that shellac in the first place in new construction?

From contributor R:
First, before you use the brush, pre-wet with clean alcohol. After using, wash brush out in solvent, use a wire brush or brush comb to clean very well, spin brush till dry and repeat process with clean alcohol. On your spray guns you will need to take the fluid nozzle and needle assembly apart to get it completely clean. Buy some of those bottle cleaning type brushes – they sell them at automotive paint stores, and they work great in those tight places. Same as with the brush after the first cleaning and you have put the gun back together, spray new clean solvent through the gun.

From the original questioner:
I don’t use shellac as a finish in new construction, but I do use de-waxed shellac sealers over top of oil based stains for brushing purposes.

From contributor T:
Brushing shellac requires good brushes dedicated to shellac. They need not be cleaned after each use. Rinse them in alcohol and let them dry as contributor P has recommended.

Another inexpensive cleaner for your guns is a strong solution of 20 Mule Team Borax. Follow with a flush of alcohol.

If you’re interested in the whys and wherefores of finishing, you should have Flexner’s book, “Understanding Wood Finishing.”

Don’t let anyone turn you off on shellac. Properly used, it’s great stuff.

From contributor M:
Flexner’s book is awesome!

From the original questioner:
20 Mule Team Borax – what exactly is it, how do you use it, and can you use it for other materials?

From contributor T:
It’s a multi-purpose cleaner available in the laundry detergent section of most supermarkets. Mixed with water it produces a very alkaline solution that, like ammonia, dissolves shellac. Mix it strong and you can reuse it. Any strongly alkaline cleaner will dissolve shellac. You heard about the guy who cleaned his restaurant tables with ammonia and couldn’t figure out why it took off the (shellac) finish?

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor D:
Use shellac if you wish, but after over forty years I still topcoat it with a thinned layer of varnish to protect the shellac. Varnish has a strong tendency to yellow but the shellac is applied in various shades of amber. The varnish does yellow slightly. Always use de-waxed shellac if you do topcoat with varnish.

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?

  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base
  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing
  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing: General Wood Finishing

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    How to clean shellac

    @thevicstyles / Design by Camden Dechert

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    Do not pick or peel gel nail polish. Jeopardizing the strength of your nails in this way can lead to white spots and stress breaks.  

    Repairing a worn wood surface is a great way to breathe new life into an old piece. Unfortunately, removing the old finish isn’t always easy. For older wood surfaces, the finish is likely either shellac or lacquer. Whether you are repairing a piece to sell or to enjoy for years to come, here are a few ways to remove shellac finishes.

    Determine the Finish

    The first step in repairing an old wood surface is to find out the type of finish originally applied. You can accomplish this by using some denatured alcohol and an old rag. If the wood was finished before the ‘20s, there is a strong chance it could be either shellac or lacquer. Fortunately, denatured alcohol dissolves shellac, but not lacquer. Simply dab the surface with some denatured alcohol. If it gets sticky, then you’re dealing with shellac. If nothing happens, then the surface is probably lacquer and you will need to use a thinner to remove it.

    Removing Shellac With Solvents

    How to clean shellac

    You can remove shellac with a variety of solvents, including denatured alcohol. While this method is messy to clean up, it is the least labor-intensive. Simply moisten a rag with denatured alcohol and rub it into the surface in a circular motion. The alcohol will eventually soften the finish until it becomes sticky. Once it starts to separate from the wood you can begin to wipe the finish away with another rag. If you have trouble removing the shellac, use a dull scraper, especially in corners or hard-to-reach places. You should progress in small sections and give the alcohol plenty of time to work its magic.

    Sanding Shellac

    You can remove shellac (and most finishes, for that matter) via sanding. You can do the sanding by hand or with a power tool—just make sure all the old finish is completely removed before applying the new finish. Start with a lower grit sand paper, such as 150 grit, and work your way up to 220 grit. Remove any dust particles with a tack cloth and make sure to work in a well-ventilated area. After the sanding is complete, clean the surface of the wood with a damp cloth and allow the area to dry before moving on.

    Removing Shellac With Chemicals

    How to clean shellac

    Removing shellac with a chemical stripper is an effective method that will not damage the wood. The downside to chemical strippers is their health hazards. These types of chemicals can damage your lungs, eyes, and skin, and are not healthy for the environment. With that in mind, chemical strippers should be used as a last resort and be handled with extreme care. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area and wearing appropriate safety gear. You may even need to use fine steel wool to help remove the finish. Scrub in the direction of the grain and wipe away with a clean cloth.

    Wood Care

    It doesn’t take much to damage the wood surface, especially if the wood is antique. Taking a few extra precautions when removing the shellac will prevent any unwanted damage. Always begin the removal process with the least abrasive method (denatured alcohol) and only move to another option if it doesn’t work. Using ultra-fine steel wool is preferable to sandpaper, which should only be used for the most stubborn of places. Finally, be extra patient throughout the removal process and give your materials enough time to work before moving forward.

    Safety First

    There are a number of safety concerns when removing shellac from a wood surface. Denatured alcohol is very flammable and can be harsh on the skin. It also releases a bountiful amount of noxious chemicals into the air. If possible, strip the old finish outdoors. If you have to work inside, open as many windows as you can and turn on a few fans to circulate the air. Always wear rubber gloves when removing the finish and dispose of the dirty rags in an airtight container.